Inner Vision Is A Game About Suicide Prevention

By Nathan Grayson on February 26th, 2013 at 10:00 pm.

I’ve had to talk a couple friends down from grievously harming themselves before. Inner Vision doesn’t exactly capture what it’s like – the lucid panic, the dreamlike slowness of time, the feeling that every word must be measured for glacial ages and flickering milliseconds - but it hits on a core message that’s absolutely crucial: listen. While Actual Sunlight brilliantly captured the brutal solitude complete hopelessness brings, Inner Vision turns things around. You’re giving those teetering on the brink someone to confide in. The actual exchanges are a bit stilted and simplistic, but the feelings they evoke are far too important to miss out on.

Inner Vision takes the form of a few quick, easily navigable dialogue exchanges. Defeated souls come to you seeking some (or really, any) kind of solace, and it’s up to you to hear their plights and offer advice. All the while, Death himself eggs you on, suggesting that each person’s definitely going to commit suicide, and you won’t be able to hold it all together. He’s a fairly excellent addition to the proceedings, too, digging a bitingly cynical knife into the very bones of your motivations, probing at what you’d really stand to gain from helping strangers both in a game and real life.

That said, Inner Vision’s “correct” choices are fairly straightforward, and some extremely sticky issues get bypassed by writing that errs on the side of sense and cool-headedness – not frenzy and fear. I also don’t think it adequately captures the fact that listening is an ongoing process, rather than a quick bandaid over a gushing wound of both the wrist and the heart. But it’s a start nonetheless, and one that’s well worth paying attention to. I mean, sure, hearing people out takes time and effort, but what’s a couple hours here and there in exchange for an entire lifetime?

The response to Inner Vision is the reason why I make games.

Kudos to creator Sunil Rao for putting this out there. I’m glad to see games attempting to broach topics like this in constructive, personal fashions, because – in time – I believe they really could make a difference. For now, though, other developers, this is probably an attitude worth considering:

“Inner Vision wasn’t supposed to become popular,” Rao wrote. “I created it for myself to express some dying thoughts I’ve had for the past several months. I had a message I was trying to portray with the game, but didn’t think anybody would understand it due to the poor script I had written. Well, I guess I was wrong.”

“The response to Inner Vision is the reason why I make games. If one of my games makes you feel something unique and special, my job here is done.”

, , .

48 Comments »

  1. BTAxis says:

    Random line from the article printed in huge, colored letters somewhere halfway into the text? On RPS? Now I want to kill myself.

    • HorzaEdeo says:

      Try and be a bit more insensitive why don’t you?

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      More and more like Polygon every day…

    • Doomsayer says:

      ‘I’m fairly sure that commercial news’ invented the giant mini quote as a text version of the sound bite. It is pure evil and pains me in my soul to see it here.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Agreed. For the love of Horace, RPS, I love your site to smithereens, but super quotes are like a poke to the very tenderest part of the eyeball.

    • Eldiran says:

      I actually agree, although without the unnecessary vitriol.

      Please avoid using block quotes in most circumstances. I understand they are great for breaking up the page without having to use images. But here’s the thing — when I see a big red quote, I read it. And subsequently lose my place in the actual article.

      It’s especially annoying to read a quote before getting to read its actual context.

      So, in summary — make sure you use ‘em responsibly, and save them for when it matters and lends meaning to the article. Like in this one!

    • pupsikaso says:

      Please, don’t start being like other sites now. RPS is already becoming less and less what attracted me to here many years ago and kept me reading all these years, if these quotes become a regular thing I won’t have any PC gaming news site left to read =/

    • El_Emmental says:

      They could at least remove the shadow behind it, it’s really out of place.

  2. Premium User Badge

    X_kot says:

    That was a nice, bite-sized experience. Thanks, Nathan!

    Also, I feel for poor Oscar and his heroine addiction – I had a bad case of the Elizabeth Bennets when I was in high school. Thankfully, I got clean and am only taking heroes these days. I’ve also found a job counseling troubled youths who got hooked on a new designer drug called Bella Swan.

    • Aatch says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that made that link. Got some confused faces at the pub the other night when I suggested a comic book store as a source of heroin(e).

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      The Elizabeth Bennets does sound particularly nasty.

