It was all too easy to see myself as the game described: sitting in front of a TV all day just to feel numb. I remember those days where I felt like I was looking through the eyes of a person I had no control over. When my character’s girlfriend broke up with him, I thought I had lost. I remember thinking that this was it, this was when he was going to kill himself. When the game finally told me it was time to stop playing, I realized that it never made any indication that the girlfriend was the last straw that would lead to suicide. That thought was mine alone, because at one point in my life, that would have been true.
I remember thinking that this was it, this was when he was going to kill himself..
Playing Depression Quest was a horrible experience. I cannot recommend it enough.
Depression Quest (developed by Zoe Quinn and Patrick Lindsey with music from Issac Shankler) is a choose-your-own-adventure style text game that puts you in the shoes of a twenty-something “human being” suffering from depression. The first thing you’ll notice is the minimalist approach to the presentation. The visuals of the game only consist of three sections: A small photo establishing the scene, the description of the current activity/your available choices, and three gray boxes describing your current status (your depression level, if you’re currently seeing a therapist, and if you’re currently taking medication). This design choice puts all the focus on the narrative, which is where Depression Quest shines.
The way this game handles depression is so accurate that it’s uncomfortable. As you begin making decisions and seeing the consequences play out, it becomes impossible to separate yourself from the character you’re playing thanks to the top-notch writing. You’ll naturally begin to make decisions based on how you would act and begin sharing the uplifting moments from good choices and the hopelessness of the downward spiral the bad ones bring. There were points during my playthrough that hit a little too close to home, seemingly describing word for word parts of my life I’d rather never visit again. I can honestly say I hesitated clicking options not because I knew they were “bad” choices, but because it’s a choice I would have made in my weaker moments.
…Begin sharing the uplifting moments from good choices and the hopelessness of the downward spiral the bad ones bring.
After you begin making a few of these choices, however, Depression Quest’s weaknesses begin to start appearing. While the choices you make affect your depression status and thus your possible choices in the next scene, they’re sometimes not reflected in the story itself. Near the beginning of the game, for instance, you get a chance to adopt a cat to keep you company. In the very next scene, the game describes you and your girlfriend lazing around with no mention of the new kitty. The cat does come into play in the story later on, but not even having a paragraph describing my girlfriend’s reaction to my furry friend was disappointing. This moment and others like it show the seams of where these scenarios were sewn together during development.
Despite these weaknesses, however, the narrative shines through as one of the most accurate depictions of depression I have ever played through. Depression Quest excels at being both an outreach to other sufferers of depression and a teaching tool to those who wish to learn more about the illness. Since this is a free title, I highly recommend everyone reading to look past the minor design issues and play through Depression Quest at least once. If you are currently suffering from depression, please take the game’s message to heart and seek help. Remember, you are not alone.
Depression Quest gets a 7/10. You can play the free web version right now at the Depression Quest website, or on Steam.