Depression Quest Addresses Pain of Mental Illness

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Depression Quest Addresses Pain of Mental Illness

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A new browser game seeks to enlighten players on the realities of depression, and how it can be overcome.

Many gamers experience the digital lives of videogame soldiers, wizards, and action heroes on a daily basis. What's very rare, however, to see a game that depicts the burdens of those suffering daily from mental illnesses. It's strange, considering that depression is a reality experienced by one in ten Americans, and in many cases largely goes untreated. That's something Zoe Quinn and Patrick Lindsey are hoping to address with their new browser game Depression Quest. Presented as a piece of interactive fiction, this game puts players in the shoes of an unremarkable 20-year old struggling with feelings of helplessness, where daily choices can either encourage his recovery or deepen his despair.

Depression Quest asks players to experience entirely ordinary situations, ranging from phone calls with a girlfriend, to meeting your mother, to working on a personal project. Each scene offers multiple-choice responses that drive the plot, the twist being that "healthy" choices are struck out as the protagonist's depression becomes entrenched. As the game progresses, players can eventually discover (or close off) plot threads that lead to treatment and recovery. Before that happens however, the player will need to surpass a steady stream of anxiety and self-doubt that makes even asking for help incredibly difficult.

Players should be warned that Depression Quest isn't something that's especially pleasant to sit through given its subject matter. The game's disclaimer advises that players suffering from depression should consider treatment before playing, while suicidal players should seek professional help and avoid the game entirely. That said, the game's tone has struck a very powerful chord among its players, many of whom are voicing their thoughts and experiences on Tumblr.

"We've had a major impact on depression sufferers," Quinn told IGN, "and we're getting an outpouring of letters from people suffering from it who were touched by it, including several people who started taking their medication again after playing the game. This is an amazing feeling and makes me feel like we accomplished the stated goal of making depression sufferers knowing that they're not alone and that someone understands."

Depression Quest can be played in full for free online, although as of writing it appears to be disabled due to high traffic. A pay-what-you-want option is also available on the game's website, with a portion of proceeds going to awareness charity iFred. If you do manage to access the game, and have the 20-30 minutes required for a playthrough, you'll very likely come away with a better understanding of what millions of people deal with on a regular basis.

Source: Depression Quest, via IGN

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I don't even have a smartass comment for this one.

I was one of those people it helped... was on the brink Friday night and it pulled me off it. Would have restarted meds if I HAD any - seriously, they just don't work for some reason. Thank you for making this game, Zoe and Patrick. You saved at least one life, even if that life isn't worth much of anything.

Video games are awesome.

There is a reason why people dont make games like these:
peopel paly games to escape depression, not explore it.

I "played" this. It's a very sobering experience. A lot of the healthy options were crossed out for me, it would seem I don't handle certain situations in the best way possible. I've had some pretty low moments in my life, nothing I'd describe as depression but I can at least empathise with those who do suffer, to some degree at least.

We should have more games like this.

Bleidd Whitefalcon:
I was one of those people it helped... was on the brink Friday night and it pulled me off it. Would have restarted meds if I HAD any - seriously, they just don't work for some reason. Thank you for making this game, Zoe and Patrick. You saved at least one life, even if that life isn't worth much of anything.

Don't talk like that man, no matter how bad things get, life is still worth living, and I'm not talking out of my ass either, I still am suffering from depression, but I am pulling through with the help of my family and friends. Also, you have to try a couple of meds before you find one that works for you. Some kinds just don't work for somepeople.

Barda236:

Bleidd Whitefalcon:
I was one of those people it helped... was on the brink Friday night and it pulled me off it. Would have restarted meds if I HAD any - seriously, they just don't work for some reason. Thank you for making this game, Zoe and Patrick. You saved at least one life, even if that life isn't worth much of anything.

Don't talk like that man, no matter how bad things get, life is still worth living, and I'm not talking out of my ass either, I still am suffering from depression, but I am pulling through with the help of my family and friends. Also, you have to try a couple of meds before you find one that works for you. Some kinds just don't work for somepeople.

Maybe it was just me personally, but for the love of all that is holy don't just quickly move from one med to another, especially from an SSRI to an MAOI or vice versa. These meds have real side effects that need to be taken into account, and do have a withdraw period that usually requires tapering off. I personally consider them a last resort to make the hell around you tolerable as opposed to changing the hell into something better. Again, that's my life and you're living yours, but please don't go from med A to med B in two days. I had a doctor that did that...and I'd take 5 simultaneous depressions over the...well yeah. There's sites that document the kind of autonomous manic-like trance behavior that occurs in those situations.

