Monday, February 18, 2013

Depression Quest

Do you know someone who is clinically depressed? Have you ever wanted to know what it was like to be clinically depressed? Do you know someone who you want to know what it's like to be depressed? Well stop talking to your screen, because I can't hear you either way. Instead, check out Depression Quest, an online interactive fiction game in which you take on the role of a depressed character and are tasked with making their decisions to get them through every day events.

The game is built on the interactive fiction platform provided by and is the second such game I've encountered after hearing about the site a week or so ago.

The purpose of the game, as stated in its introduction, is to provide an accurate representation of what it is like to be depressed so that those who aren't can understand it, and to give comfort to people suffering from depression so that they know they aren't alone in their struggle.

The game consists of reading through different situations and the character's depressed thought processes and then making choices at key points. These decisions affect how the story plays out. Depending on whether you seek treatment or not, certain options may be unavailable to you as well. While the game is primarily plain text, there are also images and music that change according to the scenario and your state of mind.

As someone who suffers from depression myself, I can easily identify with many of the thoughts and situations that Depression Quest's character experiences. As the game itself admits, everyone's experience is different, and mine certainly has some key differences as well. But I did find that the game's representation of depression was generally very accurate, to the point that I stopped playing before I finished. I found myself thinking "I'm already living this, why would I want to think about it more?" I'm fortunate enough that my friends and family are understanding of my situation and supportive of my [continually unsuccessful] search for treatment, so I don't really have anyone who I feel the need to share this with either. Nor do I feel particularly alone in my struggle. (In fact, I find it hard to believe in the existence of people who genuinely aren't depressed.)
I know that feel, bro.
So while I can certainly identify with the character, I wonder if playing Depression Quest would really help those who don't understand depression to understand, or if would frustrate them just as much as observing a depressed person in real life would. I fear that the difference in thinking between the character and the player, as well as the limited available choices, might create a disconnect too great for non-depressed players to be able to relate at all. Furthermore, the sort of people who would even consider playing a game like Depression Quest seem likely to be the sort of people who would be understanding without it. 

But I can only provide my own experience with the game. I would be interested in hearing the opinions of others who can relate to Depression Quest in different ways, so I invite you to leave some comments below if you try it out. As for me, I think I'll be better off without finishing it for now.

In case you didn't catch it, here's the link again to Depression Quest.
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