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Video Game / Depression Quest

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Depression Quest is an Interactive Fiction Adventure Game developed by Zoe Quinn. It was playable for free on its own website, but was released on Steam on August 11, 2014 for free.

You play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. These are reflected as answers on a multiple choice questionnaire.

Tropes used in Depression Quest:

  • 555: Averted. Amanda gives you the phone number for a great therapist: 647-723-5274. In real life, that phone number goes to The Toronto Therapy Network, a directory of therapists in the Greater Toronto area. However, the therapist you see, Dr. Susan Melville, is fictional.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Played with. Your brother is actively trying to help you and defends you from your mother's nagging, but you can't help but see him as this - he's far more successful than you, or so you think.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In-universe: as with actual depression, you start thinking people are out to get you. For example, a coworker who's trying to sell his kitten becomes an irritating little greedy scammer, and your mother seems downright abusive from her constant nagging. [invoked]
  • Ambiguous Gender: The player character's gender is never specified.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The best ending - you're on medication, you're seeing a therapist, your girlfriend moved in with you and is actively helping you to get better, your mother's off your back, and you feel like you're climbing out of your depression - but there's always the risk you can relapse, and it may never fully go away.
  • Break Her Heart to Save Her: If your depression gets too severe, your girlfriend tells you she doesn't think she can be with you anymore. One of the options is to break up with her under the assumption that she'll be better off without you.
  • But Thou Must!: Invoked in the game - there are sensible, social options that are always crossed out, which accurately reflects a depressed person's feeling of inability or unwillingness and recognition that they're doing nothing.
  • Cats Are Mean: Variant - if you decide to take in a co-worker's kitten, the scared, desperate mewling it gives as you try to sleep make you feel awful. However, the kitten warms up to you.
  • Central Theme: How you and the people around you react to and deal with your depression.
  • Cute Kitten: Adopting the cat is one of the things that can help you with your depression.
  • Cool Big Bro: Your brother knows you're depressed, and defends you against your mother's accusations of being lazy.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Averted. The character states early on that they had a normal life, and that this depression is not the result of a traumatic experience.
  • Driven to Suicide: Discussed. In the intro before the game starts, a warning is given that people considering suicide should not play this game. There is even a link leading to a suicide hotline in the first paragraph of the intro.
    • If the protagonist's depression gets too severe, then the box describing his/her mental condition will describe the character as wanting to die but ironically not having the energy to act on this. Despite this, you never get the option of suicide.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: There are two situations in which the character can choose to get drunk; neither of these end well. Likewise, it states the character started a creative endeavor at the suggestion of a colleague after a drunken tirade about the meaningless of his/her existence.
  • Downer Ending: The worst ending. Your girlfriend broke up with you after you became too distant, you missed so many days of work you will probably get fired, and your depression is so bad you want to die. When your mother asks you how you are doing at the end, you break down sobbing at how your life fell apart.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: You'll regret not getting therapy.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: This is the best possible outcome. You're taking medication, you've gone to therapy, you'll most likely be keeping your job, you've made things up with both your girlfriend and your mother, and in general your depression is starting to go away for the first time.
  • Epiphany Therapy: At one point, you accidentally wake up your girlfriend as you're sharing a bed. Given enough treatment, you brush off your paranoia that your girlfriend won't understand and push you away, letting it all out and admitting you've been feeling horrible and depressed. Your girlfriend completely understands, hugs and kisses you, and pledges to help you feel better. This really helps with your depression.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The only thing that's certain is that A) you've got a presumably middle-class family with a brother, B) you hold down a nondescript entry-level job, and C) you've got a girlfriend. Even the protagonist's gender is left unstated.
  • A Friend in Need: You, of all people, have the ability to be this for your online friend, Attic. He's normally rather chipper (or as chipper as can be via chat messages), but one night, he'll admit he's feeling down and ask for advice, and if you respond to him, he will tell you he got cheated on. You talk with him, and feel better as a result of helping someone.
    • Your friend Amanda asks if you are okay; one option is to notice your hands are shaking. This will cause you to have a meltdown; Amanda listens to you as you explain your problems and promises to email you the number to a therapist.
    • Later on, Attic tells you that you sound depressed and offers to find a therapist for you. Whether you agree to go to one, are already seeing one, or refuse to see one, Attic will tell you that there is nothing wrong with being depressed.
  • Good Parents: Your dad knows you're going through something, and tries to get your mother to lay off of you.
  • Heroic BSoD: If you don't go to therapy or take medication, then there will be days when you can not even muster the strength to get out of bed.
  • The Insomniac: Some nights you will not be able to sleep, or will wake up too early.
  • Inspirational Insult: Your mother is in the camp that believes complaining and nagging about your listlessness is going to spurn you into action. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: This music is going to haunt you and remind you of how you're dealing with depression if you keep it on throughout the game. However, see Public Domain Soundtrack below.
  • Loners Are Freaks: You certainly seem to think this about yourself.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: In one instance, your girlfriend Alex tries to seduce you. If you are taking the antidepressants, then you will be unable to perform.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The narration makes it clear you find the therapist overly bright and annoying, though this is due to your depression. You also see your girlfriend as this, pushing you into social situations you don't want and making you feel even more alienated.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has different endings that are determined by how depressed you are at the end of it. The "goal" of the game, as it were, is to be recovering at the end.
  • My Beloved Smother: Compared to your father and brother, who at least attempt to sympathize with you, your mother constantly nags about your lack of a real job and your apparent unwillingness to move up in the world. At one point, she makes your depression even worse.
  • No Medication for Me: About three weeks into a medication regimen (if you decided to take them), you note you're feeling much better. You mull over the idea that you might be turning into a pill-popper, remember that anti-depression medicine come with lots of side-effects, and can decide to stop taking your pills. This is not a good idea. If you finally work up the courage to go see a therapist, you can choose to forgo medication and just see the therapist.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: In one instance, your girlfriend Alex tries to seduce you. If your depression is too severe, you will not be able to feel anything.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: If your girlfriend Alex decides to break up with you, this is one thing you can say. If your depression is too severe, it may be one of the only two options. It doesn't work.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The Lonely Piano Piece that plays throughout the game is a piano rendition of "Ave Regina Caelorum" by Guillaume Du Fay.
  • This Is Reality: To reflect the reality of how depression affects the decisions one makes in life, certain decisions will be crossed out and unavailable to you as the game goes on.
  • Sensory Abuse: The soundtrack consists of an ominous Drone of Dread, which some depressed people feel they hear.
  • Schmuck Bait: If you've chosen to take medication, the narration notes you've been feeling much better - maybe you really didn't need medication! Oops. If you are seeing a therapist, she notes that this happens to a lot of people - thinking they're better off without their meds, only to crash harder than before.
  • Shrinking Violet: The main character counts as one due to their depression, and their feelings of alienation around large groups.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Your job isn't described in detail, but from what we can tell from the boss and your mother, it's entry-level, and you hated it even before you fell into depression. Depending on your choices, working may make you even more depressed.
  • Successful Sibling Syndrome: Your brother is far more successful than you, which adds to your insecurity.
  • Tears of Fear: When your friend asks how you are doing, one of the options is to notice that your hands are shaking. If you select this, you will start sobbing uncontrollably and telling your friend all your problems. She will then email you a therapist's number.
  • Truth in Television: Unfortunately, depression is a very real problem in the world today. That is why the game refers to itself as "An interactive (non)Fiction about living with depression".
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Pretty much the entire point. The only way to "win" the game—to make your character keep their job, get their mother to stop harassing them, and stop their girlfriend from leaving them— is to help them recover from their depression.