By treating it as a game, it suddenly becomes far more manageable and the acceptance of failure comes a lot easier.
The show is based on Jane McGonigal’s theory that video games may be the answer to making us less depressed and more fulfilled. It may sound ridiculous but it actually makes a lot of sense. In a video game you have a feeling of achievement and control of your destiny, it provides positive feedback and it helps teach you that failure is not the end of the world. McGonigal has proposed that treating aspects of our lives as a game may make them less daunting and more manageable for people suffering from depression. It’s not just an exciting theory but a brilliant launch pad for Conway’s own show in which the audience play games to get to know each other and help Amy get through everyday situations.
Conway along with director/video designer, Rob Jones, effectively evoke the saccharine world of classic Nintendo games with saturated red, blue and green lights and some 8-bit video tutorials on a 90s style TV set. It immerses us in a world that’s full of opportunity and failure that only means playing again, whilst also allowing moments of darkness to bubble up from below the surface. Conway involves the audience in a number of games designed to mirror classic Nintendo challenges as metaphors for dealing with depression and as a means of bringing us together as an audience to create an environment where we feel safe and supported. The video element includes a well-meaning but fairly useless sidekick (which any gamer will recognise) who ingeniously stands in for friends and family providing platitudes, making you both laugh and reconsider your own actions and attitudes towards mental health issues. This is complemented by Conway describing her experience of volunteering for the Samaritans and the dilemma of how to help someone with mental health problems. By treating it as a game, it suddenly becomes far more manageable and the acceptance of failure comes a lot easier.
By the end, we’ve been through so much together that being invited to share our own experiences feels neither forced nor insensitive and the final moment that made this show about depression stand out from all the others for me as we all stood together, not one of us alone.