Thoughts On: Actual Sunlight

By John Walker on February 11th, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

Actual Sunlight is a game about suicide. Primarily a visual novel, but with player participation, it’s a superbly written, but ultimately incredibly dark and hopeless game. I think it’s also a very good game, and I find it terrifying to write about. As such, at the bottom of this post there are links to phone numbers for every country’s suicide prevention helplines. It’s a bleak to play, so please feel forewarned.

There’s something enticing about an eloquent misanthrope. That vicarious opportunity to hate, hate, hate, while still being entertained by a nice turn of phrase or particularly effective jab. It’s like observation comedy for the bitter – “Yes! I hate that too!”

Actual Sunlight is about the other side of it all. It’s about 28 year old Evan Winters, who has mostly given up. It’s about his misery, his depth of depression, voiced through his talented writing. From the game’s opening moments-

“Why Kill Yourself Today When You Could Masturbate Tomorrow?
By Evan Winter”

-you read his missives, enjoy the dark bitterness of his perspective on many matters, all while guiding him through the mundanity of his life. And get sadder and sadder.

Winter, and by proxy the game’s creator Will O’Neill, has a great skill with aphorisms. Winter says to a colleague in his office,

“All I’m saying is the worst thing about nice things is the people who can afford them.”

It’s a line that perfectly captures the tone of this really extraordinary game. It’s a brilliant line – in fiction. Whether growled into a microphone, or uttered by the wacky-faced comic wiggling a cigar at the side of his mouth, it deserves a laugh. But say it reality and it’s genuinely nasty. It’s dripping with hate. His colleague reacts sadly, because you would.

Winter’s worldview is bleak, but ultimately selfish. His is a depression formed of the despising of others’ success, rather than his own failure. Worst, his perspective is driven by an incredibly hollow pretence at a philosophy of recognising the unfairness of society. He bemoans an existence with an education, food, shelter, but there are so many without, so who is he to… carry on complaining in his educated, well-fed shelter.

His hypocrisy makes him unlikeable, and yet his writing is absolutely compelling. And you get so much of it. In his opening written monologue he opines at the aforementioned disparity in conditions, and concludes,

“There has never been a better time in the history of mankind to be completely, cripplingly, devastatingly alone, and yet here you are: Thinking about giving up on the good times. Not realising that you still have so much to live for – that there is still so much to jerk off to.”

A review of A. Wake he’s posted on SomethingAwful contains the line,

“It’s not great that the game has ten different endings that require over a hundred hours of average playtime to see – that’s just a way of making you feel like you could be special, which is exactly what you never have.”

His own instructions for assembling a chest of drawers in his bedroom finishes,

“6. Turn structure around completely, exposing open rear side of dresser, and remove top drawer entirely, rendering entire dresser as giant open hole.

7. Realise that nobody will probably ever see how fucked up this is, that it wouldn’t be a criteria if any girl was actually willing to come here in the first place, and that you’re probably just going to leave all of your clothes hanging over furniture or stuck in the dryer anyways.”

So Evan is amusing and unlikeable. But this is a game about depression, and his being unlikeable becomes far more complex. Yes, he’s unlikeable because he’s a prick about everything, but he’s a prick about everything because he’s mentally ill. Transcripts of possible moments with a therapist delve further into this, but the inevitability toward which the game is aiming for a breakdown is perhaps its most harrowing aspect.

So much so that in the earliest moments, creator O’Neill has a moment of panic, and interrupts his own narrative. A message to any young people playing the game that they live with opportunity to change their destiny, rather than view this game as an inevitability of their depression. It’s not pat, it’s raw. “The fact that you are young means in and of itself that you still have a lot of time to change things. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything you want, but I promise that you can do a lot better than you will if you give yourself over to despair.” Emotionally, he ends this intervention with the words,

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

By the time everything is falling apart (even O’Neill himself notes in that message near the start, “It’s also pretty clear where all of this is headed”), those excellent lines are still coming.

“ALCOHOLIC VOMIT IS COOLNESS LEAVING THE BODY
By Evan Winters”

But what follows is just pure wretchedness. It’s the gruesomely honest version of the humorous hate from before. It’s the anger stripped of its safety nets. And from then on, it’s an inexorable descent toward suicide.

Actual Sunlight is a brutal depiction of a man’s life self-destructing, and it’s a game whose central character can only find hope in his own death. And as such, his own death is the only hopeful moment in the game. Which is just beyond uncomfortable.

So as O’Neill interrupts his own game to give his message, I am interrupting my own review with my own: Actual Sunlight depicts the sense of hopelessness that drives a person to suicide, and because it’s presented from a first-person narrative, it only comprehends that hopelessness, and dismisses any possibility for things to get better. And that’s a lie. A lie necessary for this story to be so well told, but a lie depression tells a depressed person.

There’s always hope. There is, no matter what a depressed mind will think, always a way for things to get better, for life to offer more hope than death. This game honestly captures the deception that there’s not for this one fat, 30-something man, but it is a deception, and there always is hope. And I say this as a fat, 30-something man with anxiety depression. I appeal to anyone who finds their own feelings echoed in Actual Sunlight to recognise the catharsis of being understood, certainly, but to hear another voice, one saying that hope always exists. If you’re in the UK, the Samaritans can be called, anonymously, at any time on 08457 909090, or emailed at joe@samartians.org. If you’re in the US, the NSPL are at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re anywhere else, this page has links to every nation’s own line.

Actual Sunlight can be downloaded for free from here.

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113 Comments »

  1. Mr. Mister says:

    Second image, bottom left: Gratuituous badass scarred eye.

    Seems interesting, I’ll give it a try.

    • domogrue says:

      Isn’t that just him facing the left?

    • Emeraude says:

      There’s always hope.

      As my brother once said: “Life is worse than hell. At least in hell there is no hope.”

      Edi: Uh ? I have no idea of this ended up as an answer rather than its own post. My apologies.

  2. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Experienced it during the weekend. It’s very much one of the best depictions of ultimately hopeless depression that I have seen. This topic does not need silly twin planets. Very glad that this arrived during a time that I am on the shiny side of my psyche, and not the dark one, and I as such could pick it apart rather than joining in. Analysing the roots of this character’s low might be very helpful for people who have others with depression close to them. Early warning signs, finding the source of the problem, and helping to maybe find out how to better function in the support network.

    Lesson: Make hugs, not smugs. The final result can only be sadness.

    • skinlo says:

      What if you have no one to hug?

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        Hug a pillow instead. Learn from the Japanese!

        In all seriousness: Find something to embrace instead of a person. Something bright and shining and of great importance, and cling to it. It might be tough without a supportive web of friends and/or relatives, but its not unmanageable.
        Note that I’m, although experiencing the episodes, absolutely not a professional. Always consult a doctor. (Not that anyone reasonable would rely on quotes under an opinion on a VN, but it’s really not a condition where people tend to act like this.)

      • castor says:

        Hug a tree. One of the best feelings ever.

        • Bhazor says:

          Never understood why that became the go to for nature worship.
          Rolling in deep overgrown grass, lovely.
          Hugging narled hard often bug infested dry bark. not so much.

          • Geen says:

            No, you gotta find a nice mossy tree, those are cushy and nice.

          • heldelance says:

            Just a heads up for anyone wanting to roll in deep grass… I recommend checking the ground for ants and such. If you’re having a bad day and trying to make it better by rolling, it can get much, MUCH worse (spoken from experience after bull ants attacked me).

          • Bhazor says:

            If you’re having bug problems I feel bad for you son. My lawn’s got 99 problems but a midge aint one.

          • Premium User Badge

            bonuswavepilot says:

            @Bhazor: LMAO – well played.

