Twine: the program that’s democratised the video gaming world

The free, easy-to-learn tool has encouraged non-techies, many of them women, to create their own games and explore subjects far beyond the traditional shoot ’em ups, sport and space fantasies. But the change hasn’t gone down well with everyone…

Perhaps the most surprising thing about “Gamergate”, the culture war that continues to rage within the world of video games, is the game that touched it off. Depression Quest, created by the developers Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler, isn’t what most people think of as a video game at all. For starters, it isn’t a lot of fun. Its real value is as an educational tool, or an exercise in empathy. Aside from occasional fuzzy Polaroid pictures that appear at the top of the screen, Depression Quest is a purely text-based game that proceeds from screen to screen through simple hyperlinks, inviting players to step into the shoes of a person suffering from clinical depression. After reading brief vignettes about what the main character is struggling with – at home, at work, in relationships – you try to make choices that steer your character out of this downward spiral. The most important choices are those the game prevents you from making, unclickable choices with red lines through them, saying things such as “shake off your funk”. As your character falls deeper into depression, more options are crossed out. You can’t sleep; you can’t call a therapist; you can’t explain how you feel to the people you love. In the depths of depression, it all feels impossible.

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