Justin Keever | Mar 22, 2016
Let me explain that title, because it’s not a title I deploy without consideration. I loathe the performance of anger in videogame criticism: it is the domain of disingenuous provocateurs and brainless YouTubers. So please trust me when I say that I’m not exaggerating my disliking of Depression Quest. I am expressing a genuine personal hurt that is derived from the ways in which Depression Quest has failed me as a player with depression.
Coincidentally, its failure begins with its title. Depression Quest is a terrible title. Imagine a scenario where Bicycle Thieves was titled Poverty Adventure, and ask yourself if you’d have a harder time taking that film seriously. Now, the title Depression Quest does make some sense given what the game is trying to accomplish. It is evocative of the naming conventions of the early text adventures from Crowther and Adams: a tradition of straightforward titles that promise a nondescript adventure with a vague theme (Colossal Cave Adventure, Pirate Adventure, Adventureland, etc.). Depression Quest’s acknowledgement of the garbage which would ultimately prove formative to the narrative videogame isn’t, as one might expect, a rhetorical move to place Depression Quest within a lineage of text adventures. Quite the opposite: the words “Depression Quest” are deployed in a manner that is as sarcastic as it is arrogant. Depression Quest positions itself as a break from the tradition of low-grade fantasy text adventures, pretending that its relatively serious subject matter is somehow a revelation. Oft-cited games like Elude, The Cat Lady, and Actual Sunlight dealt with depression with more nuance and poeticism than Depression Quest ever manages, and all were available before DQ’s initial release in early 2013.