      • John Walker says:

        I’m always available for hugs.

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Suffers from the same “dry bark and bugs” problem as the tree

          J/K (((((John))))))

      • noodlecake says:

        hug random animals! Cow cuddling is great fun. :) Obviously don’t hug snarling or wary looking dogs… :S Or anything that’s going to kill/maim/scratch/bite you. :P

  3. zachforrest says:

    Reading this gave me the exact same feeling that I get when I occasionally have to read correspondence from people with gambling problems (work). Just an incredible, selfish fear that it could be me.

    Edit: fear, not dear

  4. Treebard says:

    This seems really important and probably very skillfully done…but it’s also something I’d rather not dive so deeply into the mindset of.

    To put it another way, it seems like something everyone should play but I deeply don’t want to myself, and wouldn’t criticize others for skipping it either.

  5. Revolving Ocelot says:

    A lot of people like to claim I’m depressed. I claim otherwise. Regardless, I think it’d be better for me to not play this. (And if I really was depressed, I’d play it because self-destruction)

  6. DarkFarmer says:

    Heh not sure how to say this in a witty way so I will just say, this is great writing, in a video game, made with RPG maker. Bravo. It bears mentioning another great game about isolation and suicide, Yume Nikki, made with RPG maker as well. this young man does it with frank language while Yume Nikki tells the story through graphics and level design.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      I was about to comment that this could be considered to be the Puella of depression VNs, where YN would be the EVA of them, but that would probably imply that YN is spiteful and pretentious, and thus ruin that remark because it frankly isn’t.

      • DarkFarmer says:

        Hardly the place for an EVA debate, but I think if you just sort of replace the last two episodes with End of Evangelion, you end up with a very satisfying and, not really any moreso pretentious than any other anime, ending. At least that’s what I did.

        That aside, I think there should be more video games like Actual Sunlight and Yumei Nikki.

        • Eukatheude says:

          Yume Nikki is about depression? I thought it was about dreams and general scary weirdness. I loved it but never completed it.

      • MrUnimport says:

        Oh man, let’s not start the Madokangelion debate in the one place I thought I could finally escape it.

        • Premium User Badge

          RedViv says:

          I’m less out for that debate, and more likening the short duration and very low energy of one, to the high energy somewhat long-winding and largely symbolically told story of the other.

  7. B4GG says:

    I have yet to play but as a fellow depression sufferer will be interesting to depict how it feels :s cheers for the tip on the game!

  8. CaLe says:

    My dad commit suicide. It was the one thing that stopped my own suicidal thoughts. A game with this as a focus holds zero appeal to me.

  9. abuzor says:

    Not impressed at all by the writing in the game: it reads like cheap Oscar Wilde.

    Also:
    “The fact that you are young means in and of itself that you still have a lot of time to change things. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything you want, but I promise that you can do a lot better than you will if you give yourself over to despair.”

    And patronizing at that… or maybe I’m just too old, but it feels like I’ve read or heard those lines so many times.
    Despair is’nt an “item” you can choose to grab or dismiss just like in a game.
    It sure feels good to put an hotline number at the end of such a post, but I’m afraid that’s all there is to it.

    In a word: looks depressing indeed, but not for the obvious reasons.

    • LordOfPain says:

      Yes, I thought the same about the writing style.
      I don’t think the game is a good idea or a sophisticated way of handling the topic, and I don’t think this write-up was very good either. It would be good to have difficult topics addressed by experts (more than one or two), or at least have the write-up draw on a full cross-section of the proper literature. But I make it my policy to avoid certain things here so I’ll shut up and go back to the general gaming news.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Totally. Because that’s what the depressed want and need — more clinical, sterile, pretentious psychoanalytical bullshit ripped from today’s textbooks at the Top Universities.

        Textbooks written by men who don’t know the first fucking thing about depression or anxiety, because actually suffering from a mental illness somehow makes you “unqualified” to speak of it in the academic community.

        Though the write-up of the game is a bit shit, I’ll admit. Half of it reads like the usual “You should just be happier” nonsense that spreads through society like a disease. If all the platitudes about depression actually accomplished anything whatsoever, no one would ever be depressed again. We’d have wiped it out decades or centuries ago with such ‘wise’ and ‘life-affirming’ crap as “Every cloud has a silver lining” or “Life’s opportunities are boundless!”

        The entirety of depression is that you not only have no hope, but you have no control over whether or not you even give a shit about waking up an hour from now. Or eating. Or leaving your home.

        Dealing with someone who is depressed requires an infinite amount of patience to avoid being contrary, or telling them what they “need to” or “should” be feeling or doing, since that’s going to do absolutely nothing but drive them further and further away from any help which might be provided.

        People tend to confuse actual depression with “feeling a bit sad every once in a while,” and that’s a damn shame.

  10. TsunamiWombat says:

    “He bemoans an existence with an education, food, shelter, but there are so many without, so who is he to… carry on complaining in his educated, well-fed shelter.

    His hypocrisy makes him unlikeable,”

    I’d like to discuss the fallacy in this statement – not nitpicking your article, very sensitive subject and you’ve handled it with aplomb and care and thank you – because it’s a common misconception. The “first world problems” mentality assumes that there is an appreciable differential between the sorrow and despair felt by someone whose problems are more ‘valid’ and those whose problems are less ‘valid’. Emotional response is entirely relative to our experience as human beings, and when you get down to the nuts and bolts, a bio-chemical and bio-electrical reaction in our brains.

    Short put, we all FEEL the same, the cause doesn’t change this. Someone sad because their puppy died feels the same sadness of someone whose mother dies. The difference is, in a healthy individual, the ‘less valid’ puppy loser quickly gets over this relatively (to the one whose MOTHER died!) less emotionally distressful state (assuming a positive support network, etc), whilst someone whose lost a parent or loved one won’t be so quick to recover because of the deeper emotional connections and perhaps a loss of a supportive member of their emotional network. This is logical and reasonable.

    But a person suffering from depressing is NOT healthy. Logic and reason have no bearing on the feelings of the clinically depressed – they are prisoners of their own mind and their own emotions, aware of their seeming invalidity but unable to change them with willpower or action. That is what makes depression an illness.

    I have a family history of depression and thankfully, my own depression is relatively controlled with medication. I also come from a family that while, not necessarily wealthy, could be considered affluent or upper middle class. I’m afforded a great many privileges and opportunities others are not by virtue of this, and by virtue of the country I live in. I am aware of this privilege. That didn’t make me feel any less depressed, or that the world was any less unfair, before I began to control my illness with medication. I was miserable. On top of that I was aware I shouldn’t be miserable – making my own misery invalid and dare I say, pathetic, in my own mind. This made me feel guilty for feeling depressed, which made me feel worse. One or two stray thoughts is all it takes to kick off a ‘shame spiral’ that fills you with bitterness and misery.

    Anyone whose depressed, do NOT feel guilty, regardless of how well off you are. Don’t just think “oh other people have it worse”. Confront your issues seriously.

    • abuzor says:

      Thank you for a sensible post.

    • Armante says:

      very well put. thank you

    • Phantoon says:

      Depression is all about not confronting issues- or anything at all, really.

      • Premium User Badge

        Samuel Erikson says:

        Oh look everyone! Phantoon has the solution to medicated, chronic depression, compounded by suicidal ideation! Someone call the Nobel committee!

      • Premium User Badge

        kavika says:

        This is some of what depression might be about for some people, and might be a mantra that gets some people through the hard times. But it doesn’t work for everyone with depression. Some people’s minds are very good at trapping themselves, and simply trying to “out-think” the problem or “toughen up” can often exacerbate the problem.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          If a few mindless platitudes spouted carelessly into the wind can raise someone from their funk, they are not depressed, they’re simply feeling a bit down.