  3. Agnol117 says:

    This was an interesting little game, but it felt kind of shallow. The correct choices seemed pretty telegraphed, and the reasons for why the characters were depressed just felt so cliche. The first one didn’t even really come off to me as suicidal at all — just as a girl who’d just gone through a bad break up and was upset about it. I had some issues with the portrayal of the third guy as well. I dunno. I don’t feel I wasted the five minutes I spent playing it, but I do feel like it reduces the idea of being suicidal a bit too much.

    • Premium User Badge

      Biscuitry says:

      I half agree and half disagree. Yes, the game does make the “right” choices a little too easy to spot. There’s a little too much “huh, I hadn’t thought of it that way; and suddenly everything is better.”

      But the characters’ reasons are genuine enough. Take a minute to stop and think about those clichés, and how they came to be clichés in the first place. They’re pain everyone feels at some time. You don’t need to have some special, tragic backstory to be depressed.

      I’m in the (rather less unique than one might hope) position of having been on both sides of this conversation. The reasons are real, but the game doesn’t capture the desperate hopelessness of it. Nathan nails that one. When you’re trying to talk a person down, there is the terrible fear that you’ll say something wrong, and rather than just losing a “chance” off the top left, they’ll close off and you’ll lose them forever.

      Sitting in that spotlight, it’s stunning just how similar it is to being on the other side. You desperately want this person, whoever they are, to show you that you’re wrong, that it’s worth carrying on. You want to be the girl who knows she can find a community, you want to be the boy who can do his own thing, the man who can get himself into college.

      But you’ve already decided you’re not, that death is preferable to the struggle. You want to be wrong, but you’re sure you’re not. It’s that last little hope that keeps you talking, listening, hoping they won’t say the wrong thing and confirm all you ever feared in one misplaced word.

      • Agnol117 says:

        I’m not saying that they aren’t valid reasons for depression, just that the portrayal in the game was lacking.

      • Zlarp says:

        I think what makes this is the music, not the content. These are clichés, but it doesn’t matter, that makes it easier to identify with. It’s just that having this incredibly uplifting music that totally overshadows the cinics words that make it what it is. I’m going through a rough patch right now and this is making it… better :)

    • Artist says:

      … and shes bisexual! Are people still so uneducated to not cheer about that, gosh? Well, on the other hand not bad when a few more stupids kill themselves!

      • LuizPSC says:

        I heard a lot of gays people judging bissexuals talking about how they only are bi for attetion, a friend of mine have this kind of problem before.

    • skooma says:

      Yeah the writing is pretty shallow and terrible.

      Like this correct response in guy 3.
      “You should find something to make you happy”

      He did, it was heroine.

  4. JFS says:

    Cool game, if a little short and easy. I think I had to restart once, because I fucked at the end of the conversation with the first girl.

    I guess Agnol is somewhat right – the choices are too clear. Reasons for being depressed, on the other hand, sometimes are clichéd in reality. Suicidality, however… I don’t know. I didn’t get a real feel of any of the characters being suicidal. Maybe the last one. Then again, it’s only a videogame. Might be quite creepy it created a real sense of talking to someone who’s close to killing themselves.

    All in all, good idea, but the execution (sorry) is lacking a little. I’m glad, though, that a game designer tried to tackle this subject. I think it just isn’t possible to do such difficult topics justice in the first attempt, but someone has to go first to lay the groundwork for progress.

    • Agnol117 says:

      My issue wasn’t so much that real life reasons for depression aren’t sometimes cliched, but rather how blatantly cliched they seemed here. The first one in particular: that she was just out of a relationship, the way she talked about how she’d been in two relationships and they’d both ended like this, etc. just came off to me as “person who says they’re depressed when really they’re just very sad” kind of behavior. I dunno. This just happens to be an issue that hits kinda close to home for me, and as such I found parts of it to be a bit lacking.

      • JFS says:

        Yeah, I understand that. A game like this should ideally be made with advice of trained professionals, psychiatrists or psychotherapists. It’s just to easy to go “Oh I read up on it myself” or “This is what a friend of mine was like when he was [in my opinion] depressive”.

        I guess professional advice is something that future games may take up. It’s to be expected that the first trials are lacking in this department. Early shooters didn’t have closely modelled real-life weapons with their corresponding original sounds, either.

        • The Random One says:

          You got that right. Anyone remember that game in which you have to psychoanalyze stuffed animals? As I understand it was done with the assistance of psychiatrists (or by psychiatrists? it’s been a long time) and that laid a strange sense of dire progression to the proceedings.

