Is Depression An Over-Explored Concept In Indie Games?

It’s literally become a meme at this point; top text saying "oh this indie RPG uses pixel art and is really an allegory for depression-", accompanied with a gif or short video of somebody leaving a room or closing a door. It’s certainly not an idea that spawned from nowhere; LISA The Painful, OMORI, Yume Nikki, Celeste, just to name a few, all have strong themes of depression or mental anguish of some sort as their main focus. And there seems to be a consensus amongst some gamers that it’s beginning to become unoriginal. Just two days ago my recommendation of LISA was shot down by a close gaming buddy, on the grounds that it’s "just another indie game about depression". But is this negative reputation deserved? Are these games just treading old ground, or do they still have more to say about mental health, a topic that is becoming all the more relevant in an age dedicated to squashing the stigma? And even if they don’t, do they still have value in our modern gaming landscape?

  • I would argue that there are so many indie games, with such diverse such matter, that the amount of games listed above would not rise to the level of "over-explored". – Sean Gadus 2 years ago
  • I've seen memes about 'indie pixel rpgs about depression/mental illness' myself, and personally I think it's an overstated connection. Yes, there are a number of indie games about mental illness, but I've seen a few comments making this statement about games that don't really fit these categories. After all, even the meme you mentioned doesn't apply to all your examples (Celeste is pixel art, but not an rpg). Also, while there are a number of games about depression and mental illness, they are not the only well-tread topic in indie games. – AnnieEM 2 years ago
  • In an interesting parallel, I find that many Twitch streamers are tagging their streams with "anxiety", "depression" and other words associated with mental health. While this *could* be seen as trying to capitalize on the stigma, or to be "edgy", I feel that this possibly means that consumers are looking to have honest conversations surrounding these topics and are seeking safe spaces. I think that the past few years have really pushed the need for this initiative. In response to this, I feel that indie game developers want to produce and share their own versions of lived experiences with these conditions, in order to further encourage the dialogue. This is most likely much easier to accomplish in the indie scene, for sure. That could be wishful thinking, but regardless, I feel that indie games with these themes haven't unbearably oversaturated the market yet. – MadamNarwhal 2 years ago

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