Depression Quest is a browser game designed by Zoe Quinn, American indie game designer, meant to educate people about how depression feels. It was released in 2013.

The game itself has been overshadowed by the fervor surrounding it. Through no fault of Zoe Quinn, the game was turned into a flashpoint for right-wing trolls, in the So-Called "#gamergate", which became a testing ground for disinformation campaigns, leading to the Trump Presidency, pandemic denialism and Russia invading Ukraine. That might sound like an exaggeration, but there is a direct line between this game and at least two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But. That out of the way, what is the game like? I decided to find out.

The game is a choose your own adventure style interactive story with some bare graphics (stylized polaroids), followed by some text describing the players situation and feelings, followed by a choice of what the player should do next. The top choice, with the productive, rational answer, is always crossed out and unavailable. The remaining options are from bad to worse. Depending on what the player does, other options will be crossed out. The game describes a typical lower-middle class existence, through the haze of depression and anxiety. The player gets up and goes to work, has a family, has a relationship, and has to deal with all of them, through a grind of despair. The events that you navigate--- parties, family dinners, work, netflix and chill, are all pedestrian. Through the game, you have a choice to do things like go to therapy and take medication, which do alleviate the narrative (but aren't presented as magic bullets). As a narrative, I find it a perfect description of depression.

One obvious question is how much of a "game" this is. And honestly, it isn't. There are no game mechanics or special items or menus. If you are hoping that getting therapy and medication is like getting the Genji Glove and The Offering and you can then cut through depression with eight sword strokes...well, it is not that type of game. This is a game called Depression Quest. That you play in a Browser. There is no Knights of the Round for depression. No Hadukan. No Houlihan Room.

That being said, I also did have a few comments to make on the narrative itself. Our protagonist is featureless, and even their gender is unspecified. (They have a girlfriend, Alex, but it isn't clear whether they are female or male. On first playthrough/readthrough, I assumed female, on second, male). They are lower middle-class, and from what I could see in the game, while money adds to their anxiety, they seem to be materially secure. They even have a girlfriend, and can go to a therapist and a dentist, and I wish I could do those things. Except for beer at parties, there are no problems with substance abuse. There is also no legal problems, gambling problems, risky behavior, repossessed cars, or promiscuous sex. Just a lot of pizza boxes and waking up to an alarm. On one hand, it might have been good to see some representation of how depression occurs to non-middle class people, but also---well, this game is already grim enough already. That it can't figure in every facet of how depression can affect every group of person is an allowable shortening.

I "enjoyed" this game as I thought it was a well done narrative, the choices helped give insight to the player, and it was well written, and it helped me realize some things about my current mental state (not good). It is a raw and vulnerable game, which perhaps explains a lot of the reaction against it. Given the short amount of time it takes to "play" it, I would suggest taking a look.

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