Adventures in the Mundane: Emily is Away and Depression Quest


Fantasy and video games go together like peanut butter and chocolate. It’s a tried-and-true combination, and we gamers keep coming back for more. As much as we like prancing around as elves with arcane and mystical powers, I think we can agree to the fact that the medium has the capacity to expand, to tell real, meaningful stories.

Games like Emily is Away and Depression Quest have proved that the vicissitude, disappointment and heartbreak of everyday life are themes an interactive medium can explore — and explore successfully!


In Emily is Away, the player starts the game as high school senior who is about to leave for college. The entire game is comprised of experiencing key conversations with your best friend named Emily. The game takes place in the early 2000s so you won’t be video chatting on Skype or checking Emily’s Twitter feed. Instead, you speak to her through the (nearly-forgotten) AOL Instant Messenger.  Every year brings a new conversation. But only one. Everything that has transpired over the entirety of the previous year is largely unknown to you. You only have your brief conversations to go on, which provide only snapshots of both of your lives.

As the years fly by, Emily changes, as do you. Player choice has little to do with their character arcs. This is one of the most interesting aspects of Emily is Away. Instead of shaping the characters, you mostly observe their reactions and changes. The tiny choices you make give you the illusion of agency over your character, but in reality, there are forces larger than Emily and yourself that bring about the real changes in your relationship. It’s oddly poignant yet retains a cuteness — possibly derived from its nostalgic elements and extremely personal feeling.



Depression Quest, of Gamergate fame, is a more literal take on tackling issues of the everyday. As the name suggests, you experience life as a person suffering from depression and help him navigate romantic relationships, professional obstacles and familial dysfunction. The developers were not kidding around about this game being depressing, and its not recommended for the faint of heart. It’s not a dryly humorous or an entertaining perspective on depression. It’s an “overpowering sadness is destroying my life and everything I love” kind of game.  (Admittedly, this genre is not very popular for obvious reasons.)


While Depression Quest is not what we would call traditionally entertaining, it was immensely enlightening and, at times, fascinating. Most, if not all, of us have witnessed the havoc depression wreaks on someone’s personal life. Depression Quest provides the player the opportunity to gain a better understanding of depression by delving into the innermost thoughts of a person battling with the disease. The game is bleak and hard to play at times, but it transcends portraiture and leaves the player with a feeling of having learned something.


Emily is Away and Depression Quest may not be the most uplifting games, but they are emotionally empowering in their own unique ways. Evil empires, magical wizards and fearsome dragons are completely absent, but their impact remains just as strong as the best fantasy games out there. They assert that sometimes the mundane can be an adventure worth going on, too.

Thanks for reading! Tell me about your thoughts on games like Emily is Away and Depression Quest in the comments!


gamebloggirl Written by:

  • Kristel

    It looks like Game Blog Girl is back! I’m so glad to see you posting again, I always find your articles to be so entertaining and well articulated.

    I think you’ve made a wonderful combo with both of these little known gems. For me, and I’m sure for so many other gamers as well, these two PC games are heartbreakingly bittersweet in their own ways.

    Despite all of its cuteness, Emily is Away broke my heart in a nostalgic, romantic way once it immersed me in conversation – but I found it to be a surprisingly meaningful experience. Depression Quest, on the other hand, is a game I personally can’t handle but I’m glad is out there. I think it’s important to shed light on this particular aspect of depression because it’s one that is often so difficult to understand, or even describe.

    I appreciate the thoughtful choices and can’t wait to see more!

    • GameBlogGirl

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment! 🙂
      Depression Quest was harder to complete than Emily is Away, to be sure. Depression Quest is very good at capturing the feeling of slogging through the day, of fighting an endless battle. Emily is Away was a nostalgic (and bittersweet) tale. Depression Quest felt more like documentary. I guess that’s the key difference between them. That’s what makes Depression Quest unpalatable for some, I think.

      • Kristel

        Haha yeah, I did my fair share of research before deciding not to play Depression Quest, as curious as I am to try it out. I think “video game documentary” is probably the best approach they could’ve taken, and I’m glad to see that it’s come out that way.
        Enily, on the other hand, was a breeze. Painful, but it keeps you hooked for the followin year and the nostalgia makes it feel slightly more cute and fun.