Actual Sunlight

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JaySevenZero
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Actual Sunlight

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 3:37 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Actual Sunlight for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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Simonsloth
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Re: 311: Actual Sunlight

Post by Simonsloth » January 3rd, 2018, 7:34 pm

I downloaded and played this last year when it was included rather surprisingly in the vita PlayStation plus line up. After playing it I could not believe that someone at Sony had the bravery to not only suggest it be included but that it made it through what I can only assume are multiple hurdles before making the final lineup. I imagine they must not have played it.

This is an intense, harrowing experience from the outset. At the start it carries a warning which often I ignore because I am old and mature enough to cope with most things the entertainment medium throws at me. This is another kettle of fish entirely.

I must admit that I have never struggled with any kind of mental health issues as of yet but I come across a lot of it my line of work. I found the whole “game” emotionally draining and uncomfortable. I haven’t looked into the creator but I suspect that the main protagonist is not just a character but a representation of the authors own experiences as they are so vivid and intimate.

Each interaction with the environment leads to a transcript of an interview, conversation or a private thought which are at all times insightful and emotive. Broad themes of loneliness, depression, despair and suicide feature prominently. They are not implied or hinted at but are front and centre from start to finish.

This was quite a short experience but left me quite exhausted and longing for an antidote (which came in the form of the cheery yooka laylee). I then promptly forgot about it until saw this list and a wave of remembrance sent it all flooding right back.

It sounds obvious but it made me appreciate the intense struggle that simply living day to day can be for some people. If my feelings after playing this were in any way representative of how that is then I am appreciative for the insight. If they are not then at least I feel I can empathise a little more. I know that I can switch these feelings off when I turn off my vita and I feel (for lack of a better word) guilty that for some it is not that simple.

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Re: 311: Actual Sunlight

Post by Simonsloth » January 3rd, 2018, 8:14 pm

3 word review: Actually no sunlight

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MarkHoog
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Re: 311: Actual Sunlight

Post by MarkHoog » February 20th, 2018, 3:15 am

(I hope I'm not rambling too much here; I've been editing and rewriting for a while now):

When you break a bone, people worriedly wish you a speedy recovery. When you're severely depressed, people smile and say a walk in the sun will cheer you up; sadly, depression is still something that a lot of people don't fully grasp or even take seriously. Actual Sunlight, unfortunately, is not a game that will truly open people's mind on the subject.

I have to say, Will O'Neill truly deserves praise for pouring so much of his personal experience into this 'interactive essay', and if anyone who suffers from depression gets something good out of it, that's great. Having been around the block on the subject myself, up to the point where I received treatment for the better part of a year, I can say that a lot of the game's text rings absolutely, uncanningly true: The self deprecation, the drudgery of simple everyday life, the drinking, the feeling that you've missed your moment in life, heck, even the defeat in failing to write that one book... all harrowingly familiar terrain (on the plus side, to paraphrase, "I'm still sexy, even at 35.")

At the same time, in its short runtime Actual Sunlight paints a somewhat superficial, stereotypical portrait of depression; its protagonist is an overweight man who plays video games, hates his dreary office job and can't get a woman - autobiography or not, the less educated might shrug and say: "of course this guy's depressed!" It felt implied that depression was as a result of life choices and personal attributes, instead of it being an illness that can befall anyone. And while the writing was excellent (at times reminding me of Fight Club's snappy socio-cynicism), it relished way too much in bashing corporate greed and modern lifestyle. Yes, that inner voice does come with the condition, but - compared to my personal experience - its focus felt a bit off... The majority of NPC conversations expressed similar social commentary, rather than truly conveying what it feels like to interact with people when you didn't want to wake up in the morning in the first place.

Again, I applaud the creator for making Actual Sunlight and I believe his intentions to be totally sincere, but as a nuanced insight into depression it just falls short. Maybe it simply IS too short, too straightforward. Games are a visual medium, after all, so why not use graphics to visually represent some of the many phases and feelings of depression instead of textbombing me with social criticism?

P.S.: If one really wishes to get a better understanding of the illness, I would rather recommend reading William Styron's book Darkness Visible or even Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf.

