What is it?
Depression Quest is a critically-acclaimed 2013 interactive fiction game developed by Zoe Quinn using the Twine engine. It tells the story of somebody who has depression and their attempts to deal with it, hoping to foster greater understanding of the condition. It was originally released as a web browser game and then, in August 2014, on Steam.
The story takes you through a day in ordinary life likely to be much the same as your own, as you navigate interactions with other people at work and in your personal life. The story shows how these interactions can negatively (and sometimes) positively affect a person with depression.
The game is a text adventure with sound (sad-sounding piano chords) and polaroid-style pictures on each page. You click on one of a number of options for what to do next on the page, in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure. Some options are crossed out, indicating the player cannot take that option. There is also the occasional link amongst the text on a page, which you can click on for more information on a certain point without interrupting the flow of the main storyline. Below the options on the page are a number of statements about the player’s current mental health and its consequences, whether they are seeing a therapist and whether they are on medication.
Women and the Game
Zoe Quinn has experienced a significant backlash in relation to Depression Quest. While the game was praised by many critics, particularly for raising awareness of what it’s like to experience depression, other critics and gamers found fault with it for not being “fun” enough and claimed it wasn’t really even a game at all.
After the game was released on Steam, Zoe’s former boyfriend wrote a long blogpost accusing her of being in a relationship with a games journalist for Kotaku, Nathan Grayson. Her opponents claimed her game had received a positive review from Grayson because of this relationship. In fact, Grayson had never reviewed the game. Zoe received a rape threat mailed to her home address and later, threatening phone calls and had her personal details leaked (“doxed”), causing her to flee her home in fear. These events kicked off Gamergate controversy.
You can play Depression Quest for free (or for a voluntary donation, part proceeds of which go to charity) here: www.depressionquest.com
My article about the online abuse aimed at Zoe Quinn and other women in games
Potential movie based on Zoe Quinn’s memoir