Game Review: Depression Quest

written by David Steffen

(editor’s note: I am not here to comment on “Gamer Gate”. If you are here to comment on that, don’t. Any comment getting into that topic will be deleted. I only heard about the game due to the debacle, and I decided that I would like to play the game for myself and judge it on its own merits. So here we are. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and you want to see a big ol’ heap of Internet ugliness, Google “GamerGate”–I think it occupies about half the Internet by now.)

Depression Quest is a multiple choice text game released by Zoe Quinn in 2013.

On the game page is this statement:
The goal of this game is twofold: firstly, we want to illustrate as clearly as possible what depression is like, so that it may be better understood by people without depression. Hopefully this can be something to spread awareness and fight against the social stigma and misunderstandings that depression sufferers face. Secondly, our hope is that in presenting as real a simulation of depression as possible, other sufferers will come to know that they aren’t alone, and hopefully derive some measure of comfort from that.

DepressionQuestThis is a cause that I am sympathetic to. I know many people who have suffered through depression. Some who are still fighting through it, some who seem to have met some kind of livable equilibrium, and others who have died at their own hand. So, I heartily support the goals of this game. Most of the time I play games just for fun and for mental/dexterity and for no other reason, but I am not opposed to other goals.

In the game, you play a person who is struggling with depression, trying to get through everyday life. You have a significant other and a job, but even small things can be a struggle–trying to get your work done or trying to socialize with your partner’s friends.

As the game goes on, you have to make choices, most of them allowing you to either try to actively improve your life by telling people about your depression, by seeking counseling or medication, or to avoid trying to improve your life by telling people there’s nothing wrong, and avoiding your problems.

From the beginning, some options aren’t available to you–usually the suggestion for a solution that someone who doesn’t understand depression would make: “don’t worry about it”, “just go and have fun”, so on. I thought that was a clever way to emphasize how depression can make you feel powerless. If you make choices that avoid your problems, more of the options will be blocked from you as the game goes on. I don’t know from personal experience whether the account of depression in the game is accurate or not, but it seems reasonable from where I’m standing.

I think that the game succeeds at both of the stated goals. It’s free to play, so you can try it out before you decide if you want to donate or not. If you don’t like it, no loss. If you do, consider chipping in. And, it also succeeds at being interactive, so it’s actually a game.

I recommend it.

 

Visuals
Despite being a text game, it does have some visuals–a set of polaroids at the top of the screen showing relevant images, like bottles of pills or something.

Audio
The game suggests using audio, that it’s an important part of the game. But I didn’t, because it was easier to find time to play it with the sound muted, so I wouldn’t bother other people. So I can’t comment on this.

Challenge
Not challenging, per se. It seemed like the “best” choice was always relatively clear.

Story
Good enough story, though a bit on the PSA side.

Session Time
No save feature, but you can leave it running in your browser easily enough and the game won’t be going anywhere.

Playability
As easy as multiple choice.

Replayability
Definitely some, to try to see how your choices affect the outcome.

Originality
This happens to be the second game I’ve played about depression (I reviewed Actual Sunlight right here last week), but this one did it better. So definite points for originality, and for succeeding at making it interactive.

Playtime
I don’t remember exactly, I think it took me maybe a half hour to play through once?

Overall
The game is free to play or you can donate what you like. The website says that a portion of the proceeds goes to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. I am wary of donations where “a portion” goes to a charity without saying WHAT portion, it could be 1% for all I know. I recommend trying the game. If you feel it has value, consider chipping in some money to support both the developer of the game and the hotline in some undefined proportion.

Published by

David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David also writes articles here and edits the fiction. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on Twitter for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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