How much blood, sweat, and tears does it take to make a game? This is a question that can’t be answered; the only true answer being that it differs from team to team. But the follow-up question I ask has a definitive, simple answer. How much effort does it take to belittle or otherwise threaten the creators? Practically none. Yet for every two hard-fought steps forward this continually more complex and confusing industry takes, we take one step backwards and, more often than not, that step backward doesn’t fall on the shoulders of industry giants, it falls on us: the masses.
Several years ago, upon finding out what a strange library of shock imagery and strange, unexplainable pornography the Internet is, I told myself I’d reached the bottom — I’d never be shocked by the Internet again. It seems I was wrong. As it further expands, it remains Anansi-esque, never running of new tricks or traps. The newest being the game Depression Quest and its recent addition to Steam Greenlight.
The game, developed by Zöe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, and Isaac Shankler, is an inner look at the mentality of the depressed. Its primary goal is to spread awareness of depression and its symptoms and, as such, is available for free on the Depression Quest website. There’s also a pay-what-you-want option for those who would like to support the game and its developers. A portion of these proceeds go to the iFred charity, which is fighting back against depression and the taint associated with it.
I’d say that’s a fairly noble ambition. Now, don’t let me fool you, I have no dog in this fight, but I do consider Zöe and Patrick to be friends. And though maybe that adds a layer of bias to my feelings on the game, I should add that since playing the game and seeing their intentions of it, they’ve been elevated from “People I Like” to “People I Respect.” I think that speaks for itself.
Not every game is made to help someone.
But that’s not enough for the Steam community, apparently. “It isn’t a game.”
Since submitting the game to Greenlight, there have been several comments on the game’s page that range from simple Internet asshattery to actual anger.
That’s right. Depression is a “first world problem.” Supporting a tool to help the millions affected by it with all the effort of a simple click on a thumbs-up is directly harming worse-off countries even though that’s less effort than it takes to earn ten grains of rice! This is what the Internet has become: a means for all of us to overstate anything and everything while reveling in relative anonymity. To get our viewpoint out to whomever we want, quickly and effortlessly.
For the most part, I tend to avoid comments. The easy access makes it trivial to have your voice be heard, but apparently impossible to say anything of real worth. In this particular case, though, I took notice. These commenters are speaking directly to the developers here, seemingly punishing them for what they’ve done while at the same time proving that what they’ve created is necessary. Depression is obviously misunderstood.
The idea that games should be “fun” is brought up several times, as well. Though this is a mentality that is certainly changing with games like The Walking Dead and Spec Ops: The Line, it’s discouraging to see it here. I can see the argument that the aforementioned games have more gameplay and are easier to categorize as games, but that doesn’t make them “fun.” And yet, as successful as they are at making the player feel something, they’re ultimately made for entertainment.
In comes a game with aspirations of helping someone and suddenly it doesn’t belong on Steam.
And here’s another lovely idea: the idea that if this game is brought onto Steam, this commenter will stop buying products from it.
As a community, I’ve always expected better from Steam. Valve has brought an impressive service to all of us and I always assumed it was treated with a certain reverence and respect. As more of a friend-focused experience Steam works incredibly well, but by bringing content curation to everyone it’s brought up the rats from the cellars.
A quick perusal of the games on Greenlight has shown me that Depression Quest is not alone. It’s brought to my attention that these aren’t the people I want deciding what can and can’t be sold on Steam. And it’s let me know that you can curate the games, but you can’t curate the customers.
That isn’t the end, regretfully. Simply making comments on the game’s Steam page isn’t enough for some people. Since adding this game to Greenlight, Zöe has actually been threatened for the work she’s done on Depression Quest.
This is the lowest form of low and, quite simply, is disgusting. If this industry is ever going to grow, games like this are the way forward. Poignant and truthful, Depression Quest is a game that could only be made by someone who has experienced it themselves and anyone who will go out their way to exploit that is a scumbag of the lowest sort. Their mere existence almost validating the cynical worldview of the depressive.
And, quite simply, these same people are the ones keeping Depression Quest off of Steam.
Getting Depression Quest onto Steam isn’t about money or fame for the developers. It’s about exposure. Making sure that every eye that’s interested gets to take a look. Maybe you’re not interested in Depression Quest. And that’s fine. But please ask yourself: who is this game hurting by getting onto Steam. And ask yourself another question: who can this game help?
If seeing this game on Steam makes one person realize they need help or helps one person understand what a friend or loved one is going through, it’s worth every single click of that thumbs up button.