Depression Quest – An Interactive Fiction Game

February 21, 2019 in Games, Mental Health

Setting The Scene For Our Not So Intrepid Adventures…

One early Monday morning the scene is set. You are socially awkward, heading for depression a person unsure of himself in a sea of uncertainty. As anyone has to you soldier on, living a life as ordinary as it gets. There’s a girlfriend Alex, parents that love you a splattering of other friends and acquaintances. Most of whom you met in your frankly dull 9 to 5 job from high school or some other social gathering you’ve reluctantly agreed to attend. Through all this mundanity that is every day life, you cannot shake the feeling something is amiss somehow.. And so the quest begins

If you’ve heard of, seen or played the likes of Zork or the multitude of other text adventures from the 80‘s and early 90‘s, than you’ll get a general idea of exactly what to expect here. Unlike those games however, everything is played out via a series of interactive pages in which multiple choices are presented in true point and click fashion. So yes sadly there’s no typing out North,  South, East and West, inputting commands to get sword, slay dragon, pick up key, unlock chest (mores the shame hey?).. Each page represents a moment in our protagonists life that you simply read and then it’s down to you to decide what course of action to take from the options available. As each decision is made, time elapses and a prognosis will be given as you go about your daily routine or ‘grind’ for want of a better word.

Withdrawn, depressed and not currently seeking a therapist it tells you. Neither are you on meds just hating on yourself and lacking the necessary energy, the motivation to do the most menial of tasks. You rant you rave are told to focus on a passion a hobby to occupy your time, your mind. This from friends and loved ones deeply concerned (so they should be) who have never seen you so unhappy. If my own experience has taught me anything, it’s certainly true that investing time on something you enjoy, creative or otherwise can be beneficial to your mental health. Sadly however as the game rightfully points out, passions you hold dear to your heart might not always help as hoped. There is no underestimating the impact stress and anxiety can have on our ability to do the simplest of tasks or the hobbies we enjoy.

Happy Go Lucky He Ain’t

Depression Quest does not paint the prettiest of pictures for our ailing friend, as we delve into the inner sanctum of his mind. The situations presented may seem all to real for many who dare join this quest. The characters inability to properly focus, those moments where you become so overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings that it’s completely overpowering will undoubtedly hit home for many. I know all to well myself how upsetting it can be as a long term sufferer of depression. Especially when others see fit to tell you to buckle down, try harder that a positive mental attitude is all that is required.

Depression Quest
Man I feel down just reading this.. Be warned, happy chappy he is not

The game often gives you a get out clause, the easy route out based on switching off and doing what you see best for your own mental well being. A decision which circumvents work or being social, going to a party a date. Instead you’ll be asked would you rather be social network hopping, reading up on current events or settling down to watch hours and hours worth of Youtube/TV. Depression Quest is at times for me personally at least a frighteningly accurate representation of what it means to have depression and anxiety. How easily we can find ourselves in an endless cycle having become withdrawn, possibly even avoidant. The game goes into detail how it effects people individually i.e. ourselves and those around us. The feelings of worthlessness and subsequent fear of losing loved ones through desperate anguish.

Thankfully given the impression so far it isn’t all doom and gloom, in fact at it’s core lay a message of hope. One that doesn’t ever suggest it will be easy, a simple matter of clicking your fingers and everything will be tikitiboo. As the game progresses we’re lead down a path that suggests our main protagonist may eventually to some extent, win his battle if not completely. That we’re not quite as alone as perhaps we’d think, that there are good people who truly care and will stick with us through thick and thin.

The Controversy and Metacritic Score

Scoring a lowly, basically disastrous 1.6 on Metacritic Depression Quest’s tainted history has likely contributed to the less than stellar showing across the board. Outside of the controversy other reasons cited are limited gameplay, the fact your decisions don’t seem to have any discernible effect on the eventual outcome. There’s also accusations the writing shows a general lack of understanding on the subject, that it even comes across as patronising or somewhat egotistical. Personally I felt it came very close to home on more than one occasion and I didn’t feel patronised particularly. Can see where people are coming from in terms of it being less than thrilling as a game as it’s more interactive fiction than anything else and targets a niche market.

Depression Quest is not for everyone it’s true to say and as previously stated not an easy ride. Never does it sugar coat the subject or tell you it’s all going to be OK, something I’d say is worthy of praise. Taken as a piece of literature or interactive fiction as is it’s competent, thought provoking and will doubtless have parallels with your own life.