          Part of games’ general march towards becoming less alienated and alienating.

  5. misterT0AST says:

    Bah. In the end these depression games are just about sharing your feelings and focusing on something to ignore pain.
    It’s probably wrong, but I feel I should be able to tell them other things as well. these seem banal, and they probably heard them a thousand times before.
    And there’s a spelling mistake, “They’re lives” instead of “Their lives”.
    God I hate spelling mistakes involving the apostrophe.
    I don’t know why, it’s just so simple to avoid them, I’ll never understand them.

  6. Mctittles says:

    I have my doubts that this kind of pop culture psychology type stuff is going to help anyone. The only thing it seems to support is the “group think” of getting like minded people together to shun other people as being stupid.

  7. Artist says:

    The chars in this “game” are as sorry as most questgivers in most MMORPGs/RPGs…
    *whine, whine* “I urgently need some rat tails! Please can you help me? I feel so alone…my parents…”
    “Shut up, raise your own butt and get your fucking rat tails yourself, you moron! Or kill yourself!”
    Lives much better without such sad lives.

    • ImprovYield says:

      I honestly hope you fucking die you fucking insensitive piece of garbage. It’s people like you that make this world into the fucked up place that it is and if you all just died it would be such a better place.

      I’d bet anything anyone going through depression for whatever reason is 10 times the person your worthless self will ever be.

      It’s you that should kill yourself. Just do it no one will miss you. No one will care that a sick fucker like you was to cut himself.

      Call me out if you want. Sure I sound like you but I don’t care. I hate people like you with all my heart. Go and fucking die.

      You have no idea what some people go through or what mental state they are in you disgusting filth. You’re garbage.

      • hypercrisis says:

        Instead of telling people they should die for their opinions, maybe discuss or ignore them. You’re no better than him right now.

      • DRoseDARs says:

        As someone undergoing treatment for depression and has been suicidal in the past, let me tell you ImprovYield that you need to back the fuck up. You seem to think he was calling for irl depressed and suicidal people to off themselves when clearly he was not. And you respond to him… by telling him to die?

        This game was cute and was trying to make the point that the road to recovery for someone in pain can begin simply by someone willing to just listen to them, but it is not meant to be (and it most certainly isn’t) an exacting simulation of a complex issue. Losing your fucking marbles over someone expressing criticism of the game just makes you look foolish.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        lol

  8. nbringer says:

    Saved them all on the first try single handedly. On the last guy I was getting a bit tired, but ultimately did the job on him. Now I’m pondering if it’s ethic to fail them. I guess the game starts after you finish :))

  9. Mozzarella Cat says:

    The choices were too clear at times, and the grammatical errors really pulled me out of the experience. But the feelings it evoked… I’ve never talked someone out of suicide before, it’s actually the other way around. I felt really panicky, my stomach tightened, and all the positive choices really hit home for me. That was really something.

    The thing I didn’t like the most was the end. I was really expecting Yama to be someone you could talk out of suicide if you could talk the other three out. It’s a shame the developer didn’t have enough time to make that.

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      I hope you never have to.
      It’s a terrible experience.

      It’s great that it usually works; that listening and expressing honest concern and showing understanding can help people out of the dark hole they find themselves in. But the fear of failure is terrifying.

      Also in the aftermath you may have no one to talk to about it. A pretty typical healthy response to near-suicide is to cut away from the event, which often involves cutting away from the person who helped you.

      Of course my tone is probably all wrong. I don’t mean to whine, I’m just saying it’s hard.
      But don’t let that stop you from reaching out if you ever find yourself in that place again. Everyone who cares about you would want you to. And that’s usually a lot more people than you realize.

  10. alms says:

    The game might be simplistic and ham-fisted, but you shouldn’t fix your attention on the execution too much in this specific case.

    The take-away message here is just that: stop talking and start listening, because someone around you might actually be suffering from depression without you noticing.

    • Agnol117 says:

      The problem is that the flaws in the execution undermine the takeaway.

    • hypercrisis says:

      Might be? I can guarantee someone you know is. Probably several.

  11. Jamesworkshop says:

    Murray? guess not.

