Depression Artfully Expressed in Elude

The game Elude was created to demonstrate the ups and downs of mental illnesses like depression. The main target audience of Elude is anyone with little experience with depression, including friends and family members of depression victims.

Elude functions as a platforming game with different settings that represent moods of depression victims. The goal of the game is to constantly ascend throughout these mental states until finally achieving the highest level, happiness, while evading descent into the lowest level of despair.

The player begins Elude in a forest area which represents feelings of mental normalcy. The forest area features a relatively calm, ambient soundtrack and color scheme. By jumping from tree branch to tree branch, the player gains altitude and makes progress towards the tree tops (and happiness).But elevation of mood cannot be achieved solely through skill and hard work, the player must activate or “resonate with” birds which represent life’s passions. Resonating with passions gives the player a temporary power-up that allows faster movement and higher jumping.

When the player reaches the tree tops, they ascend to happiness. This area is characterized by playful music and the consistent jumping from falling leaves that shoot the player upward through the open air in a manner that is jubilant compared to the tedium of “normal.” However, after a certain height is achieved, the falling leaves start to disappear, and the player falls back to the forest floor.

Once again in normalcy, the player starts to climb back up towards happiness. But after a set amount of time, a foreboding shadow spreads across the forest and the birds begin to flee (representing the absence of passion). Menacing tree roots clamor for the player who is eventually pulled down to despair.

Despair is vacant of all color or music; all that can be heard is the echoing of an empty breeze. The player is confined to a small dark pocket of air beneath the trees’ roots and has very limited movement. Pretty quickly, the ground starts to sink around the avatar’s feet until he descends lower to an even more confined space. This happens several times until finally reaching rock bottom where a dim light indicates which way the player needs to walk towards so as to return to normalcy.

The message of Elude is quite clear, and the themes that characterize depression are conveyed effectively. As passions begin to run out, one feels a sense of desperation to reach happiness and avoid despair. This heightened state of anxiety only made me a less successful climber and resulted in more frequents trips to the lower levels of the game. Depression hurts (and sometimes kills) and Elude does a good job of giving a basic feel for the dynamic emotions that accompany this common psychological ailment.

Check the game out here:

http://gambit.mit.edu/loadgame/summer2010/elude_play.php

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3 comments
  1. ultrapoulet said:

    After playing the game, I agree with it demonstrating a basic understanding of the emotions involved with depression. What I also noticed playing this game is that, after the first time you descend into despair, you will try your hardest to avoid falling into the same fate. You’ll try flailing, randomly jumping and hoping to land on a higher branch before the darkness reaches you. This involuntary reaction to the incoming darkness also simulates a person’s depression. A person never voluntary wants to descend into despair over and over again, and wants to forever escape the darkness. Unfortunately, things aren’t this simple, and you’ll eventually get dragged back down. With just the audio, visuals, and gameplay, Elude not only captures the emotions involved with depression, but also the struggle against it.

  2. snbrown said:

    I agree that this game does a good job of demonstrating depression and the effects that come with it. Depression is a hard thing to understand, especially if you have not personally experienced it or have known anyone who has. I have a friend who was depressed and she constantly expressed that she prefered to be alone. She liked to do things alone most of the time, such as eating dinner, doing homework, or watching tv. In the game, you, the player, are alone. You struggle to beat the depression and overcome the obstacles alone. When you are depressed you fight for happiness. In the game, the player did all that they could to stay alive and find their way to the light, happiness. Depression is a battle in itself. People will struggle to win this game as people will fight to overcome depression. There was a good use of audio in this game as well. Many people associate slow, dreary songs with sadness, and upbeat melodies with happiness. In the game the dreary music persisted until you finished the game. Also he imagery was good. When people are depressed they struggle to see the bright, positive side of things. They tend to view things in a dark, negative way. In the game the imagery was distatseful until you advanced into the light.

  3. amiesi said:

    Like games on gender therapy, this game also seemed a bit avaunt-grade for me. But once again, I am wrong because after reading the blog post, I realized the idea of a game premise of experiencing depression first hand is also a genius idea. This game could have enormous impact on the way that psychology is taught and the stigma of mental health is addressed by society. Members of society could empathize with sufferers of mental depression on a substantial level instead of defaulting to the standard expression of disbelief. The game allows players to immerse themselves into an alternative reality of symbolic depression, raising awareness that depression is not always a sudden onslaught of emotional failure, without actually having to suffer depression themselves. Once upon a time, only a past sufferer of depression could truly empathize with a person suffering from depression. However with the invention of this alternate reality game a player can project themselves into a depression sufferer’s shoes and similarly empathize with the “echoing of the empty breeze” and create room in society for sufferers.

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