I haven’t been following the Twine scene too closely: in my experience, Twine games generally feel like hypertext, and hypertext isn’t something that I’m particularly interested in. Porpentine’s work is distinctive enough to make me take notice, but even her work isn’t entirely to my taste, though I’m leaning towards a belief that that’s more of a gap in my taste than anything else.

I just played Depression Quest, though, and: wow.

So: what’s the difference? Part is that it does feel like more of a game to me: the systems are much more overt than in most Twine works, with the three-part status reporting that the game gives you and with the feedback loop from that status to the choices that are available. I’m sure that contributed to me playing through the game three or four times, trying out different paths, seeing what the game’s model of the effects of actions on your mental health is.

In the abstract, I could imagine that that systems modeling might make this sort of game too bloodless or too prescriptive a presentation of a specific analytical point of view; but Depression Quest didn’t feel that way to me at all. A big part of that was the way that it presents you with a list of options and then crosses off some of them (crossing off a fair amount even at the beginning, more if your mental state gets worse, fewer if things start to improve); I though that was an incredibly effective communication tool, a way of saying that it’s not as simple as saying “pull yourself together and do X”, that when you’re in bad health you frequently can’t do that.

But I found the game effective for reasons other than systems modeling, too. I suspect my reaction to the game would have been a lot more muted without the music; and the interactions between people that it presented felt real to me, too.

Very glad I played it. It only takes around 10 minutes or so for a playthrough, if you’re tempted to give it a try yourself.

Hidden link for bibliographic purposes.

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