Obligatory warning aside, you're not here forever, so try to think of each day as one more gracious opportunity to have a life that you can look back and be happy about, whatever it takes.

Strazdas:
There is a reason why people dont make games like these:
peopel paly games to escape depression, not explore it.

I played this game to explore it.

I answered them all as truthfully as I could... some were hard to determine what I'd actually do and a lot of it was skewed towards depression obviously; while my internal "1, 2, 3, 4" choices are more inline with Social Phobia, but quite a bit of them fit me exactly. In the end I only answered a few negatively and got a fairly happy "ending"

Decided to restart the game afterwards and choose the most negative answers every time, and well... I got a bit teary-eyed and anxious just quickly skimming through the responses. If I had actually read them all I probably would be bawling and depressed right now; the worst part is that I bet some people ended up down that same path just by being honest.

DrunkOnEstus:

Barda236:

Bleidd Whitefalcon:
I was one of those people it helped... was on the brink Friday night and it pulled me off it. Would have restarted meds if I HAD any - seriously, they just don't work for some reason. Thank you for making this game, Zoe and Patrick. You saved at least one life, even if that life isn't worth much of anything.

Don't talk like that man, no matter how bad things get, life is still worth living, and I'm not talking out of my ass either, I still am suffering from depression, but I am pulling through with the help of my family and friends. Also, you have to try a couple of meds before you find one that works for you. Some kinds just don't work for somepeople.

Maybe it was just me personally, but for the love of all that is holy don't just quickly move from one med to another, especially from an SSRI to an MAOI or vice versa. These meds have real side effects that need to be taken into account, and do have a withdraw period that usually requires tapering off. I personally consider them a last resort to make the hell around you tolerable as opposed to changing the hell into something better. Again, that's my life and you're living yours, but please don't go from med A to med B in two days. I had a doctor that did that...and I'd take 5 simultaneous depressions over the...well yeah. There's sites that document the kind of autonomous manic-like trance behavior that occurs in those situations.

Obligatory warning aside, you're not here forever, so try to think of each day as one more gracious opportunity to have a life that you can look back and be happy about, whatever it takes.

You are absolutely correct, I should have been more clear on that. Also, as Estus said, make sure you know all the possible side effects etc. I had a doctor I was unfamiliar with prescribe me a type of antidepressant that was a sedative. I am in college and taking them absolutely messe up my first term. So be careful.

Strazdas:
There is a reason why people dont make games like these:
peopel paly games to escape depression, not explore it.

Please don't presume on the rest of us.

This game taught me two things to help mending my depression.

1. Get a cat (I already have one and I love cats but I don't live away from my parents yet, so I don't cross this off my list yet).

2. Have an internet friend to talk with about your personal life that you can't talk to people in real life for.

...Anybody wanna be my internet friend? :D

that game is bullshit.

it streamlines you into giving one answer. there is no option to pick another one after you are severly depressed. and thats bullshit.

i was in a similar situation but i could get around it, somehow.
this game doesnt give you any option after the first 2-4 negative answers you give.
and thats dumb. sometimes sheer curiosity or the shame that you think you are inflicting on someone else migh get you to try something out, with a hell lot of hesitation, but nonetheless you try it out.

and get a cat to fight your depression. fuck that.
so if you dont like cats but could possibly get a dog or a fish instead, you will still be on the one way depression train without the possibility to stop or change the line. because only cats can fight your mood.
fuck that, again.

noble attempt, badly executed.

It's a fascinating insight into depression as a very broad manner. It's a very 'generic' definition of depression that it uses, which is normal since everyone's depression is very different and no game could cater to everyone.

It was ok, I thought it was interesting.

rhizhim:
that game is bullshit.

it streamlines you into giving one answer. there is no option to pick another one after you are severly depressed. and thats bullshit.

i was in a similar situation but i could get around it, this game doesnt give you that option after the first 4-5 negative answers you give.

and get a cat to fight your depression. fuck that.
so if you dont like cats but could possibly get a dog or a fish instead, you will still be on the one way depression train without the possibility to stop or change the line. because only cats can fight your mood.
fuck that, again.

noble attempt, badly executed.

