“I suppose some actions which others would find relaxing might be horribly demanding for you.”
The British voiceover of the trailer for Please Knock on My Door pensively delivers this line. On screen, a cube shaped protagonist toddles around a room, fiddling with a computer, then moving back to a couch, then back to the computer.
Please Knock on My Door is a soon-to-be-released indie game described as a “choice-driven narrative [that explores] depression, social anxiety, and general phobias” (McCarthy 2016, p.1). Please Knock is based on the experiences of the creator, Michael Levall, with depression.
Said Levall, “Every single thing in the game that you get to go through or read through or whatever has some kind of connection to either a true experience that I’ve had, just copy-pasted into the game, or it’s based on an emotion that I’ve felt and I’ve extrapolated that and made a story out of it” (LeFebvre 2017, p.1).
The game follows the cube shaped protagonist as it goes throughout its day, the British narrator constantly urging it to make certain choices– eat breakfast, hurry off to work. The player has the decision to either acquiesce to these suggestions, or simplify their day– stay at home, stay in bed. As the game progresses, the lighting in the apartment dims, making the space darker, bleaker, but if this should force the player to instead take their protagonist to work, they will not be met with much better. The office is just as grim. The protagonist, it seems, cannot be truly comfortable anywhere.
Levall used his experiences struggling with depression while creating games as inspiration for the games, as well as drawing on shared experiences of others in his line of work. “I have met many people in our industry who either are or have suffered from depression, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise[…]” he said (LeFebvre 2017, p.2), he said. He interviewed some of those people to combine perspectives to inform the game, and read articles to properly research mental illness.
As a player ignores the narrator’s suggestions, which at times include hollow inspirational quotes, the protagonist gets increasingly melancholy. It stares out the single window in its apartment at a solitary tree and various other isolated characters, each as alone as the protagonist.
This game may just be a good tool for gamers to feel less alone; despite watching their character wallow in its illness, it may provide a much needed representation that allows someone struggling with depression to recognize they are not the only one. It may also inspire someone grappling with their mental health to make their own healthy choices, if their character is incapable of doing so.
According to a recent study done by UC Davis, video games can actually help people with depression feel more in control of their illness, particularly if those games address depression and portray it as something the player can fight back against themselves (Nikos-Rose, 2017). In Please Knock, the character’s depression is only enabled as the character makes unhealthy choices. This does not tell the player that depression is their fault, which would be counterproductive and unhealthy, but simply that they can make healthy choices, though their depression may make it more difficult for them than for others.
Please Knock on My Door will be released on Steam and Origin on September 7.
Conditt, J. (2017, March 01). ‘Please Knock on My Door’ is a digital life of depression. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/01/please-knock-game-depression-hands-on-interview/
LeFebvre, R. (2017, August 11). Depression simulator ‘Please Knock’ arrives September 7th. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://www.engadget.com/2017/08/11/depression-simulator-please-knock-september-7th/
McCarthy, C. (2016, March 21). Inside Please Knock on My Door, a new perspective on depression. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://killscreen.com/articles/inside-please-knock-on-my-door-a-new-perspective-on-depression/
Nikos-Rose, K. (2017, March 22). Video Games a Viable Treatment for Depression. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from http://blogs.ucdavis.edu/egghead/2017/03/27/video-games-viable-treatment-depression/
Please Knock on My Door. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2017, from http://pleaseknockgame.com/