    • Premium User Badge

      DeVadder says:

      Yes, put the article does mention that.
      The hypocrisy makes it hard to like him, though. And i would argue that to be true.
      However John later states pretty much what you said:
      ‘So Evan is amusing and unlikeable. But this is a game about depression, and his being unlikeable becomes far more complex. Yes, he’s unlikeable because he’s a prick about everything, but he’s a prick about everything because he’s mentally ill.’
      It is indeed a complicated matter (duh) but i would argue that the article covers that very well.

      edit:
      By the way, how well the article is written and how good the game may be, i am still very uncomfortable with it existing.
      Considering the Werther Effect (google it yourself).

    • J-snukk says:

      A great post there, I wish more people understood this, but it is not in the remit of the happy to understand things. That is of course a really fucked up and bitter statement but I think I’ve earned one for the day.

      • Kitsunin says:

        I don’t think this is really true. People who are happy don’t need to have ignorance, they can also be comfortable with horribly uncomfortable thoughts. It’s hard, but entirely possible.

  11. David Bliff says:

    This seems interesting but thanks for treating the subject matter with the respect it deserves. Part of the danger for sufferers of games like this, movies like Melancholia, and books like The Bell Jar is just how contagious depressive thought processes can be. Of course that also makes the works effective.

  12. Phantoon says:

    Great article. Best quality one in a while.

  13. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I’ve been a lifelong sufferer, and the things I have found most useful are Mindfulness, Meditation (which can be the same and separate things) and a technique called ‘focusing’. The latter is really helpful for the “I have no idea why I feel so awful but I just do” aspect of depression / anxiety. Meditation is great for being able to sooth yourself as well as gaining emotionally-derived (rather than just dry intellectual) insights. Metta, or compassion meditation, can be really good for soothing the sense of “againstness” that the world can give you too. It stops the battle for a bit. They all helped more than any drugs did TBH, and I’ve taken most of them for years on and off.

    Also, good therapy and a good therapist. Don’t ignore the second part, though they are hard to find and with the NHS you mostly don’t get a choice.

    Unsolicited advice I know, but maybe will help someone.

    • Premium User Badge

      jimbobjunior says:

      I’ll add that CBT has been clinically proven to help treat mild to moderate depression. You can ask your NHS GP about referring you (many do not know this is an option). The waiting list can be long. However there are charities that will organise CBT courses in areas where they aren’t available or have long waiting times. There are also self-study courses that are available.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Sadly cbt isn’t as good in practice as its research base suggests, and even its own proponents now question its classical application (eg paul gilbert). From a personal perspective I have had 3 years of it with no improvement. Psychotherapists themselves will tell you that cbt has a dangerous amount of dogma surrounding it. That’s not to say it doesnt help some, but it is oversold especially since it became a political issue. It pays to be aware of the many other options out there.

  14. Bhazor says:

    This feels far too real to me. Some parts were very familiar. Particularly the parts about wanting to just be a normal person. That and pretending everything was OK whenever my parents asked.

    For maybe ten years thats how I felt, from high school to just a couple years ago. There really is something personal to this, I have to imagine the writer went through the same things I did. I really can’t say when it changed, just a switch in my head flicked and suddenly I told everything to my dad. About all this. Just vented went to bed exhausted (for the first time in years sleeping without fighting insomnia).

    That’s what this feels like, a big out pouring. I hope it helped them as much mine helped me.

  15. JFS says:

    I think the medium might just not be ready for this. Neither might the audience. And especially not in RPG Maker. However, somebody has to push the boundaries.

    As a sidenote, I’m terrified by how many RPS fellows seem to suffer from depression. Might just be a response bias issue as others might not comment on this thread, but the numbers seem to be high.

  16. Bart Stewart says:

    After the recent wave of game/not-game debate inspired by Proteus, it’s interesting that there hasn’t been a wave of complaints that Actual Sunlight “isn’t a game” because the subject matter is not conventionally entertaining.

    So is it mechanics, and not content, that generates the feeling that something’s not really a game?

    • CodeineFiend says:

      I would say yes.

    • soldant says:

      Of course. Games are all about mechanics, content is just context for what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Deciding what is or isn’t a game is all to do with mechanics, not content.

      The problem with defining “art games” as “games” is not that they’re designed with an artistic edge, but because they often lack mechanics that liken them to games and make them have more in common with an interactive walkthrough, like opposition, rules, failure and win states, goals, and so on.

  17. Premium User Badge

    prof_yaffle says:

    My first thought was, so this is a game version of Catcher In The Rye.

    Evan’s mix of Misanthropy and Despair, portrayed through an eloquent writing style brings to mind J.D. Salinger’s protagonist Holden Caulfield.

  18. Sunjammer says:

    Depressed all my life, I’ve yet to find any sort of media that spoke to me “on my level”. From the bits of dialog in this post, I don’t think this project will speak to me either.

    Funny thing, depression. It’s so complicated for something so simple. Every time I feel rotten about it I’m baffled as to what it could be that does it. Like I’ll be relaxed on my couch reading a book and I’ll go to the kitchen, and I’ll put on some tea, and get the cup, get a tea bag, look for sugar in the cupboard, and when I open that cupboard my heart cracks and I feel like I’ve lost a friend and it’s all I can do not to weep at my stupid cup of tea.

    It’s an irrational, maddening place to be. Why does my body flip out like that? I’m otherwise a perfectly rational guy.

    The closest I’ve come was Comte de Lautreamont’s Maldoror (because it’s utterly, despairingly mad), and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (because it’s utter despair). But looking at “what I have” and “what others have” and “those others” and “me against them” that just doesn’t factor into it. Regular life is just something I wade through, not what’s driving me to darkness.

    • Zlarp says:

      I had a very limited brush with depression, but I know what you mean. You’re not depressed “because” of something. The only thing that helps is to change your body chemistry by going to a doctor or at least for a run outside or something.

      But those aren’t exactly the things you want to do.

      I think the game does a better job at this than is being portrayed by saying it projects everything on an “me vs. them” dichotomy, but it does miss its mark. I don’t think that makes it bad, though, because it can still hit close enough to home to make you think. (and by think, I mean new thoughts, not lame old ones)

  19. dethtoll says:

    I played this totally blind — I hadn’t seen this review before a friend of mine linked to the game.

    A lot of the stuff in this game reflects my life and my attempts to change it so utterly and completely I very nearly closed the program rather than face that. I like to think I’m in a better place, mentally and life-wise, than that guy, and it’s taking all my strength to keep telling myself that.

  20. LockjawNightvision says:

    I’ve never been depressed, but someone I love a lot is. Back before she was diagnosed (though I was pretty sure, even then), I found myself getting frustrated with her inconsolable moods. I feel terrible about it now and I felt terrible about it then, but I actually found myself resenting her for it. And then I read The Depressed Person by David Foster Wallace.

    I’ll probably never know what it’s like to have my brain chemestry hijacked by some asshole disease, but that story explained it to me better than anything I was finding in proper psychological texts. It showed me what an idiot I was for taking a sick person’s feelings personally. It was also the thing that finally made me insist she go get professional help (I obviously wasn’t cutting it), and we’re both glad she did. It’s still a struggle — depression only ever goes into remission, it can’t be “cured.” But she copes better now. And I worry a lot less about her. That’s something.

    John’s description of this game makes it sound similar. Any mental illness is a skewed render of perceptual data, and is therefore very difficult for healthy people to understand. Anything that helps us be better friends to the people who really need them is a tremendously Good Thing. I’ll certianly be playing it when I work up the fortitude. If you know somebody who’s depressed, you probably should think about it too (and seriously, read that DFW story).

