Depressed. Worthless. Uninspired. Messy. Lying on my bed, Arcade Spirits gave me a sharp reminder of my life these past few weeks that hit too close to home as I played through its chapters. Arcade Spirits helped bring to light the issues I currently face and I don’t know how to feel about it as I write this article.
This 2019 visual novel recently became a part of the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, and after hearing some good things about it, I decided to try it out. I’ve been hooked, ever since. You play as a character struggling to find his/her/their place in society, moving from place to place, job to job, trying to find their dream. I instantly related to this. Ever since I was a teenager, I struggled with what I can add to the world and have been anxious to this very day. My dreams are silenced by the lack of self-confidence, and I simply accept what’s given to me. This character you play believes that they have a curse of bad luck as each job slips through their fingers through little fault of their own.
I feel like that. I’ve had to change jobs because of moving location, or a few retail positions that left me stressed by the end of the night for the next day. I was hoping to switch to a Communications position for the last six months, but time after time after time, I’ve been denied, not knowing what I’ve done wrong, and COVID hasn’t helped either. Arcade Spirits tackles the challenge that everyone has in their lives: do we settle with the status quo and a typical 9-5 job, or do we try to go for our dream? And this game does string this theme along the storyline very well.
I constantly doubt myself too, just like Arcade Spirits‘ protagonist. At the start of the game, he thought he was going to fail with his new job, and it would be foolish to think everything will go to plan. In my experience, I feel hesitant about my abilities, but I know now that my employees thought I was doing a better job than I perceived.
Back to Arcade Spirits. As the months went by, he began to feel confident in himself, that he could be an Event Manager for the arcade, but as he expected, the dream he built up was suddenly crushed.
That’s when Arcade Spirits hit me to my core when my character’s dream slipped through his fingers. His beloved arcade was no more and he feared that the people he cherished while working there would disappear from his life. One such instance that made me teary is when he woke up, not caring about what day it was, playing a game, and then it was the end of the day without him noticing. That’s my life right now (except it’s social media, applying to jobs, and watching YouTube videos with a bit of gaming, writing, and podcasting here and there). I’m cornered in my room being reclusive as my dreams of maybe becoming a writer are dashing away. I keep applying, hoping to get a callback, but my phone stays silent. I regret paying the monthly bill because I barely use the bloody thing.
It hit me at that moment that I need to change, that this cycle of doubt, depression, and silence needs to stop. I need to change my point of view and stop making the days go by, thinking of what could be, and instead, what can be. I never thought a visual novel based on arcades would make me realize that. Is it pathetic? Perhaps, but I hope in some way, the few readers who scroll through this understand more about what life with depression is like and perhaps for those who have it, how to get out of that mindset. Will I succeed? I’m not sure, but like the character in Arcade Spirits, I need to move on and find a way to revitalize myself and become more active and aware of what could be out there. I have to take some risks and put myself in front of people.
I find it incredible that a visual novel like this can really make me reflect on how I feel and can make me want to act. The writing is really relatable with each character you meet feeling fleshed out with their own questions about life and what they think of themselves. Another game that made me feel introspective was Celeste. As gaming continues to evolve, I think we’ll have more experiences like this. There will be more ways for developers to connect with their players through this interactive medium. Is there a game that hit you like this and made you change?
As I finish writing this article, I feel more comfortable and more able to deal with my own emotions at this point in time. Perhaps, I will finally act and make a name of myself. We’ll see! Whether it’s a game like Journey or The Last of Us, it’s good that this medium can challenge you and make you reflect on your way of life, or how you more positively perceive different genders and races through the act of play.
As we discussed in Episode 62, we thought that maybe Ellie being revealed to be part of the LGBT community at the end of the game could have made a positive impact on someone who may have had a negative opinion on that group of people. That person could have grown to love that character and then accepted her as a woman who likes other women, and that it’s perfectly normal. Whether you like it or not, games will become more “political” as this medium grows, and to be honest, I think it’s a great thing for games to challenge our mindset and make us and the world more informed.
By the way, these pictures are from the Steam store page from Arcade Spirits by Fiction Factory Games and PQube; they are not my own screenshots.