 

Broken Heart Syndrome: Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy

February 15, 2019 in Mental Health

As I walk this land with broken dreams I have visions of many things. But happiness is just an illusion filled with sadness and confusion. What becomes of the broken-hearted who had love that’s now departed?

When a love one dies and your heart along with this they call Takotsubo, one of the single most draining experiences emotionally we’re face in life. Effectively an endurance test like no other and one I’d not wish upon my worse of enemies. Not that I have any of those can promise you that (nudge nudge). We had a family bereavement some years ago now and is often said by those who have lost a loved one, there’s never a day go by where you’ll not think of them in some capacity or other. Thoughts will wonder to memories of a dearly departed triggered by what you see, hear or think at any given time.

You’ll wonder exactly what you’d have said if only they were here right now, what would they have said in return. There can be no underestimating the impact of losing mums, dads, brothers and sisters can have on our every day lives. Once gone a proverbial chasm left in their wake never to be filled, as it’s often them and them alone that have a unique insight into you as a person, as you do them. Whether that be fun times, down times for that shoulder to cry on, we can so easily take for granted that which may not always be there.

They can be our conscience, a guiding hand an inspiration able to light up our days our lives in ways only they could. When extinguished this can be truly an agonising experience. I’ve lost count how many times they have crossed my mind when enjoying music, a video or film, knowing full well they’d enjoyed it as much as I. This can and is extremely heavy on the heart, especially in the early months and years following a love ones death. This will be further compounded by seeing others endure the same blessed heartache as you

And it’s this pain which many feel that can lead to a very real serious health problem. The sheer heartache as British researchers have discovered can and likely will result in so called “broken heart syndrome”or Takotsubo. In the UK alone some 3,000 adults every year suffer from the syndrome

The Common Thread

Takotsubo is commonly triggered by bereavement and occurs when severe stress causes the heart muscle to become “stunned and weakened. Until now doctors believed that the damage was temporary and would eventually heal but researchers at the University of Aberdeen have discovered that the condition weakens the heart permanently, much like a heart attack.

Dr Dana Dawson, the lead researcher at the University of Aberdeen told the Daily Mail:

It is becoming increasingly recognised that Takotsubo is more common than we originally thought.

The researchers studied 37 patients with Takotsubo for an average of two years and carried out regular ultrasound and MRI scans of their heart. It was found that the damage was present long after the event which triggered the condition. Researchers advised patients should be offered the same drugs as those who have suffered a heart attack.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, California. Dr Dana Dawson said:

This is the longest follow-up study looking at the long-term effects of Takotsubo, and it clearly shows permanent ill-effects on the hearts of those who suffer from it. These patients are unable to perform the physical exercise as well and fatigue more easily.

Links

The Crazy Hold of The FPL (An Addictive Personality Disorder and a Huge Dollop of Luck)

January 26, 2019 in Mental Health, Sport

A Funny Old Game

When does a hobby or any leisurely pursuit for that matter become an addiction, at what point does it fall into the category of an illness?. This is a question I’ve asked myself recently when considering of all my hobbies the FPL or Fantasy Premier League. This is a game in which you build a football (soccer) squad of 15 players and compete at the time of writing against 6 million+ others. There are leagues, head to heads and rivalries the likes of which the sport itself has become world renowned. A friend of mine recently said “it’s not good for your mental health” and they subsequently quit, the question is why?.

When something such as the FPL dominates your thinking, has a consistent hold an adverse effect on your mood your social life and your time, can this then be considered more than just a hobby?. The FPL has all the hallmarks, the ingredients that go into making a game an addictive one for someone prone to OCD or certain mental illnesses. Fantasy Premier League requires a persistent methodical method of play, also a huge dollop of luck over a prolonged period. This when thrown together with the use of statistical data if playing to it’s maximum can lead to a huge degree of frustration, determination even self reflection.

As invariably happens when it all goes so horribly horribly wrong, which sadly it does all to frequently (for me in any case lol).. Yes sounds all levels of absurd to say upset over what many would consider a silly little game, a game within a game in actual fact and yet upsetting so it’s proved for many who play it.. Seen it with my own eyes, consistently!

Decisions Decisions… Who to pick for the current game week, it’s enough to drive anyone potty – me anyway.

