Actual Sunlight, recently completed and appearing on Steam, is a dark, painful game about experiencing depression. It’s unrelentingly bleak, but also written in a sharp and biting tone full of pervasive black humor. You take the role of Evan Winter, and overweight, depressed and at times anti-social man who works a job he hates. The story is told through his aggressive and often humorous observations on life and his everyday interactions with the people around him. There’s a depth of characterization beneath the initial appearance that gives him a humanity that is far removed from the daily life of the typical videogame protagonist.
As someone who has suffered from depression for nearly a decade, I found that Actual Sunlight fit beautifully alongside games such as Depression Quest and The Cat Lady as explorations of depression and works that help bring an empathetic understanding of the condition to others. I played a less polished version of the game a few years back, and this latest looks to be very close to it. While it mechanically follows the sort of stripped down interactions that projects like To the Moon have used, it leverages the unique ability of the medium to instill empathy for a character via player control.
For those suffering from depression, they will find a relatable story that doesn’t attempt to sugar coat the experience. For others, this will be a story that allows them a better understanding of that experience, delivering a very human experience without falling into the melodramatic depictions that a lot of other media falls into. Actual Sunlight is part of something important. An example of games moving past their comfort zone of shooting, death and destruction to a conflict more internal, everyday, and more complex. A conflict that occurs invisibly on a daily basis for the people around us.
Site [Actual Sunlight]