Just on the cat point I took it because I always know that in the end any offer or request will always end up an order, that said in real life I tend to find people wanting to get rid of kittens far more than puppies, just today from a coworker for example though I said no to that one as I live with my folks and we already have a cat. with the way the character was developing with little to no motivation there is no way he would seek a pet under his own initiative as such a cat being dumped on him in such a fashion is the only way he would be likely to get one

As a Registered Nurse working in a psychiatric ward aimed primarily at treating depressions, and as someone who've had a mild depression and anxiety attacks, I can only say that it is a wonderful game. The "good" answers are definitely in line with what I regularly suggest my patients try to do and it captures the feelings that a depression instills perfectly.

Without wishing to sound insensitive, I've not actually played the "game" and I don't really want to, but I find the title "Depression Quest" kind of hilarious.

All I can think of when I see that is King Graham or Roger Wilco moping about the place looking really dejected as they continue to collect ludicrous numbers of random objects.

Someone was reading the other escapist threads and decided one was news.

I played it for free, and at the end, I decided to give them some money, because that game hit really hard and true. I had the chance to find somebody to help a few years ago and by helping him, I helped myself more than I could ever imagine. That game just put me in the situation I could have been in if I hadn't found him and then others, with awfully familiar situations.

Don't be Internet Tough Guys, people. Play it, even without paying, just to have an idea what some people go through. One thing I've learned is that you can do a lot of good around yourself if you're watchful and aware of this.

Not your average Call of Duty, but more something like Journey.

Wonderful game.

It seemed hard hitting, but I still find the fact they pretty much say "if you don't get therapy, you're fucked" a very mild irritation. Maybe it's because years of dealing with very mild depression (if it even is depression) I've managed to deal with without seeing a counselling psychologist; mostly because I'm not even sure if it is depression but also partially because I just think about how the goal of therapy is to give you drugs and change your behaviour to correlate in with a "correct" train of thought. The thought of ever having my mind altered scares me, as well as losing that spark that I have due to my severely negative view on things.

Riobux:
It seemed hard hitting, but I still find the fact they pretty much say "if you don't get therapy, you're fucked" a very mild irritation. Maybe it's because years of dealing with very mild depression (if it even is depression) I've managed to deal with without seeing a counselling psychologist; mostly because I'm not even sure if it is depression but also partially because I just think about how the goal of therapy is to give you drugs and change your behaviour to correlate in with a "correct" train of thought. The thought of ever having my mind altered scares me, as well as losing that spark that I have due to my severely negative view on things.

Some people can manage to live with quite weird train of thoughts, but for others, it will lead to feelings of inadequacy, to a lack of social skills and of self-confidence that will cause damages to the social and professional life. Then, it starts a vicious circle, as you are failing harder and harder, not having a rewarding job, feeling yourself truly inadequate and unworthy of having better. You feel like everything is your fault and that you shouldn't bother those who are "talking with you out of pity" as that would "scare them off as they see how worthless you actually are". And the more it goes, the more you fail, with you yourself seeing every good thing that happens to you as the beginning to a cruel joke that will slam you as to show that you're the problem.

Until you decide to eliminate the problem by yourself.

And "being tough", kicking the other into getting himself together works mostly in the movies or with people with a different problem. Here, you need a helping hand, someone who will listen to you and hopefully will not screw it even further. A good friend, a girl/boyfriend, even a coworker can really help, but in a lot of cases, the affected person will not open him/herself to it because they are sure they would frighten that individual away from them. Thus the importance of having somebody who will know how to deal with you and who you will be sure they'll keep your secrets safe. For thousands of years, this was one of the most important jobs of the priests, to listen, advise and keep their mouth shut about what they heard. This is still one of the most important job they have, and probably one of the most rational and scientifical reasons to keep religious people around. But there are also medical personel trained in the workings of psychology and communication that will be particularly helpful. Sure, some of them are conmen, but a lot if not the large majority of them will help you if you need it.

You had the luck and the will to come out of it without professional help and I did too. But a lot of other people don't have that and will slowly destroy their life and their close one's when they finally snap and kill other people or themselves.

Nice to know this might make the ignorance level go down a few ticks hopefully.
Unfortunitly all it did for me was made me miss my ex, and realize my life is even more pointless without a spouse to find those few moments of relief and acceptance, since the rest is all.... meh.

Well... playing that... hit pretty close to home. I'm not sure if I feel better or worse for playing that game.

Jove:
This game taught me two things to help mending my depression.

1. Get a cat (I already have one and I love cats but I don't live away from my parents yet, so I don't cross this off my list yet).

