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Adventures With Anxiety is free and good

Adventures With Anxiety is a free work of interactive fiction by Nicky Case. It’s about Sergeant Jack Magnum, elite leader of the deadly facepunch squad. Or it’s about anxiety, whatever.

You play as the anxiety. It’s a little red dog that clings to its human like a raincoat, but detaches when it detects danger it must warn them about. It’ll take about half an hour and it’s pretty nice.

Writing about games and media in general about mental health is tricky even when you’ve experienced the subject, because everyone’s at their own point in experiencing it, discovering it, recovering from and accepting it. AWA didn’t hold a great revelation for me, but it’s got a sense of humour and some lovely moments, and I really liked what they did with the personified anxiety concept in the last chapter. Good dog.

Anxiety doesn’t manifest the same way for everyone either, of course, but that’s something the game acknowledges. Your human is doing things – normal things like eating a sandwich, or checking the facetweets, which of course as their anxiety you recognise as a potential threat. Exactly what form the threat takes is up to you, and you job is to wear the human down until they heed your warnings. Should they reject a party invitation because something bad might happen there? Or because their crappy mood will only bring everyone else down, the inconsiderate jerk.

Wear them down enough and you “win” the round. You have to keep them safe, see. It’s for the best. But of course, your hectoring soon takes its toll, and the complicated relationship between the two of you gets taken apart a bit.

Adventures With Anxiety is playable in browsers at the creator’s website. They’ve also made some other games and toys for exploring concepts including trust, segregation, and self-synchronisation in fireflies, which I’d recommend having a play with too.

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