Luck of The Gods

A lot of work goes into being an FPL player of some repute. Not only does it require a good eye for players, one to have a strong single-minded persistence for those times when you need to go against the grain, weeks of planning through the use of statistics but a large slice of luck too. All of which is precisely why when the tide turns it can have such a demoralising effect on you as a person. Luck when it runs out as inevitably it will, can lead to all kinds of thoughts pertaining to your own general lack of luck in life..

Certainly for the likes of us in the mental health community, those of us with low self esteem this can be a very serious issue indeed. The weeks of planning which go terribly wrong and you swore were full-proof, would see you climb the rankings could conceivably have you questioning your own abilities or inabilities as a person and self worth. The fact it lasts an entire 38 weeks alone is recipe for disaster when you consider all these factors .

Yes it can cause upset for those who suffer low self esteem and mental health issues as any hobby could that requires a modicum of skill and an ounce of luck. I feel you need to weigh up the pros and cons, consider whether you see this as being part and parcel of the hobby you’ve undertaken. Do the highs outweigh the lows and at what point should you say enough is enough, that maybe down to the individual of course. OCD it’s true to say tends to follow a particular emotional instability as it latches onto you as if a leach, that in turn has the effect of making you possess a steely determination, leading quite possibly to doing things you wish you wouldn’t.

Come on My Son… Do you leave out the on form Son this game week or save up those transfers???

It Crossed The Line Ref

When has the line been crossed is down to the individual and though I do have times where it’s on my mind far to much, I feel I’m capable of removing myself just enough to know it’s not something which can entirely dominate my thinking, my life. In actual fact having played this for a good four years now, I’m learning how to cope better when my luck takes a turn for the worse. As the saying goes in football circles ‘it evens itself out’ as in luck. We can have at times a preconceived idea that luck plays a huge part in life can we not? that we as people have none or little especially in the mental health community.

What is always important I feel is to challenge yourself to do things outside from what could become that addiction. My Dad has always said to me about keeping the mind occupied and it’s very true this can and will work. In saying that and as is always the case having to much on the go or on the noggin/brain can have an impact on a persons mental well being too. So balance is the key, a bit of this a bit of that and stop being so damn quiet in my case lol. This whole issue has recently been discussed on a podcast – FFS (Fantasy Football Scout) and is well worth a listen for those who are into this funny old game as I am.

Fantasy Football Scoutcast Discuss The Impact The Game Has on Our Mental Health…

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

January 11, 2019 in Mental Health

The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out today
Now we’ll all be happy, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out today

Noel Gay and Ralph Butler the bearers of a great truth. Sure many would agree when the sun is shinning, the days longer nights shorter and those temperatures sore our outlook on life, our days generally are spent in a far happier place. When our friend is looking down upon us with his most wondrous of warm smiles we smile too.

Yet just around the corner what awaits us in less sunnier climes? yes the wind, rain and cold.Those dark dark dreary days and nights as summer turns to autumn, autumn to winter. For some it’s enough to dampen spirits and make those tribulations of life appear far greater than than they were before. If you feel anxious, depressed like your life resembles that of the weather itself and cannot rid yourself of a pervading sense of gloominess, then maybe you are one of those unfortunate enough to have a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is thought to affect one in 15 people here in the UK between the months of September and April, according to NHS statistics.

We are all affected by this to some extent as the days become shorter and the nights longer, as weather patterns take a change for the worse. Being a Brit myself I’ve become somewhat accustomed to the changing of the seasons, even use to welcome it being a sufferer of Agoraphobia. For me it meant I could go out early evening shrouded in darkness and enjoy myself that little more, as bizarre and antisocial as it may seem. Yet for others it’s become a very very serious health risk, one that could have implications on both a persons ability to function and livelihood.

As is often the case with any illness that involves a depressive state, anyone who suffers will likely have a range of the following symptoms.

  • Moodiness
  • A lack of interest in everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • Lethargy, feeling sleepy during the day
  • Sleeping for longer periods and lack of motivation to get up in the morning
  • Food cravings and the gaining of weight

The root causes of SAD according to the NHS website is said to be related to the following

  • The production of melatonin a hormone that makes you feel sleepy which the body may produce in higher than normal levels
  • production of serotonin a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep patterns. A lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
  • The body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up

As with any form of depression, there is no surefire way of eradicating it’s symptoms but there are things you can try. Outside of attempting to get as much sunlight exposure that you can, there is Light Therapy utilising what is known as a SAD lamp.. Which has also been known to help those who generally suffer with depression and according to Seasonal Affective Disorder Association has been effective in 85% of cases.