Depression is a fairly common mood disorder that, despite its frequency, is still not considered a serious issue by many. Sadly, some people think that a simple attitude change will fix all of the ailments; that it's a self-inflicted state of mind. This is simply not true. Actual Sunlight by Will O'Neill is a short, interactive, text-heavy story that puts you right into the shoes of a troubled young man named Evan Winter, whose life is gradually consumed by his dark inner-thoughts and self-loathing. It will boldly and unapologetically give you a short glimpse into what depression can look like, and the suicidal thoughts that may accompany the crippling disorder.
First and foremost, this is not much of a game. It features some tiny characters that have distinct inflated heads and some not too impressive 8-bit inspired environments. Only the short cut-scenes provide an enhanced artistic style, and these fully demonstrate what the characters look like. Not that it matters, because most of the story plays out through a black screen full of text; the stylistic choices only act as a vehicle for delivering the story, and no other reason. You can argue that this could have been a short story published in some fancy journal, but would it reach the same audience?
Evan Winter's tale is a tragic one. His life revolves around only a few things: waking up, going to work, eating, getting drunk by himself, masturbating, and playing video games. His lack of accolades and mediocrity has clearly frustrated him. Most of his daily interactions occur in his head, where he plays out different situations; his relations with other characters are short and clearly display his inability to connect with others. You're forced to feel the monotony and soul crushing daily life of Evan.
The gameplay is incredibly limited. The only thing that you can do is walk around with the d-pad (not that there is much need to walk around) and push the action button to interact with people and the environment. Still, you'll want to interact with everything and everyone possible to get the full picture. Here's where things lack a bit: it's supposed to be a game, but it's devoid of any decision making and there's very little actual game being played. Naturally, we understand that that's what the title's going for, but the story could have arguably had more impact with a little more player involvement.
At this point you may be asking yourself, "What's so fun about it?" Well, it's not necessarily a fun experience; the writing and morbidly grounded story will be the reason that you stay tethered to your screen. You'll be clicking away as you want to make a difference, but all you can do is watch the tragic and uncomfortable tale unfold. In fact, it can be so dark in places that those sensitive to these sorts of situations are perhaps best advised to stay away. After all, it's hard not to project at least some of Evan's struggles onto your own life, because, in one way or another, we've all felt some uncertainty in our lives.
Actual Sunlight's ability to stir discomfort is its greatest achievement. It depicts the difficulties of trying to beat depression alone, and while that makes for some pretty heavy material, it's successful in what it sets out to do. There's no punch pulling here; there isn't any back slapping to make you feel better about what you're seeing. As such, this won't necessarily improve the mood of anyone that's dealing with depression. It will, however, give perspective to someone on the outside looking in – and that's powerful.
Crikey - this sounds dark! Absolutely fascinating, though. Would love to give this a try myself; hopefully we get a European release soon.
Great review, Edwin!
Ugh, I saw this in 'the drop' update and was hoping to play it soon, where is it. Looking forward to playing something adult and completely story driven.
sounds like my life, would be interested in giving it a try
For a 1-2 hour experience. I will buy this. Maybe i love it. Maybe i hate it. But i will buy it, just because someone tried to do something different.
After suffering depression once medically discharged from the Navy, losing my home and then losing my dad in the space of 2 months these 'depression' games of which there are a few dont do the condition justice. In many ways depression is a state mind - of not being in control, the world is against you and you become a different person.
Someone moping around w**king isn't exactly the depression I encountered, they should be encouraging you to see a doctor, do new things, get amongst It. But they just view depression from an extremely singular selfish way mundanely passing through each day. There is help out there and the condition can be overcome. These 'depression' games are a complete fad similar to the 'abused child grown up' books of the early 90s which were popular for some warped reason.
@themcnoisy nspcc stats 50k children need protection today, thats probably why.
@Bad-MuthaAdebisi I'm not saying abused children shouldn't be helped or have a voice on the contrary. But these books were the worst parts of humanity, going into detail of the warped minds of paedophiles. I read a great article in the guardian about them. You don't see those books anymore.
With these subjects - just like on tv you need expert scientists and a lot of experiences, research and cause and effect experience to fully develop a game on depression. Otherwise the game is onesided and validated from one set of eyes when the subject is much broader than that.
@themcnoisy for all you know this game is a faithful portrayal of the developers condition or someone known by them closely. Not sure if it can be written off as one sided since the condition comes in all shapes and sizes and I don't think any amount of research would result in a one size fits all solution. For someone who can relate to the experience of the character in the game it would help knowing they wernt alone in their depression, even if it offered no obvious solution to their problem.
Interesting. As someone who habitually suffers from depression, I'll be curious to see their take on it.
