Have you ever finished reading a book and been left feeling not quite the same? Maybe it’s a feeling of emptiness, possibly sadness or even depression. You’ve been welcomed into a story — a world, which unfolds around you, presenting characters and people who grow and develop the more you delve in. It could be fantastical or relatable, or both. Discovering more and more until you realise that, sadly, it’s all coming to an end too soon. Then it’s over. It’s gone. The experience you’ve been welcomed into, the thing that was growing before you, has stopped and you know that you’ll never experience it the same way again. The words don’t change. Your interpretation might, but still, it will never be a part of your life like it was that first time.
It’s called post-book depression. I guess now with the storytelling capabilities of different media it’s more appropriately called post-series depression. It’s bittersweet. You get to have something new, yet on a revisit, you long for the content to move you; make you feel the way you did when you didn’t know what was next to come. I’ve been hit by post-series depression after playing Night in the Woods. And it sucks. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of post-series depression.
A feeling of depression or sadness
Naturally, as implied by the name, a feeling of sadness or depression might be present. For me, it certainly is and it’s for the reasons mentioned above. I became engrossed in the story and characters. Mainly the characters. I started playing Night in the Woods knowing nothing about it, except that it was a story based exploration game. I didn’t even know that Mae, the main character, was a girl until it was mentioned in-game. I think it was a really clever choice to do this, as it can make her more relatable to anyone right from the start.
The whole game is actually rather relateable and though you might not have had the exact same experiences as Mae or the other main characters in your own life, the emotions, feelings and themes are easy to see as your own. I love all of the characters and it’s mostly because I see parts of myself and my friends in each of them. How they speak, how they see themselves and how they interact with each other is natural and very much the same in my social circle. That could be why the sadness is prevalent after I finished the game. Not only was the unfolding story and revelation of the characters ending, but also was what I was taking from it and seeing in my own life.
The inability to start another story
This has been a hard one for me and as a gamer it really sucks. I bought Far Cry 5 after finishing Night in the Woods. I started to play it and even though I’m enjoying it, I’ve not even finished the tutorial yet. I’ve played it a whole one time.
There are more games coming out and I want to play them, I just don’t think I’m going to be ready to move on yet. I haven’t even gone back to other games I’ve been playing. I haven’t turned on my Switch since I started Night in the Woods (on PC) to now. Before this, I was regularly playing the current Call of Duty a fair bit with my brother, but that’s died off too. It’s hard to get excited about another world right now.
The need to replay
This one kinda ties into the inability to start a new story. Even though I don’t feel ready to get into something new, I’m also not ready to replay Night in the Woods, even though it’s all I want to do. The beauty of this game is that it’s not entirely linear, as you get to make dialogue and story choices along the way. The character I feel most similar to, personality-wise at least, is Gregg. I discovered this early on in the game and as a test of delayed gratification, any time I was presented with the option of different friends to hang out with, I’d want to save Gregg for last. Little did I know at the time, it wasn’t about the order in which you saw your friends, but in most cases which friends you had time to see. This meant I missed out on most of the Gregg storyline and adventures.
I want to go back and play the game again and do everything with Gregg. I want to choose different story elements and different conversation paths. But I want to wait at the same time. I know my experience and what I felt won’t be the same, even though I want it to be, and it’s because I’ve experienced it as a whole before. Yet it’s still stopping me from starting something new altogether.
Lately, I’ve tried playing something where I know what to expect. Something I enjoy and had completed before. My choice was Portal 2. I played through it in the hopes that It would lead me to want to play something new, or maybe feel ready to play Night in the Woods again. It hasn’t exactly worked, mainly because now I want to play and make test chambers. It has however cleared my mind a little and helped me realise what I want to write about Night in the Woods. When I first finished playing I tried to write all about it. Everything was fresh and not quite fully processed. It was coming out as complete trash. Hopefully, this is a little better?
Excessive projection of felt love
Sometimes I let things take over my life. Night in the Woods was already stuck in my brain so why not let it try and encompass me to a further level? Naturally, the first thing I did was change my desktop wallpaper to something Night in the Woods related. And then I’d see something else from the game I loved and changed it to that. And again and again. Usually, it was a screen capture of something Mae said that I either related to or adored, as it would remind me of one of my friends.
Speaking of friends, I noticed that I was pushing the game a bit too much onto them. I was constantly quoting the game in messages and chats, even though they had no idea I was, constantly telling them to play it and sending screenshots too. Still now, when I Snapchat something I quite often feel the urge to get something Night in the Woods related involved.
I downloaded the soundtrack to the game and I’m either listening to just it on random or have it included in my playlist. I find myself skipping other songs sometimes, just to get one from the game. Of course, I’ve changed the Always On Display on my phone to the game’s logo and changed the lock screen and wallpaper too. I think I’ll do the ringtone and message tones next. I’m probably also tweeting about it too much too. The latest one is a picture of a custom decal I ordered online of a “Mae head” that I put on my suitcase. I actually ordered two of them a chucked one on my car.
Some thoughts about Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is the exact game I would expect to lead me to post-series depression. It’s a melancholic tale about a someone who comes back to their hometown after being away for the past few years, to find that things aren’t the same. Not only has the town undergone changes but so have her friends. Something easily relatable.
An idea that really stuck with me was the concept of forced friends or friends of convenience. In one conversation Mae is asked if she thinks they would have been friends if they weren’t in Scouts together; placed in a situation where that had little choice but to be in close proximity. It really makes me wonder if I’m the kind of person my friends would have invited into their social life if they weren’t already apart of it, with no real choice of their own, be it at school or work or wherever. It’s a conversation I think I’d be scared to have.
Seeing myself and my friends in the characters was the main selling point for me. It’s really what had me hooked. No one is just one character though. I’m like a Gregg with Mae tendencies. I see some people as mixes of Angus and Mae or Bea and Gregg or parts of all four of them really. That could be why the story and background of each character felt real. As it get’s hinted to along the way, I was scared to find out the reason why Mae dropped out of college and came home. I didn’t want anything terrible to have happened. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to any of the characters. Tragedy does happen in real life and I didn’t want it reflected on my real life friends.
Although it’s somewhat an ensemble cast of main characters with a decent supporting cast, I think I’m kinda smitten with Mae. I love the personality that has been created and everything she has to say is hilarious whilst also true. The conversations that take place are honest and real, and at times are covered or disguised with humour. Really, isn’t that how it should be?
I’m sure I’ll be back into something else again. It might be a second playthrough of Night in the Woods or getting stuck into Portal 2 again. Maybe I’ll force myself into Far Cry 5 or something else new. If it is something new and it hooks me like Night in the Woods has, I do hope for post-series depression to kick in. It means it was worth it.