  12. ScorpionWasp says:

    The message in this game is that you should listen? Seriously? Because all the way through, with the choices it gave me, I felt like a moron, making bold bullshit assertions about things I had nary a clue on. “don’t give up because men are assholes!”, “don’t give up cuz suicide is bad!” “don’t give up because… because I’m not allowed to not bark orders in the negative at you, that’s why.”

    Instead of pretending I have all the answers, I would have liked to ask more questions. “What exactly about these two breakups caused you to lose hope? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to have a fulfilling relationship in the future? You’ve told me your parents’ view on bisexuality, but what about YOUR views?

    You know, the entire mindset with which these issues are approached turns my stomach. “You’re there to talk someone OUT of suicide, because if they’re considering it, then they’re obviously wrong. You might never have lived a day in their shoes, but it’s evident that you know better than them. If they say they’re unhappy because water is made of hydrogen and oxygen, you have to tell them water is made of something else! Fuck the facts dude, the ends justify the means.”

    It’s a thoroughly anti-scientific, dogmatic, self-righteous mindset. I approach all issues with an open mind. Mr. suicidal might or might not be right, and considering that whatever issue he’s dealing with frustrated him to the point of freaking wanting to kill himself, chances are he’s got one hell of a lot more experience with this matter than me. In the end, everyone has a PHD on what it’s like to wear their own two shoes. He says that his life sucks, he has lived his life since he was born, I’ve never lived a day of his life. The arrogance required to challenge his subjective claims there would be astounding.

  13. hypercrisis says:

    I appreciate that these sorts of issues are beginning to be examined in pop-art, but as with all burgeoning takes on sensitive issues, there lingers the sense of a work by someone who doesnt really “get it”

    I look forward to seeing more mature takes emerging in the coming years. The key thing ive seen ignored time and time again in these games is the naive failure to remove the stigmatic associations, usually by being much too blunt and treating it as a puzzle to be solved.

  14. Berlot7 says:

    It’s interesting how music can influence emotions you feel. Imagine this game if there was no music? Would it have the same impact?

  15. stupid_mcgee says:

    I had someone who was a friend, co-worker, and roommate commit suicide. Watching his body lowered off of the roof by a firetruck crane was one of the most crushing experiences in my life. For months when I had to go to work, often opening the place by myself, I would have severe bouts of anxiety and moments where I simply broke down crying uncontrollably.

    Suicide isn’t about simply ending it all for yourself. Your pain may be gone, but the pain and suffering that lingers on in those around you is immeasurable and everlasting.

    The notion of “just be there to listen” is a good one, but it’s also very myopic. If you are suffering through deep depression and pain, think a moment about those you love and how your death will affect them. Seek help. Things can get better if you want them to and try. Part of that is asking for help. I can’t help but feel that the player shouldn’t be the one listening and comforting. That’s the easy part. The tough part is the one actually deciding that they want to live, that they want to get better, that asking for help isn’t weak and putting people at a disadvantage. That they can do these things.

    A few months after this, another friend of mine hit bottom with his alcoholism. He thought about killing himself. He never said so, but I know him and I know he did. In the end, he asked for the help of his friends and realized that he was strong enough to change. It took a lot of courage, and to this day I look to him as one of the strongest people I know. During my darkest times where I’ve been dizzy from sleep deprivation or nauseous and throwing up, both caused from severe and chronic pain, I think to him, his courage, and his strength. I think of my family and friends, and how much my leaving them so unexpectedly would hurt them.

    Yeah, it sucks. But life isn’t rainbows and lollipops. It’s hard sometimes. And so I simply suck it up and soldier on. It’s not a solid solution, and it’s not perfect, and I can understand why some people just want to check out and never have to deal with downs of life ever again. Despite all of the bad moments in my life, I think of all the good ones, too. It’s important to remember that you’ll never be able to experience those again if you don’t try.

  16. Michael Fogg says:

    Just Do It!

  17. Dervish says:

    The actual exchanges are a bit stilted and simplistic, but the feelings they evoke are far too important to miss out on.

    You meant this as a positive thing, but this is a succinct criticism of most of these “serious” games. They try to get a pass just for being about their subject matter. Never mind the fact that they suck pretty bad at handling topics that supposedly deserve a lot of careful thought. Sorry, no points for trying. In fact, negative points for relying on a loaded subject to “evoke feelings” and mask poor execution.

  18. GenBanks says:

    “a couple friends”

    wow… two different occasions?? that’s crazy. It sounds like you’re a good friend.