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Curing My Own Depression With Life Is Strange

Making a difference.

Depression can often be a difficult topic to talk about, as it affects everybody in different ways. Having suffered from depression for a long time, I’ve always found that talking about things and sharing experiences with others is one way for me to tackle the issue at its core.

2015 was not a good year for me. The start of the year saw me become unemployed for a long period of time, I had various family members pass away, and my then-partner and I were going through relationship issues that were affecting who I was. As circumstances changed through this series of unfortunate events, I began losing my motivation and confidence, and as a result of the problems I was facing, I shut myself off from society and immersed myself in rigorously playing games with occasional pay cheques from jobs that I was ill-suited for.

It sounds silly, but in my head I felt as though everything that was happening at the time was my fault and that I had no control over the situation. This wasn’t the case, however – everyone has a great deal of control over their situation and how other people see them. Of all that things that eventually helped me to see this, one of the most important was my personal game of the year for 2015, Life Is Strange.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, it’s about a girl called Maxine Caulfield that discovers she can reverse time and alter events that can ultimately have a dramatic effect on situations she finds herself in, both in the short and long term. After being stuck in a rut for so long, I’d often wondered what it would be like to change situations both for myself and others, and with this game, I had a chance to do that to some extent. The game acted as a crash test for real life decisions which affected other people, so it allowed me to really think about the smaller details in conversation and how other people may react to things in the real world and dealing with acceptance.

I studied this mechanism within the game over the course of a month, and while the game ultimately concluded with a dark twist, what I ultimately took away from it is that Dontnod allowed the player to take responsibility for the outcome of the entire game. For me it did so on a much more personal level than other games of a similar genre – sorry, Telltale.

An early section in the game where Maxine’s choice of words could have an effect on a life and death situation for one of the other students in the game called Kate. It was this moment that made me realise how precious life can be. Leading up to this point, my advice had only resulted in more backlash from the bullies who were tormenting her at school. She confided in me for advice and I let her down, which resulted in her untimely end by her own hands. This particular moment stuck a chord with me in my initial play through, because despite the non-realistic style of Life Is Strange, I felt as though this person was so real in that moment. I felt that pain.

As emotional as this one moment was, Life is Strange started placing emphasis on being able to change important outcomes of situations for the remainder of the game, but oddly enough that even when I was given the option to do this, I began feeling unhappy with the results. Life is Strange made me start believing that maybe some things are just best left unchanged, despite being unhappy with circumstances and situations.

By the end of the final episode, I had this overwhelming feeling that some problems were just meant to happen in the real world just as they did in the game, whether they were deaths or a change of circumstances. I learnt that I could avoid stress by changing how I saw my situation and circumstances. I started comparing the game to what was happening to me, which in turn allowed me to talk to people again, in the hope that I could help someone else who may not be so open about issues affecting them.

I began looking out for those having bad days and also started accepting that my circumstances weren’t the best, but at least I was healthy and still capable of achieving my dreams, I was just unlucky temporarily. I just accepted the fact that it was normal to feel sad sometimes, providing that I could come out of the situation and move forward. I started to bounce back by thinking how I didn’t necessarily want to change or worry about my problems if they were out of my control, but to open the doors to opportunity. Coincidentally, my life started getting better.

2016 was a better year for me. I entered back into full-time employment, but I also started writing here at TheSixthAxis after a three-year break from freelance writing and game-related projects. I have to thank the people at Dontnod for creating a game that would ultimately change my outlook on life for the better, especially during one of the hardest times I’ve ever had to deal with.

Life is Strange has given me the opportunity to still enjoy many video games in various forms and to engage with the wonderful staff members and readers on this site, instead of locking myself in the confines of my extremely purple bedroom and being anti-social for lengthy periods of time.

It’s quite funny that even one year ago my life was completely different, so it goes to show that situations and circumstances can definitely change in due time. What you can do for the time-being is appreciate every day for the new things that they may bring. It took an incredible powerful video game to make me realise this.


