Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked My World – #59: Depression Quest

In Mac, PC on March 12, 2014 at 1:29 am

Title: Depression Quest
Format: PC, Mac
Released: 14th February, 2013

I first came across Depression Quest for all the wrong reasons. Reasons that made me angry. Consider this article just a tiny bit of karma for all the nonsensical bile out there.

Depression Quest Logo

There’s a download service for games called Steam, which has a great array of titles for sale, new and old. It’s amazing. A new service, Steam Greenlight is intended to be a democratic system that allows users to submit and vote on which in-development games should be added to Steam, making them available for purchase by the everyday public.

The first article I read on Depression Quest was in Edge magazine, but went along these lines. Go on, read it. Or another like it. They’re all quite similar, because the behaviour being reported was as disgusting as it was drearily predictable.

Zoe Quinn

In a nutshell, (if you’re reading from a phone/can’t open the article) the very act of a female game developer (Zoe Quinn – follow her on Twitter here) daring to put a title forward for voting on Greenlight drew large amounts of criticism from the ugly miasma of gamers and their wearying opinions.

Feeling thoroughly depressed at the state of humanity, I decided to look into the game had so enraged the general scum so’s they’d put trotter to key. Aptly enough, it was Depression Quest.

Before I go any further, there are a couple of things I need to make clear.

1.) I have never suffered from depression. I have friends that have, giving me a very basic, by-proxy understanding of it, but I’ve been very lucky in that it hasn’t affected me in too severe a way.

2.) Depression Quest, as its site’s opening page makes very clear, is not meant to be fun or lighthearted, and should be treated very carefully by those easily triggered. Go read everything here before you play it.

DQ Gameplay

I hope you’ve read the above, because I’m now going to ask you to play Depression Quest. Right now. Here’s the link again. If you don’t have time, or you’re reading on your phone, stop here, and come back to it later. It’s not a long game. If you’re at your computer but don’t have time to play, you can click on that cool little star by the taskbar to favourite it. I always like doing that. Oh, and if you’re playing right now, use headphones.

Ok, now we’re on the same page, what did you think? I was a little devastated by it. I played the whole thing through, desperately trying to do the right thing, to make my character feel just that tiny bit better, to wrench them out of this awful pit they were slowly sliding down, but although I did gain a little ground, nothing seemed to make much difference.

And that’s the reason Depression Quest is so important. I now feel like I understand depression, in a real, relatable, visceral way, just that little bit more. It still seems vast, unknowable and terrifying to me, but through the evocative writing and simple, affecting gameplay, I feel like I have a broader understanding of what it entails.

This is massive.

DQ David Foster Wallace

I don’t dare talk much about the topic, because I have so little direct experience with it. I am not in a position to discuss it from any other standpoint than middle class, reasonably healthy white dude – which, although admittedly a rare and unique position to hold as a gamer and cultural commentator in general, still doesn’t quite get me to the place where I can have more than a surface understanding of this.

So why write this article, I hear you (probably) say? Because, if you’ve got this far, and you’ve done what I’ve asked, then I’ve achieved what I wanted. You now know a little bit more about depression. Listen, if you’re reading this, you’re probably already fairly nice, decently-rounded human with a modicum of general compassion and empathy. But you may also be a cunt. And if I’ve pointed just one non-believer in the direction of something powerful and emotive to do with depression, then I’ll sleep a little better. Though really, given the mosquito situation in Australia, better is relative.

So soz, I kind of used you. I mean, you probably deserved it, and it was ‘used’ in a good way, but still. Um, that’s it, really. I don’t have the authority to talk about depression, but Zoe Quinn and her team does, and I think they do it exceptionally well, and in a manner that I suspect was very, very tough and involved a lot of painful soul-searching and analysis.

DQ Polaroids

How many games can teach you things – certainly beyond the abstract like problem-solving and task prioritising – of such genuine use and relevance as this? I can’t think of many.

So Depression Quest isn’t fun. I think you’d struggle to even class it as enjoyable. But it is important, and shows just what games can do.

And to everyone who poured their vile, mislpaced rage in Zoe Quinn’s general direction? If you’re reading this – which I sincerely doubt – you are hereby invited to go fuck yourself.

Here’s a coupon.


You are welcome.

Depression Quest trailer:


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