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What do you do when you’re depressed? ‘Prey’

Tommy is one tough native in 3DRealms' Prey

My last post here was about my friend Brian, and this one is, too.

I don’t think I’ve talked lengthily about anxiety or depression in any public venue, but I will say that, after a pretty serious breakup in college, I tried Celexa. That did not go well. If you are under the age of 24, maybe don’t try that drug. Still, I think I can tell you, without tipping my hand totally, I have a lot of the same problems BT has. I’ve talked a lot about crippling paralysis and numbness, for instance, and when an event throws me off-balance—receiving a text message on Tuesday afternoon, say—it can be hard for me to get all the way out of bed and eat something. It can be a pain to force yourself out of your own head and neuroticism. Leaving the house helps. Taking a little trip might help.

For Brian, a visit to Chicago was just what he needed! No, I wasn’t a particularly helpful friend. But! I did convince BT to play the game Prey. Oh, Prey. What a brilliant, stupid game! It is a little like Portal, a little like Portal 2, and it explains its game mechanics using awful Cherokee stereotypes! Check it out! (It is a genius game, actually, but when Brian shouts from the sofa “How did this even get made?” the implicit answer really is, “Oh, barely.”)

In his latest piece at Unwinnable, “Stuck,” Brian talks a little bit about depression, about “play” as a creative act (oh, it is), and—ahem—especially about Prey.

“You’re constantly moving forward, crossing whatever bridge or going through whatever portal is in front of you because it is in front of you,” Brian writes. Best of all, the game doesn’t want you to get stuck. “That’s a nice feeling,” Brian adds, “to be moving forward.”

Here, Brian is quick to underscore that he isn’t speaking in metaphors at all. In-game progress is no microcosm, no synecdoche, no grand framework for understanding life. Prey—a short game that, in this case, was a steal at eight bucks—is very, very low-investment. But forward movement is forward movement.

So moving through the game is its own success, its own reward, same as making yourself brush your teeth and eat a waffle at 9am. Success!

3 responses to “What do you do when you’re depressed? ‘Prey’” »

  1. Brian Taylor says:


    true facts: I am on Celexa (well, citalopram (generic for celexa) – I have health insurance but I’m not made of money) and have found I’m pretty responsive to it. Which is super fortunate, to have found that on the first try.

    I have always made to-do lists that are crazy specific, but it’s not a matter of obsessiveness – it’s something that I did just to make it clear to myself that I was getting things done, even if it didn’t seem like it. When I was a freshman working in the library mail room, I once left one on a counter and one of my coworkers found it. They thought it was pretty funny that it had things on it like “wake up” “get out of bed” “eat lunch” “Stretch”, or that I clearly added things to the end of the list after I had done them and then immediately crossed it off. But like I said it was a way I used to cope and keep feelings of being overwhelmed at bay.

    It’s what I like the most about Bioware games – it’s like a really satisfying checklist.

  2. Sid Menon says:

    I’ve never thought of precise, linear experiences this way, but it’s definitely behind the reasoning I’ve turned to them to either suit or cure a mood.

  3. jtron says:

    speaking as someone who’s long struggled with impression, anxiety, and JRPGs, this post made perfect sense to me

    ps Wellbutrin is the SNES of antidepressants

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