Depression, Music and Stories Come Together in the Creation of ‘Where the Water Tastes Like Wine’

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is an upcoming game from Johnnemann Nordhagen, co-founder of Fullbright Studios (Gone Home). It explores a Great Depression-era America steeped in mythology and folklore.

Nordhagen recently spoke to Paste Magazine about his inspirations and process for creating the stories within the game. As he explains, it was within depression that he found the inspiration he needed to embrace the historically hard times he portrays.

“[While conceptualizing Where the Water Tastes Like Wine] I was incredibly soul-crushingly depressed,” Nordhagen says, “and I wanted the game to be soaked in the despair that I heard in the music, the resigned sadness of blues, the ‘high lonesome sound’ of bluegrass, and the wistfulness and anger of protest folk songs,” he says, citing Woody Guthrie, among many others, as inspiration for the soundtrack. The game’s name itself is actually taken from a lyric from Blowin’ Down This Road, Guthrie’s recording of “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” a traditional American song.

“I was doing a lot of research into the music, and I kept finding that all the songs I knew were much older than I thought, in most cases,” he explains. “That even people like Woody Guthrie borrowed lines and tunes and ideas from earlier songs, changing them to suit what he needed. I found that fascinating, and I immediately connected the folk music culture with folk story culture, where the same thing happens: a story gets passed around verbally and new storytellers add or change parts to suit their mood and audience.”

Let’s not romanticize depression. While the trope of the suffering artist might suggest it’s creatively empowering, it’s more often inhibiting. Curiosity is a powerful part of creative inspiration, and while it’s associated with lower levels of depression, depression also makes it very hard to be curious.

But fortunately for all of us, Nordhagen was able to take his curiosity about the music that inspired him and use it to fuel the design of a game that looks both fascinating and gorgeous. Continue reading the interview over at Paste if you’re interested in more of how that game came to be. For more information about the game’s release, head on over to its website.

If you’re dealing with the impact of mental health issues on creativity, talking to a professional may help. And as Nordhagen’s story illustrates, consider chasing any rare, precious moments of creative inspiration that do occur, if you can. Who knows where they’ll end up?

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