    Art, you guys. It’s pretty cool.

    • Harpsichord says:

      “The depressed person confessed to her therapist that when she reached out long-distance to a member of her Support System she almost always imagined that she could detect, in the friend’s increasingly long silences and/or repetitions of encouraging cliches, the boredom and abstract guilt people always feel when someone is clinging to them and being a joyless burden.”

      What an incredible story. If you’re looking for the story and you’re not a Harper’s subscriber (what’s wrong with you!) you can get it here:

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/27698800/The-Depressed-Person-David-Foster-Wallace

      Edit: I never really thought about how DFW’s famous footnotes are like those optional dialogue branches in an RPG. You technically don’t need to know that part of the story to enjoy the full thing, but if you want it there’s a literal page long footnote there for you.

  21. souroldlemon says:

    samaritans email should be
    joe@samaritans.org

  22. haze4peace says:

    Wow, I should really not play this game. The main character has my name and I have been battling depression my whole life. Not going to go there…

  23. Harpsichord says:

    I think RPG Maker was actually a pretty good choice for this game. Some of the triggers were a little awkward (I didn’t notice the break room in the office scene for a couple minutes…) but I thought the early scenes were pretty brilliant*. Walking through this apartment collecting dreams and memories from objects lying around just felt so authentic to me. You wake up feeling a kind of freedom from your identity and then your stupid decisions confront and manacle you. By the time you get out the door you feel trapped in a web of past actions and aspirations that by now are so far removed from reality that you have to shut down just to cope.

    Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Adaptation:

    -John Laroche: You know why I like plants?

    -Susan Orlean: Nuh uh.

    -John Laroche: Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.

    -Susan Orlean: [pause] Yeah, but it’s easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever’s next. With a person though, adapting’s almost shameful. It’s like running away.

    I don’t really want to say anything more about the plot (spoilers and all). But it only takes an hour so no one who’s ever been there (or is there now) should skip it. There’s something strangely liberating about playing a totally broken, beaten character rather than a super-soldier/ladies’ man/quip machine.

    Overall, 8/10. Would cry again

    *I mean, I realize these scenes were just heavy-handed exposition but the way it was presented drew me into the character more than I think a similar scene in a film would have. Being the one to actually cast your glance onto the objects that bring up painful memories, I think, connects you more with the scene.

    .

  24. Stossel says:

    I think it’s too easy to peg this game as solely about depression as disease. There are forces at play in Evan’s (and our) world that non-sufferers ought and do get depressed about on a regular basis. The idea that young people as a generation(myself included) won’t be able to enjoy retirement/pensions like that of older generations alone causes me to get majorly bummed.

    People who don’t suffer from depression still have to come to grips with their lives not turning out the way they wanted. They have to deal with the various amounts of other things Evan talks about that a short burst of positivity only serves to stave off for so long.

    I’m not saying that the game wasn’t about depression at all, but I think the story is much more complex than “the world through the eyes of a depressed person”.

  25. PopeJamal says:

    This has to be the most selectively compassionate group of people assembled on one website I’ve ever seen. Amazing.

  26. lzaffuto says:

    As a person that deals with very minor depression, what struck me about this article was the author’s take on the protagonist as being “selfish”. Depression, by it’s very nature, *IS* selfishness. A person that is depressed is depressed by things that make themselves sad, their situation, their lot in life, etc. When I am depressed, of course I realize that there are people that have it *FAR* worse than I do, but objectivity and and factualism do not fix depression, and in fact can make it worse. If you are depressed about how terrible you feel your life is, and you realize that you actually have it really good, well you must be a terrible, worthless person, right? This is how a depressed person thinks. It is irrationally holding on to things that make everyone sad but “normal” people quickly get over it and move on while depressed people get stuck on them and spiral downwards until they don’t feel like they can climb out of the hole they have put themselves in.

    • Stan Lee Cube Rick says:

      Thank you.

      Anyway, this sounds like my kind of game.

  27. Acksiom says:

    Thanks for posting this
    I can hardly wait
    To scrub it
    Into the face
    Of the next RPS staffer
    To put on their femelitist sackcloth and ashes wailing garb
    And publish
    Some standards-and-statistics-free sub-tabloid-level
    Moaning and whingeing
    About how the presentation and narratives
    Of female characters in games
    Can have such horrible effects
    On the self-esteem of women and girls
    Despite all the other RPS articles
    Categorically denying
    That video games
    Have any other harmful effects
    In the real world
    And castigating
    Those who claim they do
    Especially when
    The male suicide rate
    Is consistently several times the size of the female suicide rate
    And yet
    That doesn’t even
    Get mentioned
    At all
    In an article
    About a game
    About suicide

    Because
    As we all know
    The way
    That all
    The narratively appropriate and acceptable
    Recognizably human
    Targets of violence
    In video games
    Are almost invariably male
    Has absolutely no negative effects
    Whatsoever
    On male self-esteem
    And self-valuation
    And self-care
    In the way
    That characterizations
    Of women and girls
    As attractively feminine
    By normal male standards
    Are by some method
    Which is never explained
    Determined to be
    A serious problem
    With serious consequences
    That are never actually identified
    Let alone causally proven
    To result
    From the presentation
    Of female characters
    As attractive
    By normal
    Natural
    And healthy
    Male standards

    • Tagiri says:

      Why does
      It have to be
      An either/or game
      Is the male ego truly so large
      That is requires mentioning
      At all times
      Even regarding issues that
      Predominantly affect women
      Suicide is a human issue
      Not a male one
      And this game is
      Actively not encouraging suicide

      • Acksiom says:

        >Why does
        >It have to be
        >An either/or game

        I don’t think it does, nor did I say anything even remotely like that, so why are you asking me?

        >Is the male ego truly so large
        >That is requires mentioning
        >At all times

        Again, I don’t understand how you get that from what I wrote. Could you explain please how you came to that interpretation, using my actual words? Because that’s almost an exact opposite of what I actually did write.

        >Even regarding issues that
        >Predominantly affect women

        Let me see if I’ve got this straight.

        I point out that RPS writers routinely champion chauvanistic, male-pathologizing femelitist viewpoints and attitudes in their articles

        but

        virtually never address the impacts on men and boys of the similarly gendered characterizations of males

        (including their appropriateness as the targets of mass murder

        of which, BTW, they are also by far the majority of victims)

        and you someone how manage to process that as being an example of the default male ego being so large that it requires mention in the context of an issue that predominantly affects women?

        How is that supposed to work again?

        Exactly how did you get from:

        “I look forward to using this article to rag RPS writers about how they talk about how games negatively affect gals all the time, but hardly ever how they affect guys at all, plus how they deride any attempt to claim that games might cause any other negative effects, ever, to anybody,”

        to:

        “I have a large male ego that cannot stand to see predominantly female issues discussed without any address whatsoever to comparable male experiences, outcomes, and so on”?

        >Suicide is a human issue
        >Not a male one

        Oh.

        Now I understand.

        You don’t think males are human.

        Got it. That’s what this is about. You hate men and boys, and want more of them to die. That’s why you’re posting these strawman misrepresentations. You’re afraid people might look at the facts I’m pointing out and start being more compassionate and caring towards men and boys. And you hate that, because, as you wrote, you don’t think men and boys are human. That’s why you’re jumping in here to poison the well with your hate speech against men and boys.

        You think suicide is only an issue for human beings, and you don’t think men and boys are human, and you want them to die.

        DYSWIDT?

