[Rant] “Depression Quest Isn’t a Game”: A Shocking Tale of People Being Angry on the Internet


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.



Then there is the mentality that Steam “is a game platform.” I’m not sure if its own community knows it or not, but Steam has also branched out and begun selling applications and even movies.

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.


About Author


Tyler Humphrey is a bearded fan of all things video game, Tarantino films, comic books, and professional wrestling. Follow him on Twitter (@AlmostApollo) to keep up with his nonsense and misadventures.

  • Sal

    Personally..I don’t think Depression Quest belongs on Steam simply because it’s a Twine game. I mean, I want this game to reach the biggest audience it can. I really love the idea of the game, but it’s more like a web page than a -video- game. It’s not totally unlike one of those youtube videos where you make choices and watch a different video as the outcome.
    Don’t get me wrong. I love Depression Quest, I just really don’t see it as an actual video game.

    • Noble Kale

      Some of our earliest video games were simply text adventures that featured a number of choices.

      If you choose to classify steam-worthiness based on whether it’s a game, it passes – it’s interactive and there’s clear elements that work.

      If you choose to classify steam-worthiness based on media (the video in video games) – it’s available on PC and again, it passes that too.

      Hell, with respect to your youtube video comment – people still classify Atmosphere, etc as board games & video games because they contain all the right elements of both.

      The simple answer is that it belongs there on all technical arguments.

    • Matthew_Stevens

      But even if you don’t see it as a video game, you can see the inherent value of having it getting exposure, correct? Like Tyler had said, you could essentially say that The Walking Dead isn’t a game because its an interactive work more than a typical “game”. In the instance you saw it, it might have been just a website, but for Steam there very well could be more of a game atmosphere to it.

      The way that I see it is that getting it greenlit on Steam does no harm to the industry even if this isnt a game in the typical sense. It doesn’t devalue Steam, it doesn’t devalue your other games. There is no slippery slope to debate about, its simply an interactive piece of art that sheds light on a much deserved topic. Essentially, it does no harm to click the thumbs up button on Steam but it does do harm to not.

    • http://twitter.com/FailboatSkipper Henry McMunn

      All you do in Dear Esther is continuously walk forward and listen to the whole story being read aloud. It’s brilliant, yes, but if anything it’s less of a ‘game’ that Depression Quest – DQ offers choice and personal interaction. But, they both belong on Steam. Steam’s the place to get this stuff that doesn’t always follow the beaten path, it’s one of the things it excels at.

  • Noble Kale

    If games were strictly meant to be fun, MOBA style games wouldn’t allow communication between players….

  • thestripes

    good read. thank you. that’s disgusting, but you’re right, it just goes to show that something like this is necessary because depression is so clearly misunderstood

    • disqus_6nsp7943T3

      And it will never be understood by most of the kind of people who misunderstand it.

  • Carl Kidwel

    I’m an indie dev my self so I can definitely feel for this team in many respects. Certainly receiving any type of threat in email? Report that to the authorities right away — they can usually track people down by their IP and do what is needed.

    Now empathy aside ; I’m personally torn about whether this ‘product’ belongs on Steam or not myself.

    After some thought before posting here my personal conclusion is the reason I’m torn on it ; is Steam lacks a classification for this product.

    It is not a productivity application (as some people pointed out Steam does offer some applications that are not games now).

    It also is really not a ‘video game’.

    It falls in to something a therapist or perhaps a counselor might use to train perhaps young people into recognizing signs of depression. Its a hybrid product that utilizes game technology but I can’t call it a ‘game’.

    IF Steam had another category (and hopefully in the future it will) like Games, Productivity Applications, Self Improvement Applications, etc. this product might feel like it had a home on Steam.

    The Steam community has several million teenager to young 20′s Counter Strike and Modern Warfare players who are ‘green lighting’ products. This situation shows that Greenlight is young and has a lot of painful growth ahead of it.

    Finally though *ANY* product can benefit from more exposure. Millions of social issues can benefit from more exposure. That’s not necessarily a justification to place the product in front of a 20 year old counter strike player though.

    Now if you could identify through the players Facebook page that they had been posting keywords that had depression symptoms and then target them as someone who needs to be aware they could be having a problem — now you’ve got justification. I think the ‘exposure’ argument is a little bit of a false flag that is lacking contextual substance given the market place that Steam caters to right now.

    • disqus_6nsp7943T3

      > Certainly receiving any type of threat in email? Report that to the
      authorities right away — they can usually track people down by their IP
      and do what is needed.

