The ability of video games to confront, and empathize with mental problems has been explored over and over again, in particular in the Indie Game Scene. Something about the interactive medium, no matter it’s genre or form, lends itself to exploring this aspect of the human experience, and lets games shine a light on social and psychological issues.
This is, however, not always fun, but it is almost always an important experience. Indygo tackles the crushing loneliness of depressions in haunting shades of blue, and for such a short experience, it left a profound impact on me.
Indygo is a narrative game with elements of point’n’click set in one room only – painting workshop. It tells the story of a painter who suffers from depression. One of the symptoms of this depression is proceeding isolation. The Main Character hasn’t left his room for more than 3 months. It has become obvious for him and his girlfriend Anna that this situation can’t last forever. The time has come to look for solution. It’s up to player to decide how the story will progress.
Indygo’s story is simple enough: You take the role of an artist, suffering from serious depression, who has sequestered himself away in his attic studio. The entire game won’t take you more than an hour to play through, but that’s by no means a critique: what you experience is a series of snap shots for the journey of this man, skipping ahead weeks, months or more between short segments of point-and-click puzzle solving. It’s a series of melancholy vignettes which form the foundations of a story of recovery, where you have to choose how that manifests.
The puzzles in Indygo are very simple, and are more often than not simply a search for a series of puzzle pieces before assembly. However, Indygo’s brilliance is that it gives you a choice. Ahead of just about every puzzle section, you’re given a chance to choose if you really want to go ahead with this; to act or not to act. You can choose to fix a broken mirror, or not. Draw a picture as a gift for a children’s birthday party, or not. Take your medication, or not.
This is where Indygo brilliantly levels the intrinsic interactive nature of games to explain depression: It’s not just about sadness, it’s about a deep, dark apathy, sapping your energy to do even simple things. This is hammered home again and again, and I honestly found it quite compelling.
You’ll also have the opportunity to pick from a number of responses in letters to your significant other, doctor and friends. None of the responses are what I would call “good”, but there’s a clear choice in how you can respond to your depression.
Ultimately, there are a number of different possible resolution to this story, and they fall on a spectrum of just how hopeful they actually are, but there’s never any doubt in these stories. They all clearly demonstrate that depression CAN be conquered and CAN be overcome. It’s not easy, it’s not clean ad it’s not always without loss, but it is possible.
Aesthetically, Indygo is all portrayed in shades of blue and gray, perfectly emphasizing the focus on depression. The pencil drawing style of all the items and environments also melds perfectly with your role as an artist, and give the game a very distinct and recognizable style that I really love. The game does a fantastic job of showing the importance of the Main Characters art to them, both before their depression and during, which was a nice aesthetic touch.
Is Indygo fun? I’m not sure I can say yes. It’s well made, well designed, superbly voice-acted and has fantastic aesthetic direction. But, it is ultimately a game about depression. It’s a little depressing, a fact the game even admits and tells you from the very first time you fire it up.
What Indygo is, is important. It tackles the issue of depression head on, with compassion and tact, but also not hiding the upsetting sides. This is a game that you should take the time to play, particularly while it is on sale during it’s launch week, if you’ve ever known someone with depression and wanted to empathize, or just wanted to understand what people gong through depression experience.
Indygo isn’t fun, and it shouldn’t be.
That’s because Indygo is a very real and very truthful look at depression that should absolutely be experienced. Pigmentum Game Studio should be commended for handling a complex issue like this so well.