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Re: 311: Actual Sunlight

Post by Chopper » March 6th, 2018, 7:54 am

MarkHoog wrote:
February 20th, 2018, 3:15 am
At the same time, in its short runtime Actual Sunlight paints a somewhat superficial, stereotypical portrait of depression; its protagonist is an overweight man who plays video games, hates his dreary office job and can't get a woman - autobiography or not, the less educated might shrug and say: "of course this guy's depressed!" It felt implied that depression was as a result of life choices and personal attributes, instead of it being an illness that can befall anyone. And while the writing was excellent (at times reminding me of Fight Club's snappy socio-cynicism), it relished way too much in bashing corporate greed and modern lifestyle. Yes, that inner voice does come with the condition, but - compared to my personal experience - its focus felt a bit off... The majority of NPC conversations expressed similar social commentary, rather than truly conveying what it feels like to interact with people when you didn't want to wake up in the morning in the first place.
I should say up front that I don't know very much about depression at all, so my reaction to the game is limited to my personal impressions from someone who doesn’t understand much about the condition and hopefully doesn't cause any offence if I'm insensitive.

I really liked the game, but it wasn't until I read MarkHoog's comments above that my own thoughts made sense. All through the game I was thinking, I have a lot in common with the protagonist – up to my mid thirties I led that same lifestyle with its unhealthy attitude to alcohol and drugs, lived the corporate life, maintained several haphazard near-relationships, and generally lived what is presented in the game as a shallow and meaningless life. However, unlike the protagonist, I actually really enjoyed that time.

I know that sounds extremely facile, but it ties in with Mark’s point that depression is implied in the game to be “a result of life choices and personal attributes”. All through the game I was thinking, the protagonist is essentially me, and the only difference between us is that he is depressed and I am not. This made me think of depression as an unknowable X factor of some sort, and while the game may be an accurate representation, I don’t think it helped me understand it in any way.

Which is fair enough, it’s not the author’s responsibility to explain anything. But I actually do think that in my case, by presenting it through the social/lifestyle lens, the game does build a barrier and reinforces the common idea that depression is just a mental thing that you can ‘get over’. It doesn’t communicate much more than ‘life is shallow and meaningless’ and leans much more on that than providing a more nuanced view of the condition.

All that said, I liked this game a lot. It made for some very uncomfortable reading and I had to think a lot about my own experiences and how they were reflected in the game. As SimonSloth says above, it presented its broader themes and the narrator's daily struggle very well, and was uncomfortable but engaging throughout.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (18.3.18) - 311: Actual Sunlight

Post by Sinclair Gregstrum » March 12th, 2018, 11:54 am

I'd not heard a great deal about Actual Sunlight when it popped up as a PS Plus game back in 2016. After a bit of research it sounded like a really interesting experience dealing with issues that have effected both me and those very close to me in the recent past. In the game you jump into the life of a guy in his mid-thirties gripped by depression and self loathing, and go through his daily grind as he tries to deal with his relentless emotional turmoil. It's heavy duty stuff to say the least.

There's more reading to be done than there is actual gameplay over what is probably a 90 minute experience, but the writing is largely excellent and while it can become frustrating, teeth-gnashing stuff at times that seems all entirely purposeful on the part of the author/developer Will O'Neill.

It's a game I'd approach with caution depending on your sensibilities and personal circumstances, and it is by no means an enjoyable piece on any level, but I came out of Actual Sunlight feeling like I'd experienced something important - an all too rare thing in video games.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (18.3.18) - 311: Actual Sunlight

Post by Tleprie » March 18th, 2018, 5:34 am

I played Actual Sunlight on August 14, 2015. This isn't some fact that I hold onto, I just looked at the trophies on the Vita, but I knew it was a fair bit of time ago, and wanted to know where I would've been in my life at that time.

August of 2015 would have been the start of my second and last year as a computer science major. There are very few low points in my life that I look back on and still feel the same hurt that I did at the time, and my time in CS is certainly not one of those. But the feelings I had about myself and about the path I was on were most definitely real at the time. Having not seriously talked to more than one person about these things at the time, and that person not being a medical professional, I don't know if I was depressed, but I was certainly something. Something not good.

Actual Sunlight did not leave a huge impression on me, not like other games that tackle similar themes. As others have said, I saw myself in the main character. Lonely, unsatisfied with what I was doing, struggling to get up in the morning and not wanting to sleep at night because then it starts all over. But there was a moment in the game that has stuck with me. I don't remember exactly what it said, but I believe it was O'Neill speaking directly to me, the player. He said that if I were still in my twenties or teens or whatever, that I still had time, and that I shouldn't be feeling the way he was, maybe even that it was wrong to be feeling the way he was.

That's something that I've carried with me. Even if I feel as if everything has gone to hell, my life is really only at it's beginning. I can still change things, I still have time, it just takes action. For some people (myself) that action is finding what you care about and enjoy, and leaving behind what makes you miserable. For others it's reaching out for help, professional or otherwise.

I don't know how to end this, so I guess I'll just say for anyone reading this that may need it, something that was said to me when I really needed it: You matter.
If you're depressed or suicidal, find someone to talk to, here's a list of crisis hotlines

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