Thursday, January 9, 2014

Depression Quest

This game is not fun.

Nor is it particularly enjoyable at all.

That's the point altogether, however.

Depression Quest is a unique second-person choose-your-own adventure-style narrative. You play the role of a twenty-something person who is unsure of where his or her life is going. You have a job that you hate and a project that's going nowhere. You have a girlfriend, named Alex, a dedicated student who loves you very much.

As you follow the story, you learn that the character you are embodying is clearly very depressed. The aim of this game is to follow the life of someone living with depression: to enter his or her mind and to follow the daily struggles and stresses. It's meant to increase awareness and help people understand why people suffering from depression act the way they do. Finally, it's meant to help eliminate the stigma surrounding depression and mental illness.

This game takes its subject matter very seriously and the story is tastefully told. Ultimately, what you do is up to you. I played through twice to see the different endings. The first time, I made the same decisions that I personally would have made. The second time, I made some different ones, resulting in a very different ending. There are 3 other endings that I did not see, making 5 in total.

The story evolves based on your choices. You may notice, as you make choices, that some of them are in red and stricken through the middle. You are unable to make those choices if you become too depressed.

Because its subject matter is heavy and has been written with utmost precision and care, this game is also very triggering if you have experienced depression in the past. If you are currently experiencing depression, I recommend playing with caution. Please be sure to heed the description of the game at its beginning.

The game is a a sensory experience as well, with a soundtrack playing in the background that will adapt depending on how you play. Colours will fade away the worse your depression gets, and static will build up both on images, and in the music.

The game was created by a small team of developers, and has won a number of independent game awards, including Best Narrative. I have also learned that it was given the Steam Greenlight very recently. The game was crafted with Twine, which is a text-based game creator, and will be the first Steam Greenlight title to be created with the engine.

If you are able, I would encourage you to donate to the game's developers. While you're able to play for free, donating will send some of the proceeds toward iFred, an organization seeking to educate people about depression and remove the stigma associated with it, as well as help pave the way for other games by these same creators. Even a few dollars would be helpful, I'm sure.

My only complaint about this game is that it would have been nice to have non-gender specific pronouns for Alex, and maybe even the ability to name your partner yourself. That's very minor, however, and I was still able to completely immerse myself. It might have made the game more relatable. I realise that this may have been a limitation of Twine's capabilities, but nevertheless, an observation.

This game deserves a lot of recognition for its accomplishments and for its importance in the realm of gaming and bringing awareness to people who are suffering. Like I mentioned before, it's not a fun or enjoyable game, but it is an introspective on the lives of people living with depression.


  1. Interesting article about an interesting game. Although I felt kind of down after playing (which means the game is effective, I guess!), I really liked how the choices show you what that person was considering in each situation. The game is really well-written too.

    And about your only complaint: I picked up on that too. It was weird that they avoided mentioning protagonist's gender, but not the partner's. But like you said, not a big issue.

    I had written about mental health in games, and Depression Quest is the perfect example of doing it right: using video games' interactivity and representational power to help people better understand mental health! I hope we'll start to see more games like DQ. (

    Do you know of any other games dealing meaningfully with mental health that I could add to my list?

    1. Thanks for your input, Chad, and for linking your article as well! Here's a good one: it's called Elude, and it deals with depression as well.

      I felt pretty awful when playing through Depression Quest as well. I'm sure that it was part of the reason it was so effective.

  2. Yeah I felt a bit distanced from it as it was definitely a guy in my head. Also....if only it were that easy to get a therapist.