A very long time ago in a world far away, I used to be a general idiotic snob. I did not appreciate my health. I did not appreciate my cultural support. I did not even really appreciate my partner, although I thought I did.
Then my partner began to experience severe weakness physically. It led to depression. It led to arguments. It led to headaches. It led to randomly bad days for everyone involved. It led to tempers flaring on mine and her side. And I thought I still appreciated her.
My wife tried it and asked me to play it, just once. She assured me that it was not exact, but was rather a window into how she felt. Of the two of us, my wife is excellent when writing, I am better when I just ramble verbally, judging my audience. She told me that this particular game had my skill at verbosity without going over and yet was well written and thought out like her style.
The game was amazing. It read with the monotonous timbre I had grown to hear from my partner on the days struggling with headaches. It read with the passive voice I equated with my partner’s loss of care about how things around her were doing. However, it was written like the choose your own adventure books I had grown attached to in my youth with a couple of changes that were effective beyond kenning to do in their simplicity. (1) the chapters are much longer as the character is swept along with the dull depression. (2) Choices are often a choice between the easiest to do and the most likely to be accomplished, rather than providing a challenge. (3) many of the decisions sound very different, but the depression colors the results with different adjectives, muting the “good” descriptors and enhancing the “bad” ones. All of the descriptors were excellent choices to use in the game.
I played it. Once.
Today, because of a friend of mine currently experiencing this road, I was introduced to The Day After Chemo, another text-based game.
TDAC runs along the same lines. Many times, the only way to get anything done is to ask for help, a very harsh lesson for those of us who have grown proud and self-reliant. One of the interesting things I noticed is that TDAC did a a really neat thing I did not see in DepressionQuest. Most games lead you with the assumption that “asking your partner to do chores” uses less energy, so you can get more done.
But TDAC often surprises the player by having that energy the player expends having the conversations necessary to get your partner to do chores teach the player that it may take more energy than just doing it yourself. Sometimes the asking takes as much energy as doing. Plus some days, my partner was tired too as has been known to happen. There is a fibromyalgia reference called “using spoons”. The theory is actually wide-reaching to most chronic illnesses and those who experience chronic-sickness-like symptoms from dialysis and chemotherapy.
There were also many days in-game where I was given the only option of “Done for the day” due to over exerting myself the day previous. I was required to go to the next day empty and, yes, it led to higher levels of shame, or hints like “When did you last shower ” and “the dishes are really piling up”. TDAC ran faster in playtime than Depressionquest, but both of them, I am giving the Requiem for a Dream award for being so good and so effective, that I will talk of them often,…
…but experience them Once.
Once is all I needed.