Depression Quest: A Review
It’s rare for a video game to invoke a reaction from me, “The Last of Us” takes a player through a journey of moral ambiguity in a broken world of loss, redemption and living with the consequences of your choices. It takes talented voice actors and animators to create a bond with the characters, an amazing feat for a video game, which makes what “Depression Quest” has accomplished that much more impressive.
If you’re over 30 you likely remember having choose your own adventure! books. For anyone who isn’t familiar with them, the basic premise is that you play the role of the protagonist faced which choices that lead you to specific pages that change the story. It’s not something you read from start to finish but jump around based on what path you wind up on. Depression quest takes this concept to the internet where your choices are hyperlinks which take your character down various paths, some good some awful.
As someone who suffers from depression brought on by various insecurities and existential strife I live in my head a lot which causes me to be withdrawn from society, friends, family and all the things that I enjoy doing.
The narrative in “Depression Quest” gives you an insight into the mind of someone suffering from depression, from people who are intimately familiar with it. It does it just with text, well written and powerful imagery with the right mixture of background music to set the mood.
The most important takeaway anyone who plays the game is to realize there is no logic to depression, the biggest obstacle one has to overcome is the negative feedback loop downward spiral. Someone who is depressed is acutely aware of illogical their emotions are, they can objectively understand it but live in a subjective world were even the most mundane activities (personal hygiene, keeping a tidy house) seem overwhelming. Social engagements are terrifying, you feel lonely but powerless to do anything to help yourself because you feel any attempts you make will fail or they are phony.
On my play trough of “Depression Quest” I picked the path of recovery, the choices presented reflect the anxiety of trying to face your demons head on, the fear in the back of your head of being rejected for opening up to loved ones, the understanding of needing to do something, no mater how hard if you want to feel better. It also helps to show friends and family of someone going through this how they can help, how to balance the line of understanding and pity with positive reinforcement.
There is so much stigma in the western world about mental illness. The claims of being being lazy, that they should just deal with it, whatever it may be as if a switch can be flipped. It doesn’t mater if it’s a chemical imbalance in someone’s brain or if it’s years of conditioning that places someone into those negative feedback loops.
My journey through the game reminded me to focus on the small wins, the little battles everyday in order to retrain myself how to keep myself functional and engaged. Not to get complacent and think you “won” the battle forever after you get on a roll of success where you’re tempted to stop taking medication or stop being aware of the techniques learned in cognitive behavioral therapy.
For me, it reminded me that I’m not alone, that the intrusive thoughts of self loathing are a self fulfilling prophecy. So if you’re dealing with way too much or know someone who is, put on some headphones and take your time with this game. Crying has never felt so cathartic.