And if one more person tells me to just cheer up/buck up/pull it together... ya know, I am making an effort, between the therapy and the meds and diet and everything...
This is depression
This is not depression
waking up, going to work, eating, getting drunk by himself, masturbating, and playing video games.
After playing the god awful depression quest on pc I will never see these games as anything other than an ego trip for the developers. Why would you stick depression in a video game? Its frickin horrendous.
@themcnoisy we're going to have to agree to disagree on that one buddy as it hits quite close to home. I appreciate you had your experiences but it's affected those close to me in many other ways. It's just not an easy thing to understand.
@kyleforrester87 Sorry man, I just don't get why they are making games based around depression. It doesn't help and its not entertaining. Why dont they make a game about cancer or strokes or aids?
@themcnoisy Because they arnt considered fun, and the audience for such media is probably elsewhere, or thought to be elsewhere at any rate. So it's explored through other mediums, ie music, film and books. This can help sufferers, so why not games? They did one about dementia recently, though. I didn't play it but I suspect it helped people understand the condition a little more.
I'm really into the holocaust, I clearly don't find it a fun topic but it's interesting. I'd play a game about it if done tastefully. Maybe a Valient Hearts 2
@themcnoisy I agree with you that making games about depression and/or such themes is horrendous but you can't state that is only one form of depression. "waking up, going to work, eating, getting drunk by himself, masturbating, and playing video games" can be a form of depression. There are some people who suffer from the disease and still go to work, you don't have to be isolated from the hole world and locked up in your bedroom thu suffer from depression, you know?
@GuilhermeSacco That's what I have been trying to say, the subject matter of a depressed dude who plays games and drinks on his own is crazy its a largely untrue cliche. People with depression come from all walks of like. I said in the above paragraph that the cliche is wrong you may have mis read.
Depression is daydreaming all day but dreaming of bad stuff. It doesn't matter what you do - its what got you there and how your going to improve - that's the key.
@themcnoisy I think it would be really interesting to read your impressions on this game. You're based in the UK, right? If you're in the US and have a Vita, I can get you hooked up with a code. Would be fascinating to read your impressions.
@get2sammyb Merseyside for my sins, and yes I have a Vita. Thanks man appreciate the offer, but I wouldn't want to play a game based on a condition based on the all time low of my life right now. In fact ive never been happier in a rabbits and sunshine way.
Depression to me was day dreaming, breaking down and just day dreaming. I would be playing a game not concentrated and just stop and daydream for ages. I would have a conversation and not be listening and day dreaming. Its the weirdest thing but horrible. Took me a month of anti depressants and going to mediation in Plymouth (they were brilliant) with my wife to let her in and then one step at a time. I also got lucky with a new house and mortgage (to this day no idea how I was accepted) and got a Job shortly later that I really wanted running a small call centre. From having the worst fortune and things being literally the worst ever I now appreciate good things more.
@themcnoisy Yeah, apologies - didn't mean that to come across insensitive. I'm just glad you're feeling better now.
@get2sammyb it was 4 years ago when I was told I was medically discharged so those wounds have well and truly healed, no offence taken im all good. Its not everyday you get offered a free game and I dont think I have ever turned one down.
@Vineleaf Agree completely. I've been suffering from depression in various forms for at least sixteen years now, and I too am really intrigued by this game!
Oh and I know what you mean by the way. There's nothing worse than someone telling you to 'pull yourself together' or 'liven up'. Particularly when it's your wife of twenty years, who really should know much better.
Real sorry, but I'm gonna list a few of my issues in chronological order here, if only to get them off my chest. Please, please forgive me everyone, there's just nobody else to talk to..
Like I said, I'm truly sorry about spouting all that. Guess I've been bottling that lot up for longer than I care to admit.
@AcesHigh73 I can't touch that cascade of events, mate, though a few of them sound familiar. Keep it going, have faith in you and what you're doing. Reach out when you need.
Just played this game and came across your post. Hope things are a bit better for you know. What you described would be extremely tough on anyone.
Hi @naruball, I only just came across your reply, so please forgive me for not replying sooner.
Things still aren't great, BUT.. my relationship with my wife has improved and I've almost beat my painkiller addiction! I've been weaning off them slowly since last November and I'm now down to just the tiniest of doses.
The only thing with that is now my head isn't in a permanent opiate-induced haze, the issues I listed before are tougher to deal with on a day to day basis. But like I said, things are a little better.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write a few words. Means an awful lot to me 🙂
@The_Pixel_King I just played this game today as I was going through my download list and... it wasn’t that great. But saw your comment from 6 years ago and wow. Hope you’re okay buddy. Sometimes it’s easier to just not reply to these things. But open convo usually helps. Good to see you were doing better in 2017. I do feel like things can always turn around and get better
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