As much of my life is in flux right now I have no shortage of obligations. That doesn’t seem to stop me from returning to hobbies that syphon away at my productivity in deceptively harmless minutes at a time. I’m especially susceptible to these distractions when 1) things are slow at my day job, and 2) it’s raining. …I’m not sure why the rain makes me mentally listless, but it does. (Not unhappily so, but it’s clear to me that on rainy days, my productivity takes a serious hit.)
Here’s the distraction that’s occupying my thoughts right now: interactive fiction.
Anchorhead is a Lovecraftian interactive fiction game written and published by Michael S. Gentry in 1998. (I discovered this game almost 15 years later!) You control an unnamed protagonist who is investigating an ominous mystery surrounding the estate that she and her husband have recently inherited, after her husband’s distant cousin’s grim, grisly death.
The potential commands understandable by the game engine are surprisingly dynamic, but you will occasionally encounter frustrating moments where you’re unsure of how to convey the actions you want to take to the game. Fortunately, as old as Anchorhead is, there are a number of walkthroughs available online that you can use as a point of reference if you feel stuck.
Confession: I still haven’t finished it. But I still really, really enjoy the atmosphere of seeping, tenebrous dread the game creates.
Released and developed in 2013, this interactive non-fiction game is exactly what it sounds like: a depression simulator created utilizing the Twine engine. On that note, readers, please be mindful that this game is incredibly effective at simulating the mindset and emotions that characterize depression. Take a careful inventory of your mental health before taking the plunge into this game. Above all, be good to yourself.
You have the option of taking multiple forking paths in this game, but I want to stress how important it is that there is no right path to take, because (as we who have experienced depression know) there is no right way to deal with depression.
Cat Petting Simulator.
Time for something completely silly, as a nice break from the first two games I suggested, which are quite heavy for different reasons. Cat Petting Simulator is an interactive game (also created with the Twine engine) where the sole objective is to pet a cat. That’s… that’s it, really. It’s sadly not as cute as Neko Atsume, but as someone who struggled miserably throughout graduate school, this little game helped get me out of many a paper writing-induced funk.
Go on. Pet that cat.
- Fool’s Errand: Book 1 of the Tawny Man trilogy, by Robin Hobb. Narrated by James Langton.
Notes and references:
 The Anchorhead wikipedia article. Read with caution to avoid spoilers.