Have video games helped you with depression? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

12 Comments
  1. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    I’m really interested in this article because I too have been through a fairly recent period of mental health problems. I felt that at times gaming helped, but I also found that it compounded the problems at times.

    Unfortunately i don’t want to read the entire article, I had to stop at a point I thought the was spoilers coming because I’ve yet to play the game and want to.

    It’s a very interesting topic though, I could probably write a dissertation on this matter!

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 11:46.
    • Jake Durasamy
      Member
      Since: Jun 2016

      That’s fine. I’m glad you enjoyed the read. During my depressive phase I’d only really played Life is Strange and Destiny for raids because I enjoyed feeling like a part of a team. I found this really helped too.

      I struggled to enjoy The Witcher because of my depression for instance. Not that it made me more depressed, but my mind was just elsewhere. It took a while for me to be able to enjoy games probably, but playing Life is Strange was something that definitely helped me to do this.

      Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 12:53.
      • Tony Cawley
        Pint! Pint!
        Since: Feb 2009

        You see, Destiny is what I think made things worse for me. It became like an addiction and important life matters often took a back seat. Each to their own I guess.

        Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 13:44.
  2. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Lovely article, fella. One correction. You used the word “coincidentally” which implies “chance”. It most certainly was not chance. It was you changing your mindset and reaping what you sow. Good for you! :-)

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 11:53.
  3. ron_mcphatty
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    Really good of you to share your story Jake, and I’m glad you’re feeling back on top now. I had a truly shit year up until my girls were born in November 2015, like Tony I think games probably made things worse at times, escapism beating acceptance, but I appreciated the escapism when I needed it. Sometimes you just need your mind to be completely off certain things for a day, to get that horrible weight off your chest.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 12:18.
  4. jontheking
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Great article!

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 13:46.
  5. Dave Irwin
    Member
    Since: Jun 2015

    Fantastic read!

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 14:07.
  6. Lyts1985
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    Excellent read. Definitely something I, and I’m sure many others, can relate to.

    I certainly use gaming as a form of escapism more often than I probably should.
    Contrary to the author’s experience, I find a good, immersive RPG helps take my mind off whatever it might be fixated on in the real world so I do tend to rely on the likes of The Witcher, Skyrim and, recently, Zelda to help “get me through”. Shooters tend to add to my stress and frustration levels, especially multiplayer lol. That said, I do have the odd day where my heart and mind just isn’t up to it, no matter the game or genre…

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 15:07.
  7. duff_em_up_dave
    Member
    Since: Sep 2011

    A very informative and well presented article.

    And they say games don’t educate people. Pff!

    Comment posted on 21/03/2017 at 19:23.
  8. Lrpoulton
    Member
    Since: Mar 2017

    As strange as it sounds I had a very similar experience when I recently played this game. I have what is probably classified as mild depression and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say the game cured my depression it certainly changed my life. Why this is, is something I have struggled to explain to my friends and family and I could never put it as eloquently as you have in this article. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has had this experience playing this game.

    Comment posted on 22/03/2017 at 22:05.
  9. LIquid1611
    Member
    Since: Mar 2017

    I would say not only life is strange helped me, many other games and movies,
    like batman begins, I always remember these words ” WHY DO WE FALL?
    SO WE CAN LEARN TO PICK UP OURSELVES UP.” these words really helped me with many situations, cause I have depression, I don’t talk with my family, my friends and everyone around me want from me to fail.
    also, the witcher 3 game really helped me, if you have played the game you would know that everyone hates witchers because they are different, and people hates different. but Geralt stays strong, and do his best so he can live this miserable life.
    and at last I learned from life is strange everyone you love will die, so it’s better to stay alone, and don’t have family or friends and always smile, and don’t put too many attention for the people around you.
    and live the life as you want

    Comment posted on 22/03/2017 at 23:35.
  10. tamarkovia
    Member
    Since: Mar 2017

    Great read, also didn’t go too far in case of spoilers, but as a gamer struggling with issues of my own right now i was surprised to see an article addressing depression, it should be discussed more openly. Time for me to finish that game and others, thanks!

    Comment posted on 23/03/2017 at 00:37.

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