      But do they?

      • Matthew_Stevens

        Usually, yes.

  • Jayborino

    I can’t stand Internet culture, I hate the anonymity we all take for granted as it removes all consequences, and I hate the lowest common denominator votes outweighing the thought out ones. That is Internet blasphemy and I do not care. The people making these comments do not deserve the freedom they have. I respect their right to say them, and much more so their right to vote it off Steam, but that does not mean they should be treated by the rest of us as equals.

    • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

      Anonymity empowers them, but taking it away wouldn’t stop them.

  • silverfire

    I think this game, even if it’s not your conventional video game, deserves exposure on steam. It’s such a great idea. Even people who don’t agree should be able to see the value in it. It’s annoying that anyone would threaten the creators for just wanting to help people. I hope this game makes it onto steam!

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  • Dave Ump

    I was in support of this game, but after reading your blog and all the other posts on steam, I have changed my mind and won’t be supporting this depressing thing. Thanks for enlightening me.

  • https://www.facebook.com/hudson.hedge Hudson Hedge

    First The Walking Dead and Spec Ops: The Line were (are) fun games for many people (I know I loved both. Second, it really doesn’t deserve to be on Steam, it really doesn’t seem like there is a lot of effort into it, a game like Miasmata deserves to be on Steam because it is a massive project (for a two person team) where this is a text based adventure that easily run from a browser and really isn’t a “video” game. It is barely a game as it really isn’t entertaining (the definition of game: a physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure) and is better defined as a simulator and with the lack of real imagery (a few pictures don’t count) it doesn’t meet the video requirement either. You can argue that Steam is also selling software but it is primarily for content creating and enjoyment, where Depression Quest (which the name is weird, you start off depressed so why go on a quest for depression, but that is beside the point) isn’t really made for entertainment at all. I like the concept (I personally found some enjoyment out of it) but it doesn’t belong on Steam, it would simply be a web paged based simulator. However, until it becomes a video game (has visuals of sort or is made to be enjoyed) it really doesn’t belong on Steam, but if they put effort true effort into it (like IonFX did with Miasmata) then it belongs on Green Light but right now it defeats the purpose of Green Light which is to give true indie devs (not an anti or pro campaign for anything) an opportunity to grow.

  • http://www.martynhare.me Martyn Hare

    Depression Quest should be published on writing.com or the like (in addition to the dedicated website). It appears to be an interactive story with a decent purpose. However, I too think it should not be given the green light on Steam.

    It is a game but can only be considered a video game in the loosest definition. DQ could easily be implemented without using a computer (or even video equipment) at all.

    It could and should be promoted as a free ebook via Amazon (with paid and free options), and most certainly would work as an iOS/Android/WP app; heck, it would even work as an option for a Metro app for Windows 8.

    It currently doesn’t fit in with the Steam community model, however. It is not an in-development game with huge potential. This interactive story could be the start of a concept for an RPG or the like. It appears to have enough content, which could be adapted into a graphical video game.

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  • Jack Jill

    This game was bad. She could’ve made a more thoughtful, and creative, statement about depression on rpg-maker. Seriously the industry has no standards, and telling people that this game is anything more than a pitiful attempt at some kind of pick-your-own adventure book, and not even a very interesting one at that, is a lie meant to garner to a different agenda. That agenda clearly isn’t to inform the public of an insightful, deep, or enriching experience. The point is that you can make an emotionally challenging game that isn’t fun and still put enough effort in it to make it seem like more than a crappy choose-your-own depression book (you know enough effort to actually make it A GAME). I thought this game was disingenuous, manipulative, and and vapid.

  • JWaltz

    The game is garbage, Zoe Quinn is a phoney and apparently I can’t trust this news site anymore. Goodbye, not coming back to this pile of lies. Fuck your so called journalism.

    • muazimusprime

      Cool. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Phill

    A good game is judged on a certain criteria that it is supposed to
    meet: it must be pleasing in visuals and sound, have good gameplay, a
    story/setting, and/or creativity.

    Now I can safely say
    this is not a game. It was made by a bunch of feminist gutter trash
    thats trying to toxify the gaming industry. I really dont care about
    feminists, but this bullshit has gone too far. Major gaming sites are
    playing along with the political correctness game. The average gamer’s
    voice being dismissed.
    To summarize this, this game is not a game, I
    would not wipe my ass with it. But of course, what do I know? Im just a
    hater and a troll who’s part of the evil patriarchy thats trying to
    oppress the proud womyns