26 October 2021
(text-style:"smear","expand","fade-in-out")[''(align:"=><=")+(box:"=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX=")[Electronic Literature Analysis: //Depression Quest// ]'']
The world of electronic literature has brought forth different genres that are more than what one might think of literature as. One of these areas of electronic literature is [[interactive fiction]] and games.Interactive fiction allows for the reader, or interactor, to become immersed in a narrative. The software interactive fiction is created on uses hypertext to let readers control different facets of the narrative–from the characters' actions to the kind of environment the reader will find themselves in within the narrative.
//[[Depression Quest]]//, a 2013 interactive fiction game developed on [[Twine]] by Zoe Quinn, is an excellent example to showcase the ways interactive fiction can be used as an educational tool.The software known as Twine allows users to create hypertext interactive narratives in an easy and accessible manner. Twine makes it easy for anyone to code an interactive storyline even if they have [[little to no experience in coding]]. The accessibility of Twine makes it possible for people to create personal and immersive storylines of their experiences of having marginalized identities.
Prosocial games, like //Depression Quest//, serve as areas to raise awareness and provide educational opportunities. By developing the game on Twine, Quinn illustrates how the software allows for [[opportunities to raise awareness]] on important issues like stigma surrounding mental illness. The [[interactivity->you play as the character with depression.]] inherent to Twine immereses the reader in a way that non-interactive fiction cannot, leaving more of an impact.
[[Go back to thesis->how]]Interactive fiction is unique in that it allows for one of the most immersive literary experiences available to anyone with access to a computer. In //Depression Quest// the reader plays as the person living with depression. The choices the player makes impacts the character's wellbeing and the game environment. For example, the [[images and audio]] that accompany the text of the game react to the choices that are made.
By playing as the character living with depression, the interactor is given an emotional and intense simulated experience. The accurate and dark depictions in the game combined with the interactiveness of the game help reveal the harsh reality of how depression impacts every facet of life.
[[Navigate to thesis->how]]
Through the [[medium->Twine]], [[narrative elements]], and [[interactivity->you play as the character with depression.]] of //Depression Quest//, the interactive fiction raises awareness around how depression impacts everyday activities, interactions, relationships and that there is [[no linear path]] towards managing it.Zoe Quinn’s interactive fiction game //Depression Quest// is an immersive narrative exploring what living with depression is like. It is formatted like a choose-your-own-adventure story in which [[you play as the character with depression.]] Different options for how you want to proceed are provided on each page of the narrative in the form of hypertext links. The game also features polaroid style images on each page along with atmospheric music. These visual and audio features react to the choices you make as your character either gets better or worse.
The main goals of //Depression Quest//, according to Quinn, are to "illustrate as clearly as possible what depression is like," and that "sufferers will come to know that they aren't alone" (Quinn, homepage). With these goals in mind, it is important to understand [[how]] this interactive fiction works to accomplish them.The narrative elements in //Depression Quest// that help the game successfully reach its goals include the [[characterization]] and [[non-linear plotline->no linear path]] with multiple possible endings.(text-style:"smear")[//“Like depression itself, Depression Quest does not have an end really. There is no neat resolution to depression, and it was important to us that Depression Quest's own resolution reflect that. Instead of a tidy ending, we want to just provide a series of outlooks to take moving forward. After all, that's all we can really do with depression - just keep moving forward. And at the end of the day it's our outlook, and support from people just like you, that makes all the difference in the world.”//
The non-linear plot of //Depression Quest// is one of the most impactful factors in the game that reveal the reality of living with depression. The quote above is provided at the end of the game to explain why the game doesn't have just one storyline or ending. Like Quinn says, depression is something that does not have one easy resolution. Depression is something that will continue to impact someone's life, but the steps one can take and the support they find along the way can help them manage it.
Navigate to [[Works Cited]]My experience using [[Twine]] both as a creator and as an interactor shows just how effective the immersiveness of the stories created with Twine is. Creating with Twine feels incredibly intuitive to me–even though I have very minimal experience with coding languages. Playing //Depression Quest// was a very intense yet comforting experience. As someone who struggles with mental illness, the game felt familiar and, like Quinn’s goal in designing the narrative, reminded me I am not alone in my struggles.
