Slowly but surely, games are regularly exploring serious societal subjects. This helps those conversations become more common place. One of those subjects being mental health awareness and one game that speaks about it is To Leave by Freaky Creations. To Leave is an indie platformer for the PC and PlayStation 4 about a depressed young boy.
Much like Celeste and Hellblade, To Leave is a game that offers an intimate journey into someone’s mental health. It’s the story of a protagonist with manic depression. His ultimate goal is to use ancient technology to send the souls of everyone on the planet to heaven — bringing him and everyone peace.
Now, before I talk more about the game I want to caution you. The game’s narrative is…a lot to process and I wish I was putting that mildly. The protagonist, Harm begins each day writing in his journal. It’s through this journal we progress the story, find his painful motivations, and his journey’s purpose. He is in a very dark place. His entries are hard to read and very concerning — which is the point.
I feel that it’s important that To Leave didn’t sugar coat this. We honestly don’t know how many of us are experiencing these feelings and may never know. It is important to say that this isn’t an example of common mental health concerns. Harm’s experience is one of many. The game challenges comfort levels consistently as a reminder.
Harm addresses his severe depression by going on a journey to essentially bring an end to everything. You’ll navigate through a number of temples after a series brightly designed and challenging stages. You traverse these stages using a magical flying door that also functions as his magical portal. The objective is to reach the goal while never crashing into any obstacles along the way. It’s an analogy to dreaming if you will.
After you activate a temple, you’ll see that Harm is literally giving away a piece of his life. Afterwards, he’s drained of all his strength and we see he’s barely able to walk through the portal to return home. Then he collapses in bed, only to do it again and again until his mission is complete. It’s difficult to not see the parallels with people getting through the day here.
Now to offset the heavy tones, this game is very beautiful and its music very serene. I think the juxtaposition of the game’s aesthetics with dark its subject matter, can’t be mentioned enough. It offers a comfort to the gravity of his adventure.
The larger point is that mental health can and does affect us on multiple levels. It’s highly complex and very personal. Again, we owe it to ourselves and others so it can be part of our daily conversations. To Leave helps us sympathize and better understand.
It could be easy to say the game glorifies the often negative perception of mental illness. However, I really doubt that was the intention of developers Freaky Creations. I believe it would be more accurate to say they want us to be more mindful of this story. All stories have layers and details unique to them for us to be mindful of if we are able to help.
Now, I admit that many people may not play this game for the reasons I described. The main reason why I would like you to consider this is because it’s another example of games being more aware. More awareness in the sense that the developers, created a game to speak about something 1 in 5 Americans experience.
To Leave is an experience and most importantly will also help you sympathize and recognize the serious nature of mental health concerns. I think a game that achieves that is worth looking into.
If you’re a fan of indie games, platformers, and or narrative focused games, I highly recommend To Leave. To Leave is available via the PlayStation Store and Steam.