2. Have an internet friend to talk with about your personal life that you can't talk to people in real life for.

...Anybody wanna be my internet friend? :D

Let's stay not depressed together!

rhizhim:
that game is bullshit.

it streamlines you into giving one answer. there is no option to pick another one after you are severly depressed. and thats bullshit.

i was in a similar situation but i could get around it, somehow.
this game doesnt give you any option after the first 2-4 negative answers you give.
and thats dumb. sometimes sheer curiosity or the shame that you think you are inflicting on someone else migh get you to try something out, with a hell lot of hesitation, but nonetheless you try it out.

Sometimes you just can't be positive because you feel trapped. All you seem able to do is dig yourself deeper with each word that comes out of your mouth. Sure it's not fair that they don't allow you the option of turning it around but depression isn't fair. Trust me I know.

i played this game, and it made me think about all the low points in my life, all those moments where the pressure overwhelmed me, I was depressed, i probably still am, but this game made me realize how far i've come in the last year, how i've adjusted some goals to better suit my abilities and how good it feels to finally be free of a goal that was, while great to strive for, really did hold me back. If i hadn't had the goal of becoming an architect i would have entered school years ago, but always i looked, and was crushed by the requirements.

now i'm aout to go to school for something more creative and i'm happy about that

Rufus Shinra:

Some people can manage to live with quite weird train of thoughts, but for others, it will lead to feelings of inadequacy, to a lack of social skills and of self-confidence that will cause damages to the social and professional life. Then, it starts a vicious circle, as you are failing harder and harder, not having a rewarding job, feeling yourself truly inadequate and unworthy of having better. You feel like everything is your fault and that you shouldn't bother those who are "talking with you out of pity" as that would "scare them off as they see how worthless you actually are". And the more it goes, the more you fail, with you yourself seeing every good thing that happens to you as the beginning to a cruel joke that will slam you as to show that you're the problem.

Until you decide to eliminate the problem by yourself.

And "being tough", kicking the other into getting himself together works mostly in the movies or with people with a different problem. Here, you need a helping hand, someone who will listen to you and hopefully will not screw it even further. A good friend, a girl/boyfriend, even a coworker can really help, but in a lot of cases, the affected person will not open him/herself to it because they are sure they would frighten that individual away from them. Thus the importance of having somebody who will know how to deal with you and who you will be sure they'll keep your secrets safe. For thousands of years, this was one of the most important jobs of the priests, to listen, advise and keep their mouth shut about what they heard. This is still one of the most important job they have, and probably one of the most rational and scientifical reasons to keep religious people around. But there are also medical personel trained in the workings of psychology and communication that will be particularly helpful. Sure, some of them are conmen, but a lot if not the large majority of them will help you if you need it.

You had the luck and the will to come out of it without professional help and I did too. But a lot of other people don't have that and will slowly destroy their life and their close one's when they finally snap and kill other people or themselves.

The "being tough" thing is, I agree, something only that really exists in films. The problem with the mentality of "suck it up" is you don't see the reason or how to just suck it up. You don't see why you deserve any ounce of pleasure or enjoyment, for you are the blight in the room. You wish you could change from being the blight, but you just don't know how.

Honestly, I'm not out of it. I'm not depressed, but I get the feeling the contrast on the TV of my life has been dimmed a bit more than others so I have a more negative view on events. Something is fun and exciting, it's just good. Something isn't a pain and a mild irritation, it's annoying. The TV metaphor is the best metaphor I can think of to describe it because it doesn't feel full-blown depression (e.g I don't have sleeping difficulties), but I can't help but get the feeling everyone sees things in a more enjoyable light than I. However, I don't have the motivation to change. Not only am I not sure in my assertion; also I have to deal with analysis of society which no one likes good news and bad news sells. So in my line, it's ideal to have a pessimistic and cynical view on things. It sells more. If I tried to deal with the possible existence of depression, I really get the strong feeling that it'd have a negative impact because I just can't make the negative view points required to do well.

It's just a case of I really believe that while therapy can really help and is vital if you are beginning to fall into an endless spiral with a grim end, I do believe it's a shame this game didn't explore the idea of being not in absolute misery and shambles but not happy either. In purgatory.

Riobux:
The "being tough" thing is, I agree, something only that really exists in films. The problem with the mentality of "suck it up" is you don't see the reason or how to just suck it up. You don't see why you deserve any ounce of pleasure or enjoyment, for you are the blight in the room. You wish you could change from being the blight, but you just don't know how.