[[Back to thesis->how]]The game uses a pay-what-you-want donation scale, but people can also play for free. The homepage of //Depression Quest// informs users that a "portion of the proceeds from this game will be donated to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline" (Quinn, homepage). Within //Depression Quest//, there is only one character the user can [[play as->you play as the character with depression.]]. There is not much context given about this character except for the fact that "you are a mid-twenties human being" living with depression given during the exposition of the game. However, this character that the reader makes choices for does not start the game knowing they have depression. This emulates how a lot of people living with depression don't know what they are dealing with at first. Some of the feelings at the beginning of the game can help inform people unfamiliar with depression of how it might materialize in the early stages of living with it.
Every other character in the game is a non-playable character, also known as a character that cannot be directly manipulated by the user, but will react to the choices the playable character makes. These characters include the main character's [[partner]], coworkers at the character's [[mundane day job]], [[family]], and [[school and online friends]].Alex is the main character's partner. The relationship has been exclusive for a couple months. She is more socially outgoing than the main character and often has "to talk you into attending" most social outings which "feeds your worry of not being exciting enough for them" (Quinn, Alex page).
This worry creates a tension that is familiar to people with depression, displaying the ways depression can cause difficulties in relationships. One of the key plot developments in the game is working through the relationship while learning how to manage depression. By using a romantic relationship to expose how depression impacts more than just the person living with it, the game continues to enlighten users on the widespread effects of mental illness.
[[Back to characterization->characterization]]On the page explaining the main character's life, there is a hyperlink provided to get a bit more info on their day job. It describes the job as "really nothing special" and "dull and unrewarding," but does not provide any specific details about what the job is (Quinn, job page). Jobs, especially ones that are not particularly enjoyable, make it hard for people with depression to have the energy to support themselves. This is especially revealed when Quinn writes, "A lot of days lately, you have a really hard time getting out of bed and forcing yourself to go in. You're starting to wonder how long you can keep this up" (job page). Small details like this one further support the goal of //Depression Quest// to educate audiences and to support people living with depression.
[[Back to characterization->characterization]]They are not featured as much as Alex throughout the game, but there are some online friends that communicate regularly and are known by their screen names in the game. The main character is described as feeling "less guarded" when talking with online friends about their depression (Quinn, social circle page). This is an interesting detail in the game because finding online communities of support is something people with mental illness often gravitate toward. Quinn's own experiences with depression definitely come through with this character decision.
Some other friends throughout the game are from high school or previous jobs. One friend gives the player the possibility to start going to therapy because their mom also goes. This kind of connection helps to illustrate how a lot more people than one might think live with a mental illness.
[[Back to characterization->characterization]]The main character's family consists of their parents and brother. The parents are still together “but you do wonder if they still love each other sometimes.” They “genuinely care about you” but mom seems a bit more critical than dad. Malcolm, the older brother, is married and has a successful and high-paying job. The page featuring the above details of the character's family life also mentions how "you know they love you and that they're not bad people, but you really feel like a big disappointment sometimes." These feelings of being a disappointment to one's family is another common effect of depression as it combines multiple different factors of living with depression. For example, the [[mundane day job]] leaves the character feeling unfulfilled and unimpressive compared to their successful brother, which bleeds into how their parents feel about them.
[[Back to characterization->characterization]]Each page of //Depression Quest// is accompanied by polaroid-style photographs with a static animation placed on top of them. The color of the photos drain and the static increases as the well-being of the character worsens. This is representative of how life starts to become dull and colorless when someone living with depression goes unsupported.
The game is also accompanied by atmospheric music that becomes glitchier and more static filled as the character's condition worsens, in tandem with the status of the polaroid images. Like the photographs, the reactive nature of the music is symbolic of how life starts to feel like a challenge without a sense of clarity or direction.
At the bottom of each page throughout the game are status bars. Each bar informs the player of three things:
1. The "level" of the depression (moderately, baseline, very, deeply, profoundly, severely)
2. Seeing a therapist or not
3. On medication or not
These status bars help the player navigate how their choices are impacting their wellbeing. Also, not every choice is able to picked depending on the wellbeing level. Just like in real life, if you are too depressed to even get out of bed, you aren't going to be able to get up and start a project or head to work. This reflects the real affects of living with depression. More options become available again as the character gets support and help, again just like in real life.
[[Navigate to thesis->how]](align:"=><=")+(box:"=======XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX===")[Works Cited
Quinn, Zoe. //Depression Quest//. 14 February 2013, http://www.depressionquest.com/dqfinal.html#.