Have you ever had that voice in your head which tells you that your friends don't like you? That nagging feeling people would be better off without you? Or that you are a failure in work? Thoughts and feelings we find ourselves trying to suppress but which still raise their ugly heads time and time again.
Please Knock on My Door doesn't let you shy away from these feelings, but makes you face them head on.
This top-down adventure from Swedish developer Michael Levall puts you into the shoes of someone experiencing depression and social anxiety. Each day is a struggle as you balance work, social life and your own mental health. While doing so there's a narrator who seems to reflect your inner-most thoughts and feelings - both good and bad.
As someone with first-hand experience of the issues at hand, I didn't quite know what to expect with Please Knock on My Door. I wasn't prepared for how emotionally challenging it would be.
Your main obstacle is managing your mental fortitude. Numbers reflect your mental health and impact what choices you can make throughout the game. Some choices increase or decrease your immediate mental fortitude, while others give you an overall buff or debuff. Say your character has some difficult memories. You can either face them head on and receive a decrease in your immediate mental fortitude score, but a short-term increase overall, or avoid them altogether - though they'll come back again later. A pointed lesson in how you can't run from your problems forever.
Please Knock on My Door has three different game modes: the story, the game or the experience. In the story, you play with the game without mental fortitude numbers and being able to make any choices you wish. In the game mode, you see the mental fortitude numbers and the choices you make are affected by them. The experience mode - perhaps the best approach - has you play with mental fortitude numbers which cannot be seen. They still affect your choices but you aren't quite sure where you are mentally.
You start the game with the working week looming ahead. You must remember to eat, sleep, go to work, socialise with colleagues and shower, the kind narrator reminds you.
Waking on a Monday, you eat and shower before setting out for work at a certain time. Simple enough. You head to work and try to manoeuvre frustrating bosses and awkward social interactions with fellow employees before heading home to eat, maybe get some down time and sleep. Just to do it all again tomorrow.
As the week goes on, it gets more difficult, your anxiety getting in the way as you try to do everything. It gets harder to wake in the mornings when you spend all night overthinking, your mental fortitude suffering as a result. I found myself feeling guilty at being late for work and anxious about presentations.
By Saturday, things can take a turn for the worst if you don't look after your mental health. Depression knocks, quite literally, forcing its way into your life and causing havoc. The narrator's positive and soothing voice is gone, replaced by a sadistic one. It does not want what is best for you. It reinforces every negative thought you have. It's tough - too tough, and at this point I turned away in tears.
I go to the menu screen in hopes of trying to fix where I went wrong and start over. But there is no starting over in this game. You must continue.
It's unnerving, because it's all too real. Michael Levall created Please Knock on My Door based upon his own experiences, as a way to give people an understanding of what it's like to live with depression. The result is an incredibly raw, overwhelmingly personal work.
It's incredibly powerful, too. Perhaps what hit me hardest was how I chose to play the game. Initially I decided to play as I would myself, making the choices I would make as someone with depression. It didn't end well. The thing is, my mental fortitude score let me know where I was going wrong - something which might be useful in real life. Please Knock on My Door gave me a better understanding of myself and my illness, a remarkable achievement for a video game.
I don't want to spoil this game for anyone, or to affect their choices. There are three different outcomes, and only one is negative - and it's difficult to avoid the negative choice. I've played this game a lot over the course of a week because I can't shake its hold on me or my intense desire to achieve the positive endings. When I did, it was like closure for myself and Michael.
As a game which intends to "give a voice to those without" Please Knock on My Door hits the nail on the head. It does a simple but effective job at portraying the difficulties someone with mental health issues suffers - the difficulty of just getting out of bed in the morning.