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Depression Quest Addresses Pain of Mental Illness

| 20 Feb 2013 05:24
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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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