I first heard about Actual Sunlight on a tech article in a local newspaper here in Ottawa, so I decided to check it out for myself. It’s a story about depression, a topic that’s not exactly popular for us gamers to discuss. Rather it’s something we all keep under our hats and then someone dies and suddenly we’re compassionate and wondering where things went wrong.
The game is very blunt and harsh, and there’s a lot of text to read. As you get further into it you see how beautiful it is, how thought provoking, and deep. It doesn’t play anything like your usual game, so if that’s what you’re looking for you’re going to be disappointed.
“I know what you’re thinking: Why keep getting up, day in and day out, even though your life is going nowhere?”
Actual Sunlight is a short interactive story about love, depression and the corporation.
The game puts you in the role of Evan Winter, a young professional in Toronto, as he moves through three distinct periods of his life. The story is linear, unavoidable and (hopefully) thought-provoking. You experience his perceptions, fall under the consequences of his decisions, and meet everyone who didn’t change him.
One thing I really liked was how much I could relate to the game because I am Canadian. There were quirks and quips in there about Rogers (one of the major ISPs) and the Toronto newspaper and the local highways that resonated with me because I’m familiar with the area. It’s very rare that I ever play a game that has such a profound sense of ‘I can relate to this’.
You start out waking up as Evan Winter, and yes, there are a lot of male-centric comments throughout the beginning but I sort of shrugged them off and continued on with Evan’s day. You get up, walk around the apartment and read everything in the various rooms. You can interact with all of the items. There are transcripts of doctor visits, and up-to-date technology like an ipad, gaming system, etc. Each one brings you a little further into Evan’s life. Eventually you take a shower, try to get some food, and head to work.
All the while you’re contemplating suicide.
Like I said above, the game is nothing at all like your usual game, but I think it’s important that we have these sorts of games available to us. They can teach us all something. While games are for fun and enjoyment, they can also be used to keep us grounded and teach us different ways of thinking about things, which I think Actual Sunlight does a good job of. It touches on one of those subjects none of us is comfortable with, and puts it into a video game.