Honestly, I'm not out of it. I'm not depressed, but I get the feeling the contrast on the TV of my life has been dimmed a bit more than others so I have a more negative view on events. Something is fun and exciting, it's just good. Something isn't a pain and a mild irritation, it's annoying. The TV metaphor is the best metaphor I can think of to describe it because it doesn't feel full-blown depression (e.g I don't have sleeping difficulties), but I can't help but get the feeling everyone sees things in a more enjoyable light than I. However, I don't have the motivation to change. Not only am I not sure in my assertion; also I have to deal with analysis of society which no one likes good news and bad news sells. So in my line, it's ideal to have a pessimistic and cynical view on things. It sells more. If I tried to deal with the possible existence of depression, I really get the strong feeling that it'd have a negative impact because I just can't make the negative view points required to do well.

It's just a case of I really believe that while therapy can really help and is vital if you are beginning to fall into an endless spiral with a grim end, I do believe it's a shame this game didn't explore the idea of being not in absolute misery and shambles but not happy either. In purgatory.

Well, in my playthrough, I ended being on the way to getting things better, but still with quite a lot of problems remaining.

Anyway, as for cynism, I'm quite cynical myself (heh, one of my passions is geopolitics, so you can see that it doesn't help), but I found out that you can use this cynism to make other people laugh and give them a smile by doing some good jokes about everything. See the system as it is and then mock it ruthlessly for your enjoyment and the others'. Having friends is really one of the best things that happened to me: if the general world will rather buy bad news, your friends will buy the good ones and you can then start a virtuous cycle instead of the self-destructive one.

That music... just the sound of it is enough to make someone top themselves.

Anyway I didn't play through much of the game, but what I saw of it did show a good understanding of mild-to-moderate depression. The way healthier options get struck out as your condition worsens is a stroke of genius; instead of trying to refute the supposedly sensible "just snap out of it" mentality, the game just treats that whole idea as irrelevant/impossible.

captcha: idk my bff jill

LOLWUT

I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who can't take something that is even more depressing than Depression Quest, but the other game like this that just came out is called Actual Sunlight

It is super rough but the writing is amazing

In a episode of the series Dexter, someone shows him (Dexter) a game where you play as a serial killer.
Dexters response to this is "Why would anyone want to be a serial killer" in a angry manner.

I would like to respond in the same way.
I get the idea, I get the point, and it might be well made, I don't care.
No one should ever seek this state of mind, no one should ever have to experience it in any way, shape or form.

Couldn't finish the game.

Strazdas:
There is a reason why people dont make games like these:
peopel paly games to escape depression, not explore it.

It's called catharsis.

rhizhim:
that game is bullshit.

it streamlines you into giving one answer. there is no option to pick another one after you are severly depressed. and thats bullshit.

That's the point. It's really hard to explain, but by showing positive options that you can't select, and by progressively reducing the number of options you do have, the game is simulating the experience of depression.

It's actually quite clever, but that's obviously gone completely over your head.

Rattja:
In a episode of the series Dexter, someone shows him (Dexter) a game where you play as a serial killer.
Dexters response to this is "Why would anyone want to be a serial killer" in a angry manner.

I would like to respond in the same way.
I get the idea, I get the point, and it might be well made, I don't care.
No one should ever seek this state of mind, no one should ever have to experience it in any way, shape or form.

The game is just trying to help people understand what its like to be depressed. A lot of people are like " I've never been depressed, but I've been sad sometimes and I just snap out of it. Why don't depressed people just do that" and I think the game is trying to make people understand how its not that simple.

Barda236:

Bleidd Whitefalcon:
I was one of those people it helped... was on the brink Friday night and it pulled me off it. Would have restarted meds if I HAD any - seriously, they just don't work for some reason. Thank you for making this game, Zoe and Patrick. You saved at least one life, even if that life isn't worth much of anything.

Don't talk like that man, no matter how bad things get, life is still worth living, and I'm not talking out of my ass either, I still am suffering from depression, but I am pulling through with the help of my family and friends. Also, you have to try a couple of meds before you find one that works for you. Some kinds just don't work for somepeople.

I've tried most antidepressants. They either don't work or make the problem worse. And from the sound of it, you have a support network that I DON'T have. I'm not on great terms with my family (they've actually told me that after I move out, they never want to hear from me again. For any reason) and I don't have any friends. Motivation to get through this, where art thou?

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