        >And this game is
        >Actively not encouraging suicide

        Again, you’re the only person suggesting such a thing. So I’m not sure why you’re responding to my post. . .

        . . .unless, of course, all you’re really trying to do is troll-spoil any productive discussion about how to help men and boys deal with their serious-enough-to-make-death-preferable problems, because, in turn, the idea of that kind of compassionate, caring outreach to men and boys really, REALLY disturbs you personally, subjectively, and unhealthily, and you feel compelled to lash out against it and try to prevent it.

        No offense intended but that is pretty much what your behavior suggests.

        • Tagiri says:

          To be honest, I kind of figured you were trolling with the whole tone poem thing, so maybe I was a bit more glib than I should have been. I apologize.

          What I got from the earlier post is that the gender issues that have been talked about on RPS previously (eg. sexualized violence) were unquantifiable and harmless, and why were we wringing our hands over things that don’t affect real people while a game about suicidal ideations exists. Sexualized violence in entertainment media predominantly features women, and reflects/enforces certain cultural images that we have of women. I believed that your poem indicated that you felt this game did the same thing to men and you were angry that it was not mentioned in the article. The idea that a person has to be attractive even while being murdered is targeted almost directly at women, whereas suicide is something that is committed by both men and women (though more often by men, as you wrote earlier).

          I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I do enjoy that you told me not to put words in your mouth and then immediately accused me of contemplating genocide for saying that suicide is not exclusive to men.

          • Acksiom says:

            >I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I do enjoy that you told me not to put words in your mouth and then immediately accused me of contemplating genocide for saying that suicide is not exclusive to men.

            “DYSWIDT?”

            More later, is carbs and XCOM time now.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Your method of communicating via text gives me a headache.

      Couldn’t care less if you actually had anything reasonable to say, because it’s bloody annoying to try to read.

      It’s like a poem with no sense of rhythm.

      Why did you decide to write like that?

      • sinister agent says:

        Hypothesis: Twat.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Hehe, I know, I shouldn’t mock him but I can’t help it.

      • Acksiom says:

        >Your method of communicating via text gives me a headache.

        Couldn’t care less.

        >Couldn’t care less if you actually had anything reasonable to say, because it’s bloody annoying FOR ME IN SPECIFIC PARTICULAR AND NARCISSISTICALLY REGARDLESS OF THE EXPERIENCE OF ANYONE ELSE to try to read.

        Couldn’t care less, but FTFY anyways.

        >It’s like a poem with no sense of rhythm.

        Couldn’t care less.

        >Why did you decide to write like that?

        Why should I explain myself to someone displaying such a crappy little spoiled brattitude of egomanical entitlement? What was supposed to be in that for me again, exactly?

        Or maybe you could try asking less obnoxiously. I know, I know. . .it’s such a wacky, crazy, even radical idea. But really, it’s so insanely ridiculous that It Just Might Work!

        • Sheng-ji says:

          You stupid little immature retard. You want me to be nice to you for the pleasure of having to listen you your undoubted tripe. That’s not how it works pal – you want to spread a message, the minimum you need to do is be legible, which you are not by any stretch of the imagination. You are like an MP who stands on stage in front of his electorate, pulls his trousers down, pisses on them then gets all butt-hurt when they don’t vote for him.

          I really don’t care why you chose to write like that. I only wanted to mock you and your self indulgent, self righteous, inwards facing, attention grabbing brain.

          Oh, by the way, if I had trouble reading it, so did many many others. You ain’t as clever as you think, far from it. Either you are a teenager or have an under-developed mind for some other reason. Did your teacher never stress that if you have a question, you should ask it because in his or her experience, if one person is needs to ask it, so do many others? I guess not then!

          In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, the question was actually rhetorical.

          Go cry into your fringe, or whatever you do for fun.

          • Acksiom says:

            No, sweetie, the only thing I want is for you to get the professional help you need with whatever you’re compensating for through this kind of abusive behavior.

            You really can learn to respect yourself better and relate to other people in more healthy ways. You have options; you don’t have to tear down other people online like that to get the attention you’re missing in real life. You can build a community of real friends who will care for you for who you are, instead of just fake ones that only give you empty praise for trying to be a forum bully.

            It might not be easy, but I promise it will be more than worth it. I believe in you, and I know that you can do it. Good luck.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            You stupid little immature retard. You want me to be nice to you for the pleasure of having to listen you your undoubted tripe. That’s not how it works pal – you want to spread a message, the minimum you need to do is be legible

            I found it legible and entertaining. Which is a whole lot more that I can say about most criticizing some RPS stance (including myself sometimes). I also immediately captured the satiric meaning behind the construction of his post.

            Strangely enough, I was immediately put off by both your replies, despite having trouble agreeing with Acksiom’s post on any of his points. Go figure, eh!

            If my advise is of any worth, I suggest you consider that food for thought. And that in the future you don’t so eagerly try to validate yourself in an obvious show of vanity by belittling what you can’t agree or understand.

            Have a nice day.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @Acksiom – Oh the lengths you will go to to try to make your inherent fear of women OK. I am not your sweetheart and your attempt to use sexist language to devalue my points tells the world everything they need to know about you. If I’m being a bully and you are being a victim, then that is because you placed yourself in the position of being a victim before I ever even posted, I paraphase “Boo Hoo Hoo, what about poor MEEEEEEEEENNNNNNN, we are picked on all the time by nasty girls and they make us comit suicide.”

            Yeah, Boo freaking Hoo – it’s not that more men commit suicide due to being treated like scum by women, it’s that society makes it OK for men to act like scum to women and I my hypothesis is that one day, upon waking up and realising how worthless their scummy sexist presence is on Earth*, men commit suicide. As valid a hypothesis as any.

            That women are treated unequally is not a mere hypothesis due to the massive amount of evidence to support it.

            *I am talking here only about misogynists. 99%** of men are amazing, wonderful sensitive, lovely people. Unfortunately, many of the remaining 1% of losers are attracted to gaming from an early age due to the boundless reaffirmation of their horrible view of the world within the industry.

            **A figure based on my own experience

            @Mario – Yeah, I know. Here’s the deal. I treat people differently depending on many things. What I will never do is be polite just to appease the internet’s polite police. I am very, very honest about how people make me feel about them. Let me put it this way, one of the most eloquent posters here on RPS turns out to have a hobby of vandalising memorial web sites to dead children. I know this because he did it to the memorial website of my poor 2 year old. I stood in court and in his defence, his solicitor read out some of his posts from RPS. Holy shit, I know this guy, I thought. We have had some amazing conversations! I will never do that kind of thing. The language I used to Acksiom is how he made me feel and respond. If I had pretended to try to be polite, I would have been dishonest because his post did not inspire pleasantry in me. But now he has some honest feedback as to how his communication really doesn’t work for me, and probably a shit load more people. He may ignore it at his will, but at least I was open and honest with him, so hopefully he won’t try this BS somewhere important, say on a job application or whatever.

            I know my replies made you not care about what I had to say, but importantly, I didn’t need or want anyone but Acksiom to read it. Clearly it grabbed his attention just as intended, job done.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            Sheng-ji, very fair point you make. I’ll have to fully concede.

            And btw, I know I’m stepping the line, but that asshole should be exposed. Those people are dangerous in many different ways. Not just what you unfortunately had to experience.

            And my deepest sincere condolences to your child. I’ve been there in the past. She was 16 months. We share a similar pain.

          • kasir says:

            Sheng-ji: “That women are treated unequally is not a mere hypothesis due to the massive amount of evidence to support it.”

            I’m really excited to hear about any examples that have occurred in the past few decades. Inequalities that have not been already fixed, laws that discriminate against women, rules that explicitly forbid advancement of a determined and qualified individual.

