Like any other artform, video games are capable of evoking all kinds of feelings within ourselves. Some make us laugh, some make us angry, others make us cry. There are plenty that do all three equally well. Something you don’t see very often is a game that will make you sad. Sure, a lot of games will squeeze that emotion out of you with the death of a beloved character–and that does work out a lot–but this game does something different. Rather than isolating sadness within a single event, this game takes you through a journey of depression. This game is Actual Sunlight.
Actual Sunlight puts you in the life of Evan Winter, a man who has become depressed, apathetic and isn’t quite sure why he’s still holding on. In addition to this, it seems like the world is falling apart around him along with the lives of the people he cares about. You follow Evan through three periods in his life. As the game’s website puts it: “You experience his perceptions, fall under the consequences of his decisions, and meet everyone who didn’t change him.”
Actual Sunlight is closer to an interactive story than it is a game. There is only one path, and nothing you do can change the final outcome. The gameplay revolves around viewing the conversations Evan has with the people around him as well as his own personal thoughts and feelings. Much of the game has you reading Evan’s internal monologues, cleverly formatted as things such as instruction manuals or dialogue between him and a psychiatrist.
The game’s creator suffered from depression and this game is to him a portrayal of how it feels being depressed. Evan has trouble relating to other people. He is angry at himself for his apathy towards improving himself. He loathes himself for becoming stuck in a rut of drinking, video games and masturbation. He wants to stop, but he’s scared of trying. This game really speaks to the 20-somethings who are having troubles like this. For those who don’t understand what I’m getting at, read this quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club:
God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives.
The game is very short. I think that it took me an hour to play through the whole thing. I’m sure that it will get slightly longer when it releases on Steam, but not by much, I think. I have to warn you, this game is triggering. If you suffer from depression you may not want to try this game. I’ve never even been depressed and I still felt a little like someone died by the end. Take care.
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