Depression Quest is a text-based game which explores the all-too-real issues of depression. It's available on Steam for free.
I grew up playing and adoring text-based gaming. My first games were Adventure and Zork on thermal-paper terminals. There weren't even screens back then. I became addicted to the Zork series and wrote my own games in BASIC with the same style of gameplay. In multiplayer gaming I was a fan of the DuneMUSH which was a wholly text based game system where characters talked with each other and roleplayed.
So the text-only, decision-based environment of Depression Quest was right up my alley.
In this game you're playing a 20-something guy who has a girlfriend, well-meaning parents, and a job he's just not that fond of. But the most crushing burden of his life is that he's depressed. This is something that both the writer, Patrick Lindsey, and the designer, ZoŽ Quinn, have struggled heavily with.
I have a number of members of my own family who have lived with depression all their lives. Many of my good friends are also in this situation. So this definitely was a game that I was interested in.
The game provides great insight into what it's like to deal with depression. An outsider might think, "Heck, why doesn't he just climb out of bed and go to work with a smile?" But it's not always that easy. And the game reflects that. Sometimes the mere act of getting out of bed is just too much to consider. I have friends who curl up in bed and have no energy at all to get out of those blankets. It's not that they're lazy. It's not that they're unintelligent. It's that their brain chemistry has put them into a dark, dark place which seems to have no exit.
I like that the game shows that there COULD be other choices sometimes but that the depressed person just can't even contemplate them. They are choices that non-depressed people take for granted - like going to a party and having fun. To the depressed person, that is not even an option.
I like, too, that the game shows that there is hope with therapy, medication, and good friends. So often, a depressed person feels with every cell in their body that there is no hope at all. Maybe this game will help them find hope. Maybe it'll help their friends and family get some small sense of what they are enduring.
Is it a "fun" game like Candy Crush? Well, no, but Candy Crush is pretty mindless. Is that really "fun" either? Every game fulfills a need in the gamer's world. Sometimes it's like DuneMUSH where the need is socialization and communication. Sometimes the need is like Guitar Hero where it's playing awesome music and building those reflexes. But sometimes with games like Depression Quest it's about learning more about what a person is going through and being able to help them. Heck, in that sense it's like playing the many medical games which help you learn real-life skills. When you're done playing you get a great sense of joy and reward that you're now a better-educated person who can be a far better friend and family member to those around them.
Highly recommended, because with about 7% of the US population suffering from depression in a given year, we all know someone who could use support.
Steam Game Server - you can play Depression Quest for free here.