            Hard mode: Examples must from comfortable, 1st-world countries where most of the RPS commenters come from. Meaning that there should not be constant armed conflict, instability, or general oppression of the masses, etc.

          • dE says:

            Well if you’re really interested in examples about gender inequality, here is an example from Switzerland. Nice, western developed country, right? The last canton (some sort of state but a bit different) to give women the right to vote was Appenzell Innerrhoden in late 1990. I’m not kidding. But you’re probably looking for numbers, so your first stop could be the Global Gender Gap Report by the WEF:

            http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-gender-gap

            It has got issues in execution, when it comes to ranking the countries, namely valueing female to male ratio more than actual equality, meaning: If there’d be a 50/50 spread between genders in jobs (read: equal), your country would still be ranked worse than a country that’d favor women 75/25 because it has a better female to male ratio. Still, it has got some pretty interesting numbers and if you ignore the ranking, which is silly anyways, you’ll get a good starting point.

          • kasir says:

            dE: Appenzell Innerrhoden apparently has 15,789 people as of 2011, and women successfully won the right to vote in 1990. Hardly widespread oppression as implied by Sheng-ji.

            According to the Global Gender Gap 2012 report, out of 200 countries surveyed, half of them have at least 90% education equality, all of them have at least 92% equality in health and life expectancy. I’d think that’s a job well done right there.

            The only 2 things missing are political and economic participation. Economically, women are at 60%, and politics are at an atrocious 20%. I think wage gaps and restrictions against promotions or ministerial positions as legitimate discrimination.

            The problem lies in the fact that they include the ratio of female/male politicians/workers. I assume that the logic lies in that if there’s currently 50% (or more) women in the ratio, equality has been done. Extending that logic, equality is served by forcing women, regardless of competence, into the workforce/politics. But this is plainly absurd.

            Participation is voluntary, and (usually) based on meritocracy or in case of political positions, the vote. This is hardly a fair measure of discrimination, since this can be caused by either non-participation, or not having the required skills. Given equal rights to education and healthcare, barring state intervention, any determined individual is able to reach whatever position she desires. Informal conspiracies, like “old boys club” can be overturned by individual.

            Sheng-ji: There isn’t a shadow society dedicated to misogyny. And they don’t create people you don’t like. I’m pretty sure there isn’t one where you came from, and I’m damn sure there isn’t any on the internet. It’s a feminist variant of the tinfoil hat.

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      Wow you sure are a dumb person.

    • Zlarp says:

      Blabedibliblibooblah
      Baloohbpipedidoo
      Babeblblbloooo
      Beeiongong
      それは読みにくいです
      貴方の考えは男は可哀想ですねと思う
      でもその格好の書いた方で問題は解決しないよ
      しっかりして下さい
      Baloobaleebaley
      Message sent now I’m away.

  28. pedestrian2019 says:

    People tend to think that depression distorts your perception of reality – compromises your judgement. I have an alternate theory. Perhaps depression is your brain seeing the world for what it really is. When the chemicals that keep our happiness in check run low we witness the full horror of reality. A sobering event that brings us crashing down to the ground. The realisation that human beings, for the most part, are a confusion of chemically induced emotions is enough to make anyone depressed.

    Or maybe that’s just my depression speaking in all its irrational glory.

    • sinister agent says:

      “You’re not going crazy. You’re going sane in a crazy world!”

      But it turns out that this quote isn’t from a person with a great insight into reality, but from absurd-o-fun cartoon superhero The Tick, so that’s alright then. The innate absurdity and futility of life are best fought with an embrace.

    • Premium User Badge

      Saul says:

      There’s this thing called the Optimism Bias: http://www.ted.com/talks/tali_sharot_the_optimism_bias.html

      So yes, I believe you’re right, in a sense: pessimists are more often correct about the world. However, optimists are far more likely to seize the occasional opportunities that do come along to make things better for themselves, and shrug off all the less lovely times. So being deluded is a much healthier way to be.

      • pedestrian2019 says:

        Indeed I have watched this particular TED talk. It wasn’t in the fore of my mind when I typed my post but perhaps it was there subconsciously. It would appear that not enough work is being done on the destructive effects of unrealistic optimism (although I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t read widely on the subject). We live in a society where we are told to smile on the outside when inside we despair. This way of thinking isn’t always helpful and can serve to further alienate people.

    • Premium User Badge

      lorddon says:

      I think claiming depressed people see things as they really are is just pushing a false dichotomy. The real world has both great things, awful things, and everything in between. Healthy people realize that and don’t succumb to hopelessness that fails to recognize the good parts of life, or glibness that papers over the ugly parts.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        On the contrary, depression doesn’t mean you’re not seeing or enjoying the good parts of life – it means that you’re simply seeing the bad outweighing the good. It is entirely possible to go out, enjoy the day, meet some friends, then return home and contemplate killing yourself because the last several weeks/months/years, though punctuated with good moments, have involved lots of bad or ill-timed events.

        Whether that’s an objective or subjective view of reality really depends on the individual and their circumstances. It may be, in point of fact, absolutely the case that the bad has always outweighed the good in that person’s life. It may also be that they remember the bad more vividly than the good, or have placed more emphasis on it.

        It may also be that their experiences are directly related to the society in which they live. Being forced to eat bowls of rice and beans every day because that’s what you can afford is deeply depressing in some countries, while being able to eat bowls of rice and beans every day because you can afford it makes you an incredibly fortunate person in others.

  29. sinister agent says:

    For some reason, this made me think of one of my favourite books, The Society of Others. I think because the narrator of that sounds much like the narrator of this game, except in the Society of Others, he is apathetic rather than desperate, and runs away rather than killing himself. It’s both cynical and sincerely misanthropic, and heartfelt and overflowing with humanity.

    It’s a wonderful book, and I reckon you might like it a lot, John. Also those of you who are not called John.

    I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to play this right now though. Maybe when things are better.

  30. J-snukk says:

    Well this was a particularly poignant and effective work, I feel very ambivalent and bittersweet about it all.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    ‘There’s always hope blah blah blah. ‘
    First thought:

    Even Miss Extremelia Mume, whose small multi-purpose temple over a bookmakers’ office in Cable Street handled the everyday affairs of several dozen minor gods, was doing good business among those prepared to back an outside chance. She’d hung a banner over the door. It read: It Could Be YOU.
    It couldn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen. But, you never knew . . . this time it might.
    Moist recognized that hope. It was how he’d made his living. You knew that the man running the Find The Lady game was going to win, you knew that people in distress didn’t sell diamond rings for a fraction of their value, you knew that life generally handed you the sticky end of the stick, and you knew that the gods didn’t pick some everyday undeserving tit out of the population and hand them a fortune.
    Except that, this time, you might be wrong, right? It might just happen, yes?
    And this was known as that greatest of treasures, which is Hope. It was a good way of getting poorer really very quickly, and staying poor. It could be you. But it wouldn’t be.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      That’s a bit unfair.

      John’s comment is valid even if naive. But everyone is on this case. And for good reason. Outside of medication, we have yet to find a therapy mechanism. “Hope” is a trigger used by everyone, from psychiatrists to friends and family. Even despite the fact is many forms of depression manifest themselves exactly as a loss of hope, this only really happens on the later stages. I’ve been seriously, but not chronically, depressed and yet hopeful. So I know hope and depression can live side by side.

      The problem is, of course, that we have yet to find a way to reason with depression. It works only on a case by case basis and only with a therapist being handsomely payed to give frequent sessions and study their patient. In this reality, “Hope” serves as a trigger that we just hope finds it home in the mind of someone with depression. For no other reason than to have that person value it above their depression, or to simply delay what we perceive is a downwards spiral that scares us more than it does the depressed person.

