Empathy and Depression: Dys4ia and Depression Quest

This time I played two games, Depression Quest and dys4ia. Both of them are about psychological stress and provided me a chance to see their world in depth. Unlike the previous games I have played so far in this class, they are both based on the website and the playing surfaces are simple: Depression Quest is simply consisted of text and dys4ia is consisted of simple graphics and text and arcade tropes.

dys4ia-Feel-WeirdDys4ia is developed by Anna Anthropy, who is male to female transsexual. Thus, she created this game based on her own experience in which sex is brought up many times in her works. It reminded me of the GONE HOME, the very first video games that I played, which is about gender and homosexual love. Even though gender topic is a grey area that people don’t want to talk about that much, it appears often in games. As I played the games, I can really experience the author’s struggles for the hormone therapy through the daily life experience in the game. The game itself is easy, however, the sentiments that author put in it made the game complex. I gradually felt depressed that I put myself in the author’s shoes and was suffering what she was. The narrative form really engaged people and felt connected to the game.

2631389-steamworkshop_collection_1386186177_collection_brandingDepression Quest seems a little boring at first because it is consisted of text and multiple choices. It reminded me of a psychology course I took before. Even though the stories are descriptive and relatable to real life, I felt like I was doing a psychology survey or homework rather than playing a game. I think it is because of the psychology class, in which I learned a lot terminologies. Thus, I like Dys4ia more because    my empathy was more easily aroused by it and it is more game.


Depression Quest and Dys4ia

Unlike any of the previous games I have played, Depression Quest and Dys4ia were created with the intent to be provocative as well as informative. There is a disclaimer before you begin playing Depression Quest where the authors of the game explain their intent and what they want players to get out of playing the game. Depression Quest is a narrative based game where you are taken through a story and given choices of actions to take or things to say and you pick which you think is best.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.10.06 PMA screen-shot from Depression Quest

However, to mimic the complex situations people experience during depressed states, options are often crossed off. In the situation depicted above I had only one option to choose from. In Dys4ia you play arcade like games, but they navigate you through a complex narrative of someone taking estrogen supplements to transition from her natal sex to her gender. Dys4ia hits on the politics and personal issues of attempting to change sexes.

Games are able to provide a completely different experience to the player than a book is to its readers or a movie is to its viewer. In Depression Quest, we were able to be thrown into a situation and have the power to make decisions that impact the life we are living. When these decision making capabilities are stripped away from us in the form of crossed off options to choose, we are able to feel similar pain and discomfort to that of people with depression. In Depression Quest the game crosses out the options, but lets us read them. This presentation dangles the options in front of us, but even if we think it would be the best choice, we cannot pick it. The medium of games has the unique ability to give its players power to influence situations. But in a game like Depression quest, we learn that this power can be stripped away just as quickly as it is given.

Week Ahead 7

7 2/23 dys4ia & Depression Quest
2/25 Kentucky Route Zero: Act One
2/26 Podcast Episode 3 due

Warning for the games we’ll be discussing on Tuesday: dys4ia is an autobiographical “playable diary” about 6 months of the author’s life as she undergoes hormone replacement therapy. This game features low-rez pixel nudity and frank discussion of personal issues of sexuality. Depression Quest has the explicit aims “to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.” dys4ia is a short game. Depression Quest can be short depending on how you play it. Play it long enough that you give it a real shot and feel like you have a pretty clear sense of the lessons it has to impart. Response post assignment.

Play Act One Kentucky Route Zero for Thursday. Take notes on your interactions and choices that you make, as well as your reactions to the interactions you have within the game.

Unpacking Manuel’s Discussion

We’ll spend some time in class on Tuesday, and perhaps also on Thursday, discussing the Manuel’s Tavern assignment some more, specifically how we might pull together all your individual artifact analyses into some sort of a whole. As I’ve been meeting with students individually, I’ve posed the question for them to consider: if we were to make a game — maybe a short, vignette game — set in Manuel’s Tavern against the backdrop of the main north wall that you all have cataloged, what sort of game should that be? What sort of characters are implied by this setting? What kind of narrative should take place in this space, and how would these objects be used in the game in order to structure the character interactions?