Truepression – SG Phillips
June 2, 2023
On April 3rd, 2019, Depression Simulator made its debut on the Steam store. It sold a total of 12 copies that quarter, and the development “studio,” Fraxis Games (not: Firaxis, the creators of Pirates, Civilization 1, Sid Meier’s Pirates, Civilization 2, Civilization 3, and the like), dissolved at the the start of that autumn. Fraxis Games was made up of 3 classroom friends (Johnathan Lehrer, David Kazynski, Mark David Chapman), who created it as a parody.
David: “We were at CB (their local bar -ed.) one night talking about simulator games. There are dedicated communities for games like Truck Simulator, where you just drive a big rig in real time across the US. All design decisions are for mechanical accuracy, the graphics are almost redundant, like it’s all secondary to the mechanics of the game itself. I’m not sure they even qualify as games, they’re job-training.”
Johnathan: “And there was that game, Goat Simulator, which is just parody but—”
Mark: “We thought it would be funny to make a depression simulator as a parody of both a game and a simulator. That you could, through playing it, learn how to have depression.”
In its first iteration, players would guide their avatar through mini-games to navigate everyday tasks such as:
-Get out of bed
-Get out of bed knowing that they have to brush their teeth
-Get out of bed knowing that they forgot to brush their teeth the night before
-Brush their teeth without feelings of regret and embarrassment
-Reason through feelings of guilt after feeling maybe just a little bit too proud of themselves for having brushed their teeth consistently for a few days in a row
-Deep Fear 1 (of unknown origin)
-Maintain work productivity after cringing at memories of events which took place decades ago
-Come up with viable reasons that their friends might begin disliking them in the near future
-Come up with viable reasons that their friends might have started disliking them already
-Come up with viable reasons that their projected non-friends’ projected dislike of them would be justified
-Deep Ponderings 1 [Related to Deep Fear 1 (of unknown origin)]
-Deep Fear 2 (of an intelligibly different origin than Deep Fear 1, but still of unknown origin)
-Go for a walk
-Deep Ponderings 2 (see: Deep Ponderings 1)
-Not turning home from the walk early after walking by a nice looking couple and reflecting on their own level of happiness vs that couple’s level of happiness that the player’s avatar infers them to be at (typically: much happier)
Often, the mini-game mechanics were recursively designed though iterable, so they could easily and quickly be solved, though the level of difficulty also depends on a core gameplay mechanic: The Mood Meter. The overall goal for a successful playthrough is simply to Keep The Mood Meter High. The game was played One Day At A Time, and successfully navigating this vast number of Warioware style minigames led to a successful night’s rest for the avatar, while failing either leads to insomnia or self medication, and sometimes mania. A lower mood meter makes the mini games more difficult, and if it drops below 25% the timing required for the button presses and quick time events is all but impossible, as player input will not register instantaneously with the onscreen avatar. This mechanic is meant to simulate how some acute depressive symptoms are often self-reported by sufferers: as though they are in a dream, wading through mud, or carrying a large conversational weight, making them just slow witted enough to register conversational cues just a few moments too late, followed by feelings of embarrassment, this entire situation confirming the premise that implicitly haunts their mind: I am abnormal. During this inference, the conversation has shifted yet again, and another cue was also missed, however it would be embarrassing to mention this at a casual work event and so, they must press on. Minigames are randomized in both order and ruleset, in order to teach the player to mimic the psychotically depressed. That is, train the player to reflexively make the inferences that form the seemingly nigh-permanent, and seemingly totally individual avoidance-structures typical for how the psychotically depressed think and behave according to what was at the time the most up-to-date Cognitive Neuroscience (which Mark David Chapman majored in during his undergraduate career). The final mechanic of the Mood Meter is the Randomizer: Successfully passing a minigame will increase the mood meter 80% of the time, but, the other 20% of the time, passing a minigame will halve the percentage of the mood meter. If the player fails the Mood Meter reliably drops by roughly 5%. Mark David Chapman is the author of this particular wrinkle of the ruleset, and chuckled as he explained, “we’re discouraging exploratory behavior. It’s so obvious,” as Johnathan and David glared at him.
Though Depression Simulator showed promise, and its mini games were well designed, it didn’t really hit as a stand alone product until the launch of a fan made mod: Comorbid Anxiety Simulator. Published during the COVID pandemic of 2020, the “meta” was finally set in place for the speed running community for Depression Simulator. This expansion added new mini-games in the vein of those previously listed, but the most important new features were the Energy and Isolation Meters, which complemented the aforementioned Mood Meter. All Three Meters offered players more consistent feedback for which of the three possible endings players were likely to acquire, these being 1) The Long Over But Living or “LOL” Ending, where the avatar dies of natural causes, the “Sectioned” ending, where the player avatar is committed to a hospital, and the Game Over or “GO” ending, where it is implied that the player avatar committed suicide. Each ending had its own community of enthusiasts, but the “GO” ending was by far the most popular, as it could be completed in the shortest amount of time. The “Sectioned” ending was more tricky, as it required that players maintain enough of a social and financial safety net to ensure that the avatar’s friends would care enough to notice their low meter status and intervene, which could be tricky as Isolation plays an important role in lowering avatar morale. The Game Over or “GO” speedrun ending was achieved by simply increasing all three meters as high as possible, because, at that stage, the life of the avatar was both entirely subject to their own private reasoning processes (increased Isolation randomizes Mood, due to over reflection and over projection for the avatar) and at this point the avatar has a high enough energy level to fully commit to mood-guided actions. Success in the mini games affects the energy bar. So if the player avatar has a high Mood Meter which undergoes a random reversal, the GO ending is likely to be achieved. Youtuber Karl Jobst currently holds the fastest time, but he declined an interview. Regardless, it wasn’t until the COVID pandemic that live twitch streams of Depression Simulator were popularized, and the third type of Depression Simulator streamer entered the fray.
The twitch streamer groups classed themselves according to which ending they strived for. Fast-Pressioner’s or “FP’s,” whose goal it was to get to the fastest game over screen, The goal of the Full-Pressioners’s was a 100% complete, or good ending, though, in depression simulator, the % of completion is hard capped at 85%. Section-Pressioners formed a small subset of the community, and their goal was, naturally, to achieve the Sectioned Ending. While these three classes of streamers do cover all the types of ending Depression Simulator offers to players, a fourth group also came to the fore, the True-Pressioners. It was the actions of one particular member of this final group, which consisted of twitch streamers that lived their lives alongside that of their avatar, mimicking their movements and behaviors in a sort of quasi-reality television show for viewers, which lead to the eventual dissolution of the Depression Simulator community and the removal of Depression Simulator from the Steam Online Store.