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After a bumpy ride, ‘Depression Quest’ gets some good news

Zoe Quinn's Twine-based game is heading to Steam and its 65 million users.


Aja Romano


Posted on Jan 9, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 9:55 pm CDT

Depression Quest is an eye-opening, award-winning game that’s inspired other issue-based games in its wake. But after its creator, Zoe Quinn, became the target of repeated misogynist threats and harassment, it became a game that struggled to survive, much as its subjects struggle to deal with the effects of depression in their daily lives.

Thankfully, this is one quest that has a happy ending: Greenlight, the open submissions system of popular Web-based gaming network Steam, has accepted the controversial game into its new batch of 50 games.

Depression Quest appeared in February and instantly received accolades. By April it was on Greenlight, Valve’s popular program for funneling worthy projects into Steam. But at some point in the ensuing months, according to Quinn, she removed the game from Greenlight due to alleged harassment from male gamers who seemed to have no other fodder for their anger than Quinn’s status as a female game developer. 

Late last year, however, the game went back onto Greenlight for a second attempt. With it came an even more vitriolic round of insults allegedly spearheaded by male-centered gaming website Wizardchan. 

The reason they got up my ass was because “women can’t be depressed what a cunt”.

— Zoë “ButtLit” Quinn (@ZoeQuinnzel) December 12, 2013

With the insults came threats—so many that Quinn had to change her phone number. Earlier this week, Quinn wrote movingly on her Tumblr about the experience:

We’re up here after a day of texts and phone calls and emails from all kinds of people – ones I haven’t even talked to in years – telling me they had seen me in the news and asking how I was holding up against the harassment. I had to retell the same things so many times it was practically a script by now – I’m fine – I don’t care how much hate gets thrown my way for speaking out because if it moves the needle of progress slightly further and any of the girls I’ve taught how to make games inherit a better industry for it, then it’s worth it to me without question. Earlier in the day though, I had found out that in changing my number to get away from the gross phone calls I was receiving, I missed a call about my only family left being in the ICU several days ago. The news had completely sucked the wind out of my sails and my unease in seeing the comments and votes on my game climb on greenlight turned into full blown panic and stress. Even though the game had been doing so well before the controversy, I knew that people would try to discredit it and handwave it if it had ended up getting onto Steam that way. I knew that I’d be “that abuse girl” and wondered if it was comparable to my current sometimes-title of “Depression girl”.

In the end, though, Quinn is riding high. On Tuesday, Depression Quest was one of the batch of 50 games Greenlight announced as being approved to join Steam. The decision is groundbreaking not just because it represents support for female developers, but because Depression Quest was created using Twine, a text-adventure-authoring software that has never produced a game dubbed Steam-worthy until now. Quinn reacted with elation, though perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect:

what happened to my mentions did I make someone mad again-OH SHIT WE GOT GREENLIT

— Zoë “ButtLit” Quinn (@ZoeQuinnzel) January 7, 2014

oh my god I don’t have to moderate comments on that friggin page anymore you all have no idea how much a relief that is

— Zoë “ButtLit” Quinn (@ZoeQuinnzel) January 7, 2014

Quinn vowed to document her process and help other Twine developers navigate the Greenlight selection phase. Her followers and supporters celebrated.

Congratulations @ZoeQuinnzel! Her game Depression Quest has been Greenlit on Steam.

— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) January 7, 2014

Photo via psychicteeth/Twitter

While Depression Quest will continue to be offered to the public for free, having the game available on Steam will raise its visibility and expose it to Steam’s 65 million users. 

Meanwhile, Quinn announced yesterday that she is now the community manager for the upcoming Jazzpunk. It’s a fitting, timely role: Now she’ll have something to sing about.

Photo via Depression Quest

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*First Published: Jan 9, 2014, 10:06 am CST