      Hope in the context of depression is not that type of hope you speak of. It’s unfortunately one of the only tools we have to help a loved one.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        “Hope” is great.

        Telling someone with depression that “There’s always hope” is typically just going to drive them much, much deeper into it. Because with depression, “there’s always hope” becomes ‘there’s always hope (you’re just too lazy/stupid to see it)’

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          Alternatively “obviously, there isn’t anything else.”

  32. Da5e says:

    I just played this, and I’m frightened by how much of myself I saw in it. I mean, fucking *hell*. It’s like a Whitehouse record but even less optimistic. I don’t even know if I want to support the Indiegogo thing for it, because it genuinely hurt to play through. I need tea. Bah.

  33. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I haven’t played the game yet, so I’m ignorant of it. But judging from some of the comments in here, I think this is not a good way to treat this type of issue.

    Has the game actually been developed with the help of — or reviewed before release by — a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist? There are certain issues that should be considered taboo. There’s no harm in that. Unless the right nods are given, certain subjects should remain outside of games dominion. The risk being that they end up causing more harm then good. And I think everyone would like for this to remain an entertainment industry. The operative word being here, of course, Entertainment.

    • Premium User Badge

      psepho says:

      That’s a rather dangerous viewpoint from where I’m standing. I’m pretty sure that Orwell didn’t have a psychologist vetting 1984 and that Richie Edwards wasn’t being supervised when he wrote The Holy Bible (the album, not the book). Both are profoundly depressing works. However, both are also great works.

      Any creative medium presents psychological risks. However, ghettoising the medium behind a safety wall can only address those risks by stifling it and we all know where that leads.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        That’s the trouble with comparisons. Isn’t it? I mean, they almost always invariably end up becoming a… comparison. Their value as an argument always nearing 0 because, well, they don’t really capture the reality being discussed. Otherwise they wouldn’t be a comparison.

        I like to avoid comparisons for that reason.

        The book, film and music (to a much lesser extent I will concede, but see below) have matured enough has mediums for us to clearly delineate what’s entertainment from what is… more serious material, for the lack of a better word.

        Games however still need to cross that threshold and invariably Actual Sunlight will be seen as a form of entertainment before it is realized as possible work of art. You may want to argue this, but I don’t. It’s the reality of computer games as we stand in 2013. Hopefully won’t be for long.

        In any case there’s here more than an attempt of censorship. I’m not actually saying the game should be banned. What I’m questioning is the irresponsibility of its author on such a serious issue being conveyed through a medium that is pure entertainment shared by children, teens and adults alike. Most of which will read a sentence like “Actual Sunlight is not appropriate for children. It features mature themes and an adult-workplace amount of profanity. And it does so immediately” and immediately feel thrilled about the prospect of playing the game (note how negative the term “playing” can be in the context of depression). And this, only to find that it may affect them in ways the author never intended.

        If you ask me if I think Tyler the Creator may have an unchecked and dangerous message to anyone susceptible enough to listen to his music and be affected by it? Yes. But like with Actual Sunlight, there’s nothing I can do about it except questioning the author. Of course, Actual Sunlight message isn’t comparable to Tyler The Creator (see how it’s done?). But the thought here is that just like in music which can have both a negative or positive impact on the matter of depression, we should be careful when treating the same material in a game.

        So, do I think this game shouldn’t have been made? Yes. Do I suggest it should be banned? No. It’s made and its a reality now. Do I think the author is irresponsible for approaching this issue in a first-person perspective to a wider audience without taking into consideration the importance of the theme? Absolutely!

        But he will go on to have great reviews, because somehow in this society we live, no issue should be avoided, no stone unturned. “Taboo” is a word that fell in disuse and known only for its pejorative meaning. And the more outrageous, the more far out theme you can think of, the greater your work will be seen. All despite the fact, as this review clearly indicates, the author completely failed at depicting depression in the first-person perspective (or John would have been more emphatic towards the protagonist). He did it badly, but still will move on to be seen as great work.

        • Premium User Badge

          psepho says:

          I think we will have agree to disagree on this one.

          In English law we have a concept of a duty of care that one party owes to another — it is the foundation of negligence, for example. I think your position comes from the idea that a creator owes a duty of care to those experiencing their work. My position would be the opposite — I don’t think there can be a duty of care without killing off the creative act.

          The issue is blurred when you have creation as pure product. However, I don’t see that games like this one would be understood as pure product.

  34. ScorpionWasp says:

    I must say I find the clearly dismissive – dare I say even disrespectful – tone of this article, utterly appalling. There are a few specific points I feel the need to comment upon.

    “He bemoans an existence with an education, food, shelter, but there are so many without, so who is he to… carry on complaining in his educated, well-fed shelter. His hypocrisy makes him unlikeable(…)”

    So that’s how it works then? You only get to complain about anything at all if absolutely nobody alive in the world today drew an even shorter stick than your own? Only the very biggest fish in any one category is relevant? We can’t jail a murderer, because there are murderers who killed even more people at large out there? We can’t collect a debt, because there are people owing even more unpaid money out there? We can’t feel sympathy for the person who lost half their family in a fire, because there are people who lost their entire family in a fire out there? If he complains about it, he’s a hypocrite? That’s how it works?

    “Yes, he’s unlikeable because he’s a prick about everything, but he’s a prick about everything because he’s mentally ill. (…) Actual Sunlight depicts the sense of hopelessness that drives a person to suicide, and because it’s presented from a first-person narrative, it only comprehends that hopelessness, and dismisses any possibility for things to get better. And that’s a lie. A lie necessary for this story to be so well told, but a lie depression tells a depressed person. There’s ALWAYS [emphasis mine] hope.”

    Why? Because you say so? Because it’s politically incorrect to say otherwise, and if it’s politically incorrect, it’s necessarily false? I must confess, the dogmatic certainty with which you make these sweeping generalizations and categorical claims here is making me more than a little uncomfortable.

    Is there no conceivable situation you can think of where hope is indeed absent? And about that mental “illness” you’re apparently 100% convinced he has, how about we apply Occam’s razor to it and consider alternatives?

    Hypothesis 1: Our person/character here has a “chemical imbalance” condition that to this day nobody has been able to prove even exists. The fact that not eating far more than his body needs (blame instincts natural selection “deemed” adequate for a world where starvation was a top cause of death, and obesity was a practical impossibility) makes him hungry 24/7 and drives him absolutely insane, and accepting his existence as an obese person means never getting laid by people that – again – his instincts would have him consider attractive; none of that has any bearing whatsoever on the despair he feels. If you feel despair of a magnitude such that you consider ending your own life, you NECESSARILY have something wrong with your head, because suicide is taboo because it makes me uncomfortable and the government says so too.

    Hypothesis 2: Life just sucks for some people. Some people draw a hand so completely rotten they can’t make anything worthwhile out of it. As much as it pains us to realize, the universe is a cold, uncaring place, with no concept of fairness or justice. Some people, when faced with unrelenting pain that NOTHING they’ve tried for decades will ever cause to subside, will opt for the only alternative that will put an end to their torment. It would be arrogant of us to judge such people, or to presume we know more about their own lives and struggles than their own “diseased, chemically imbalanced” brains, who are obviously lying to them. In the end, we don’t have to live their lives. They do. So maybe, just maybe, we would do better to step aside and respect whatever they ultimately decide to do with it?

