After an uphill battle, Depression Quest has finally arrived on Steam. The developers, Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, and Isaac Schankler have released it for free in hopes that the interactive narrative game can help people suffering from depression to see ways to find help. It’s also hoped that it will help those of us not suffering from it to understand the plight of our friends and family members who spend every day consumed with this debilitating problem. It’s a touching, heart-rending game that has already helped many, and through its Steam release, it’s looking to touch on more lives than it already has.
As work of interactive fiction, you play as a character dealing with depression through a series of dialogue choices. Certain ones are crossed out as you play through the game, often the ones that offer you the easiest way out. This is purposeful, as it’s meant to make the player feel the same frustrations as someone living with depression. It seems like the answers should just be a phone call or talk away, but often, it’s hard to muster up the courage to find help. Even then, you’d be lucky if you weren’t just turned away with helpful comments telling you to cheer up, or worse, suck it up. It’s not a game you can win, so to speak, but one where you can experience how depression feels. You can work toward the best possible outcome by getting help for your character, but it’s an uphill battle the entire time, and even the best ending only offers a glimmer of hope. It’s sad, but for someone who has never experienced depression, it was an alarming eye-opener.
It’s not often that a game comes along that tries to make the player a better person or to help someone with their life problems, and Depression Quest is doing just that. I declared it my personal Game of the Year for 2013, and our own writers here at Indie Game Mag have also expressed their appreciation for it. It’s doing wonderful work, and if you have ever had trouble understanding a friend with depression, this game will hit you hard. Brutal and beautiful, it’s a testament to the power of this medium to improve lives and help people, and it makes me proud of my favorite hobby and the wonderful people working in it.