Please Knock On My Door isn’t the only game that aims to emulate the experience of depression–we can go back to Depression Quest, Actual Sunlight, or even 2009’s unsettling Every Day The Same Dream for that (all these games deal with potentially disturbing content). But developer Michael Levall doesn’t see the overlap as a problem. Speaking with Kill Screen, Levall argues against the idea that we need one be-all, end-all depression game in the gaming canon.
Levall hopes that his game will exist as a tool for others. Its wide-array of choices in the narrative to prove especially useful to players looking for different layers of perspective within the same title. “There’s value in having a choice,” said Levall. “I think we need several different perspectives, made by several different people, in order to be able to offer the gaming community a better array of perspectives, a better understanding of the suffering that people with these issues go through.”
It’s true. Where there are problems to be found with each of the games mentioned above, together they begin to paint a picture of a mental health issue that doesn’t always feel the same to everyone that suffers it. For Please Knock On My Door, Levall drew from his own story, as well as those of friends and strangers who were willing to talk about their own experiences with depression. Those aren’t the experiences Will O’Neill drew from for Actual Sunlight, or the ones Zoë Quinn delved into for Depression Quest, so Please Knock On My Door will give players a new opportunity to see themselves and their situations reflected in a game.
Please Knock On My Door deals with depression, loneliness and phobias. The player will need to cope with those issues while trying to get through the work week, balancing work, responsibilities and mental health. Phobias are usually a topic reserved for horror games, not empathy games, but Levall explained the connection to Eurogamer.
As far as phobias are concerned, Levall is drawing on his own experiences with arachnophobia. The developer explains that he used to not have that strong a fear of spiders, but after living in an apartment that had an issue with large, uninvited eight-legged guests, they started to invade his psyche in a disturbing way. “It went so far that I’d sometimes hallucinate spiders where there were none,” he recalls. “So I’m taking that experience as well and pushing it into the loneliness aspect, because I feel like those two combined can make you really vulnerable to depression.”
When it comes to representation, one character or one game will never be enough. Please Knock On My Door sounds like it will bring new ideas along with it when it arrives on Steam later this year. It will also bring a slick sense of style–and possibly several spiders.