    On a tangent, I can’t help but wonder what the actual tone of this article would have been like if the protagonist was a woman instead. Would she have been called a hypocritical prick with an illness that lies to her and makes her worldview basically invalid, or would her plight be the fault of the oppressive patriarchy and the man instead?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      “I must say I find the clearly dismissive – dare I say even disrespectful – tone of this article, utterly appalling. “

      Hmm, but now it’s my turn to be appalled.

      Are you really trying to analyze the reviewer character from how they look at what is very probably the game author’s inept attempt at giving a first-person characterization of someone with depression? Because, to be very clear, if John’s perception of the protagonist is what we read here, I tell you right here and now that isn’t his fault. Clearly the game author did a poor job at a first-person description of depression. Or did it without taking his audience in consideration and John (like many others will) couldn’t simply empathize to the level it was probably meant. (A reason why I think this game shouldn’t exist. But that would be a whole different post).

      I find these type of games actually sensitive material. Not just the reviewer but those answering him should probably take a whole lot of thinking about what they want to say. I actually think he did an excellent job. He did what we ask of any good reviewer; his impression on the game as brutal as it may be. But on this type of games there is also the responsibility of the reader to not forget about that. Engaging in character analysis of the reviewer based on his stance on a game dealing with these type of issues is just wrong.

      I want to believe you just didn’t give this much thought and reacted to your first impressions. That’s ok. But here’s an opportunity for you to think about that…

      • ScorpionWasp says:

        “The author’s inept, poor attempt at a first person depiction of someone with depression”?

        When you say something like that, I have to wonder if you have played the same game as myself. In the disclaimer you get the first time the protagonist leaves the apartment – the one the author signs with his own name, not the character’s, mind – he makes it very clear this game is based on his personal experiences. That the message does not apply to someone young, but to someone in his late twenties/early thirties “like Evan – like myself”. Evan is a proxy for the author. This is his desperate – perhaps inept and poor, as you say (I’d have to strongly disagree) – attempt at getting heard. Because you see, when you’re an obese white anglo-saxon male, something as trivial as that is goddamn fucking hard. You’re supposed to be a privileged king of the world for whom everything is a walk in the park. And if it isn’t, you’re fucked in the head and need treatment. Obviously. Your brain lies to you and your entire worldview is invalid. The entire actual content of your desperate plea is ignored under that interpretation. You’re an unlikeable prick and a hypocrite for complaining when there’s people starving in Africa (of course, when certain persons of a certain gender come complain that someone made a JOKE (the nerve!!!) on an internet forum about their nickname having not one, but TWO foodstuff items in it, and their relation to kitchens, nobody invokes that there’s people starving in Africa.)

        This review and the kind of comments it spawned shows that, for certain people, no matter how articulately and logically and flawlessly they make their case, no matter how loud they scream, they cannot, will not, shall not be heard. The message is inconvenient; people don’t want to listen. They’ll be safely labelled away behind some invented mental illness and ignored. Privileged people indeed, they are.

        And this barrier, this complete and utter inability to be heard and comprehended and accepted and validated… it just adds to their sense of alienation and despair. The irony here, is that in your fear that a message like this might trigger suicides, in your eagerness to be positive no matter what, even if you have to put a huge freaking blanket on top of all the evidence, you might be bringing about the very thing you wish to avoid. Some food for thought.

    • John Walker says:

      You’re clearly very angry, but I think it’s misplaced here.

      I was at no point describing “depressed people”, and I at no point suggested that this character was representative of anyone but himself. As someone who suffers from a form of depression, I’m very well aware of how non-representative one person is of a group. You seem to have misunderstood that I’m describing a fiction in a game.

      But I stand by my statement that there is always hope. Because there is. I recognise that some people live with hideous depression, debilitating them such that life offers them no joy, no comfort, and no quality. But I believe those people can find hope. Not on their own. Not if they try harder, or take action. But if they’re loved and supported by others. By encouraging someone who is struggling with depression to contact helplines designed to begin a long journey to a different outlook, you appear to be suggesting I’m causing harm. I think that’s ludicrous.

      And for your tangent, since that wasn’t what the game was about, attempting to infer what I might have written about a different thing is a pretty bizarre route to criticism. Were the character a prick, I’d have described her as such.

  35. soldant says:

    Started off sort of promising but because too long winded and condescending in some places, blabbering on about nothing. I can relate to a lot of it (being in my mid 20s at one point it made me feel vaguely uncomfortable when it talked about doors closing in your late 20s/early 30s) but like many art games it’s still pretty ham-fisted in its approach. I’m not a fan of RPG Maker games but at least the dev bothered to get some proper art assets that match the environment.

    All in all not bad, but not outstanding either. Still pretty clumsy but compared to some other art-game attempts to broach sensitive topics it’s decent.

  36. Premium User Badge

    cqdemal says:

    The game does frequently hit the nail on the head when it talks about the desire for change and the possibility that everything you do is meaningless, but ultimately the tone comes out as… forced? Maybe it’s intentional, but every time the game presented me with something I can easily relate to, it follows that up with things that are utterly, utterly alien to me. In the end, the latter just overwhelms the former thanks to how heavy-handed it all is.

    Respectable attempt, but off target. Glad I played it though.

    • Zlarp says:

      I got off with kind of the same feeling. I think the world is better for this game being there, but I also think it misses its mark. Some of it is artificial – and it kind of has to be. Anyone who actually experiences what is being attempted here is either dead or in no condition to make a game out of it.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Jackablade says:

    Played through the first few screens. This is just a little bit too close to home. Some of it frighteningly so. I’m not sure I really want to play a game that tells me how I’m utterly doomed. I get enough of that from my broken psyche.

  38. alms says:

    Sounds interesting, added to my to-play list!

    Though I must say, as good as this sounds: “All I’m saying is the worst thing about nice things is the people who can afford them.” – it still reminded of at least 2 or 3 of RPSforum regulars I’d gladly do without.

  39. Zlarp says:

    After reading this I expected the game to hit me like a brick. I’ve had problems myself at one point in my life, but luckily, it turns out this wasn’t about me at all. I held zero empathy for the main character after a certain point in the game. If you’re gonna be a self-obsessed prick, at least do it the right way.

    I don’t know, maybe I was like this at some point but something in my life must’ve cured me. Myself, I like to think it was Ayn Rand at first (hate all you want on Ayn Rand, but The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged can do wonders for you if you’re depressed) and, after the “charm” of that wore off, Heinlein. Thank god for Heinlein. I think I’d still be swimming in a sea of pointlessness if it weren’t for his stories.

  40. solidsquid says:

    What I find interesting is how some people seem to have found this game exaggerated, condescending and ham fisted, while others seem to think it is a perfect depiction of living with depression. I wonder to what extent this is a matter of taste against people having experienced depression

    • cassus says:

      The people who found this ham fisted or exaggerated are either people who just don’t know what mental illness actually is (exaggeration and an overly dramatic view of everything is sort of par for the course as mental illness goes.) or they’re the kinda people who just grit their teeth and cope the way their lumberjack grandfather would.

      I can’t speak for everyone, but this game, the main character, he is close enough to being me that the game became somewhat eery. Those who find it unrealistic or exaggerated need to think about mental illness one more time, cause this is extremely accurate, and the fact that you think it’s exaggerated means you underestimate the torture that is mental illness. You and about 90% of the worlds population. Mentally healthy people really have no idea.. None. He actually touches on that in the game as well.

      From someone who could just as well be the worse off twin of the main protagonist I can tell you that this is the most realistic depiction of mental illness I’ve seen in ages.

      Claire Danes’ breakdown in the last part of season 1 of Homeland is also accurate as all hell. It’s just that people don’t actually expect mental illness to be this ugly and disturbing. Which means we REALLY need more games and movies/shows like this.