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On depression, and asking people things

I’ve never tried to kill myself. I’ve suffered from depression and I used to self-harm, but I guess that’s true of a lot of people. I also didn’t know games journalist Matt Hughes, who sadly died this week, even slightly. I barely even recognised the name. I had to check who he wrote for. Seems he was a talented guy, not that that makes a difference.

When people commit suicide, people’s response is generally to gasp at how there were no warning signs, that it doesn’t make sense, that the person always seemed so happy. “He was full of life,” people say. “It’s just so out of character.”

When people kill themselves, they’re not doing so out of character. They do it because they’ve exhausted every other option they can possibly comprehend, and things have become so overwhelming that putting a stop to everything now is the only sensible option, for everyone’s sake.

You could say that the main symptom of depression is a feeling of remarkable sadness, but it’s more than that. It’s a feeling of isolation. A feeling of self-loathing. A sense that you’ll never have the ability to separate yourself from the ills of the world, and as such will never be able to construct a coping mechanism or reason yourself out of a low mood with logic.

And it’s a feeling that you’re all alone in this world; those healthy, happy masses go about their daily lives with barely a stumble, while every single split-second of your own life is a hammer-blow to the head. Those people don’t care. Why should they? If they cared, and let themselves into your mind, they’d be depressed too.

The truth is, nobody really takes the time to think about what goes on in the minds of others. Not really. We all have our own lives to lead, and that’s difficult enough as it is. But I like to think that, as people, as the human race, we do care. Even just a little bit.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m mostly okay now, aside from the occasional off-day. I put a lot of that down to my re-discovery of writing, and my decision to apply myself to a goal. But I also put a lot of it down to the fact that I had people who really took the time to understand how I was feeling.

When was the last time you asked somebody if they were okay and really meant it? We say it trivially every time we meet someone, and the correct response is, “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” You must not deviate from the script. To do so is social suicide. If you’ll excuse the metaphor.

But really, we’re all human, and we all get sad sometimes, and we all ultimately care when we find out that other people are suffering. So the next time you see your friend, ask them if they’re okay. Really ask it, and push them for a real answer. They’re probably fine. But it might just turn out that your friend needs an ear, and they’ll be grateful for that question for the rest of their life.

And if they think you’re being weird, or take the mick out of you, then they’re a cunt.


Indie developers: How to get your game in the press – part 2

Ages and ages ago I wrote a slightly angry rant masquerading as ten tips to indie developers to help get press coverage. Basically, I tend to write these things after being insufferably annoyed by something that makes it literally impossible for me to write about a game I think looks interesting. This time it’s a combination of that, and one that actually impressed me.

So now, I’m thinking everything can be condensed down into one crucial piece of information that it’s handy to remember when trying to get your indie game some press coverage:

Journalists are really busy, and sometimes a bit lazy.

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The Guardian’s huge drug survey is extraordinary

The Guardian and Mixmag have done something quite incredible: a survey about drug use, conducted on an absolutely enormous scale, that gives phenomenal insight into the reasons people take drugs, and those people’s thoughts about their substance intake.

The spectacular range of results have been recorded in a smart, measured and balanced fashion all over The Guardian’s website, and will presumably be featured heavily in the paper tomorrow.

It’s quite an astonishing set of articles to read. There are some frightening findings, and some comforting ones. Quite predictably, it turns out there are some people who take drugs in moderation and with knowledge, and are fine, and there are others who don’t, and aren’t. The crucial thing is that this isn’t just hearsay any more.

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Dear Esther: Some thoughts

I’d have loved to review Dear Esther. I couldn’t, of course. Having waxed lyrical about it on the internet and in magazines for many years, I was absolutely delighted when thechineseroom approached me in late 2011 with the offer of heading up their PR campaign for launch. Since November it’s been my job to get others talking about Dear Esther, rather than talking about it myself – but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to say.

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Nia’s Birthday Surprise: The Videogame

This week I made another game, and it’s quite different to Masked.

It’s a one-room point-and-click adventure called Nia’s Birthday Surprise: The Videogame and, as the name might suggest, I made it as a birthday present for my girlfriend.

In it, you play as me, trying to rescue Nia from a locked building of DOOM or something. To help you are a collection of items, a talking frog, and an annoying little girl.

You can’t play it, because it’s just for Nia.

Happy birthday, missus!

Masked: My room-escape game, out now

I made a game! It’s called Masked.

It’s a short-form point-and-click adventure. More precisely, it’s a room-escape game, which I made in response to bafflement at missed opportunities within the genre.

Everyone fears being trapped. The idea is terrifying. So why don’t more room-escape games play on these sorts of primal emotions? Heck, I’d be happy if some bothered to try anything interesting with storytelling at all.

So yes, this is my attempt to do just that. It’s my first Adventure Game Studio release, it took me just a couple of weeks to make, and it’s not supposed to be hyper-polished, but… yeah. See what you think. I’ll write a lengthier commentary when I get the chance.


Analogue: A Hate Story – some thoughts so far

I finished a playthrough of Christine Love’s first commercial release, Analogue: A Hate Story, today. But as odd as it sounds, while I’ve finished the game, I’ve barely begun scratching the surface of its story.

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