Depression Presented Ludically in the Style of a Videogame

Representing depression through game mechanics

There is a point in the depths of depression where you will begin to drown in your garbage. I don’t mean that as metaphor—I mean literal garbage. Unwashed dishes, dirty laundry, bags of trash, boxes from take-out for all the times you couldn’t find the energy to cook (which is every time). And, of course, so many empty wine vessels that you feel tempted to lie—even to yourself—about how many there actually are. In Depression Presented Ludically in the Style of a Videogame this is the point where you fall off the screen.

the eerily slow fall back into the abyss

While many games have tackled mental health issues in some form or another, this is usually linked to some narrative, a character who is struggling. Depression Presented Ludically in the Style of a Videogame is unique in that it is really just about depression as a game mechanic. The approach is simple—so simple that you don’t expect it to be accurate. You are given three keys: left, right, and up. The screen moves up, you must jump onto the platforms to avoid falling off the screen. But if you miss, the fall is long and slow, leaving minimal time to get back above the line.

The most frustrating part is that in every playthrough there will be a platform that you simply cannot reach. The mechanics of the game just do not allow it, and you must fall. And every time you fall a nasty message appears. “You suck.” “Stop trying.” This is what it feels like. The tired climb, the obstacle too great, the eerily slow fall back into the abyss. Overcoming depression is never a straight shot upward, and Depression Presented Ludically in the Style of a Videogame represents that.

I would not say it’s a game without hope, however. It’s sad and it’s frustrating, and if you have depression, it may hit almost too close to home. Yes, you will fall, over and over and over. And yes, it will suck. But the game always starts over, and you get to try again.

You can download Depression Presented Ludically in the Style of a Videogame here