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.