Playing Depression Quest was a very personal experience for me. To explain, I have had depression since my early teens. And as the game’s epilogue very accurately sums up, for some people, the journey of depression never truly ends. It rolls on, comes and goes, and all you can do is keep on moving forward.
Nowadays, Depression Quest is inevitably lumped in with the ugliness of the Gamergate scandal by virtue of its creator Zoe Quinn. I won’t be delving into that can of worms, only to say that Depression Quest is part of a wider debate about what constitutes a game and what games are for.
The central game mechanic of Depression Quest is choice, and its format is that of an immersive, interactive novel, where the player determines the direction of the story. Depression Game is extremely well written, and at its core lies a deep desire to raise awareness how difficult the most mundane of everyday activities can be when suffering from depression. The player is tossed into the lethargy and despair of trying to sustain relationships, work and one’s own recovery, where tiny steps are a struggle and barriers seem insurmountable.
As someone with ample experience of depression, Depression Quest not only gave me a sense that I was not alone, but shed light on various aspects of depression that I had not previously attributed to the illness, such as social avoidance and lack of motivation. My friend, who played Depression Quest a few months ago, echoed this feeling, explaining that there were things he hadn’t realised were part of depression and had just assumed they were defects of his personality. This is a life-changing achievement for a game.
One of the bravest aspects of Depression Quest is that it challenges presuppositions about what video games are for. This simple and powerful interactive fiction goes against the commercialist notion that games are simply a form of entertainment. Instead, it demonstrates that games can be a channel to promote empathy, to educate, and to change lives. To further underline this great purpose, Depression Quest is available to download for free.
If you haven’t already played it, I highly recommend Depression Quest. It may not be fun, easy, or what you expect from a game, but it is hard to emerge from the experience unchanged.