The Dark Side of the Game of Life

Depression Quest was created in 2013 and the game creator describes itself as “an interactive (non) fiction about living with depression. I chose this game for different reason: 1-this game is similar to That Dragon, Cancer in the sense that it is not really a game that has rules and objectives laid out and it centers around a sad topic. 2-I was interested in learning more about depression as I have had close relations with people battling this and seeing the illness in a “game” format could give me a better understanding.

So what is a video game? My own personal definition of a game that I have formed and am still changing as the class continues, is an activity where there are objectives and rules that have to be followed, there has to be options for the player to make, there has to be some form of enjoyment and the player must win or lose in the end. Depression Quest hits some of those parts of the definition, but not all. Therefore making this technically NOT a video game.

How it relates to being a video game. Depression Quest does follow the one part of my video game definition, in that there has to be options for the player to make within the game, also known as game mechanics. As seen in the screenshot below, for some of the scenes you play/read through, it gives you a variety of options to chose from.

optionsFor each scene you came across, there were options to chose between. They ranged from to act totally depressed and continue being secluded and antisocial or you could force the character (yourself) to go out and do something. I strategized and thought to myself if I kept forcing my character to do something then maybe I can better his depression. And this is exactly what happened. Whenever I was faced with a decision to make, I pushed his limits and it helped and made him go to therapy, get on medication, and talk to others about his condition.

Now, whether or not I “won” the game is still up in the air which is why I am not sure if I can categorize this as a game completely. I finished the game in about 40 minutes and that was with reading all of the passages. Although, I did try and pick the options that would hopefully end the game fastest.


The above screenshot shows the outcome of my game. I ended with my character saying “Things are going alright” when asked about this depression, and he even smiled at the end. So to me, I feel that I came out on top which also is a part of my definition saying there has to be a win or lose situation for the player.

Pushing the boundaries of a video game. As I previously stated, I don’t believe that Depression Quest can be considered a video game, as do many other scholars as well. This article from The New Yorker explains that the creator of this game was harassed and actually was “doxed”. Meaning her personal details was leaked like her address, phone number, bank details and more. One criticism said that the game offered too simplistic of a solution to depression, saying the game was not realistic in the sense that the character did not face real-life situations dealing with depression. With this I do disagree, because many of the situations I had to chose an option for were difficult for me and I was very critical in the option that I chose. The article also gives a back story on the game’s creator and how she has dealt with depression all her life and this game gave her an out.

Going along with the fact that the creator made this game for the reason to help others understand the struggles of depression, this part of Depression Quest, is what doesn’t make it a game in my opinion. It was more a story I was following and I got so engrossed into it, that I felt that the “magic circle” was broken down. Personally, I have had very close relations with someone who was suffering from depression. So while playing the game, a lot of the descriptions that were made about the symptoms the character was suffering, matched what I observed from my friend. For example, the character expressed his fists would shake uncontrollably when he got upset or had a lot of anxiety. I have never suffered from depression, but watching someone go through it and not get help is difficult. That’s why this game was not so much a video game for me, but was reality.

My definition also includes having enjoyment as you play, but from the start to the finish and from every aspect of that game, there was no enjoyment. I noticed this right off the bat with the music, that was an eerie and depressing sound that played throughout. The game player actually wrote at the beginning,”This game uses audio as part of it’s gameplay. We encourage you to play with your sound on.” So that is just what I did. Below is the soundtrack that played throughout and really made a difference to the playing atmosphere.

A big part of Depression Quest not being a game, is there was no rule or objectives that had to be followed. The only rule or boundary that could be counted, was when they took away options from you.

no-optionsAs you can see, they take away options from you, but that still doesn’t count as a rule because they allowed you to do anything you want, even restart the game to chose a different path if you wanted.

Depression Quest is not a video game, but definitely an experience that I thought was was beneficial to me in the end.

They even thanked me, the player, “And you, for being willing to play games that are meant to be something other than simply “fun”.”


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