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Withdrawn, depressed and not currently seeking a therapist it tells you.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.
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.