My depression comes in cycles. There’ll be a few weeks of a heightened emotional state, and then anywhere from a week to over a month of a deep low, intertwined and partitioned by varying quantities of indifference. The other day, I was in the middle of one of those lows. I’m still in it now, as I type these words, but I’m fortunate enough to be at a stage where it’s somewhat manageable and it’s only felt when I’m alone and not distracted. But the other day was quite bad. So, I elected to, in an attempt to find some source of entertainment or escape, scroll through my Steam library.

It began as it usually does; nothing excited me. I didn’t feel the hook, didn’t feel the drive. None of the games before me felt particularly compelling, though nothing really is when you’re in that mindset. Then I noticed, as I reached the bottom of the alphabetically-sorted list, Undertale, a game that I cherished and will never forget, but hadn’t played since late September last year.

undertale floweyWhy is it still installed? Well, I… I can’t bring myself to remove it from my hard drive. Doing so would not physically harm me, nor, if we’re following practical logic, should it affect me in any sense of the word. It was a wonderful game that will stay with me forever in mind and in heart, yes, but it’s just a game, it’s digital fiction, a collection of ones and zeroes sprawled together to form instances and scripts. In fact, deleting it would free up room on a device that’s already struggling for storage space, so for all intents and purposes, it’s purely beneficial for me to remove it from an objective standpoint. But despite all this, I still feel a deep emotional connection to the copy that’s installed on my laptop.

Undertale is in every sense of the word an emotionally-charged game. It heavily relies on the player’s connection to it’s characters, each with their own unique quirks and aesthetics, each with refreshingly complex personalities and motivations. Even when taking the darker route of the many paths the game offers, the genocide run, there remains a strong attachment, the guilt of every death swelling up inside you. I myself elected to take the path of the true pacifist, never killing a single thing throughout the whole game. The resulting ending leaves the characters, at this point all close friends, in vastly superior circumstances than before, finally happy and free from their woes and strife.

undertale true pacifistThese characters that the players interact and strengthen their friendships with… were my friends. I love each and every one of them with all my heart, even the antagonist of the game, who despite all their actions to spite and harm you, is still wonderfully complex in a way that garners a great amount of sympathy and remorse.

And at last upon my completion of that pacifist run, that run where I gave my friends so much joy, gave them a life that they could live without worry or regret… to delete the game would be to take that away from them. That happy ending would never have been, only to occur again were I to put them all through their hardships and struggles once more. And I could do just that, to fall in love with them all over again, to go on that journey for a second time. But what sort of person would that make me? To force those that I cared for so deeply through pain, merely for my own amusement? For my own satisfaction? That would make me a monster.

I am well aware that I’m discussing fictional characters and events here, which I feel only goes to show how profound and beautiful an experience Toby Fox has created with Undertale. For it to, even now, five months later, captivate and motivate and emotionally charge me in such a way, for it to clutch to my heart just as strong as it did in those late September evenings… no other game has had that effect on me. No other game has been such a part of my life.

undertale toby dogThank you, Toby. Thank you for giving me something that I shan’t ever forget, something that I will continue, likely for quite some time, to hold onto when times get tough and I need to stay determined.

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Astrid is the equivalent of Lenin if Indie Haven were the Bolshevik Party. But it's not, she's just the Editor-in-Chief. When she's not mashing Communism into video games and writing about how it makes sense on her personal website, they're manning the ship here, as well as writing news, reviews, and features all about the indie games industry.

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  • DeliriousSoul

    Reading this brought me to tears.
    I played the game while I was going through a hard time and I completely understand what you meant.
    I only reseted to play with a person I love deeply (also 4 months after playing), and seeing him laughing with the characters was like revisiting all the things that made me so happy.
    I really thank toby fox for the experience. It made me grew as a person.

    • George Johnson

      Thank you so much! Been having a confused range of emotions for the past couple hours thinking about the fact that someone has shed tears over something I wrote, so thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      A friend of mine bought and played through it whilst I watched them, and I felt the same way, it was so bloody great to see it affect someone else the same way it did me.