By Donasia Sykes
Amy Conway’s father introduced her to video games when she was a little girl. Now she explores how gameplay can treat depression. In “Super Awesome World,” Ms. Conway engages with the audience through small interactive games that allow us to playfully explore healthy emotional habits together.
As a kid, Ms. Conway would play lots of video games, her favorites being “The Legend of Zelda” and “Super Mario.” She offered facts about the effects video games have on mental health, citing a potential decrease in the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
When she got older, Ms. Conway thought of video games as time wasters. Eager to help people at the lowest points in their lives, she got a job answering calls at a depression hotline. She suffered from depression herself, and came to think of it as “the darkness.” She imagined that a video‑game sprite was a guide that helped her navigate the darkness—or failed to help. The sprite sometimes gave her obvious, dismissive advice that friends and family might give depressed loved ones, like eating breakfast, taking walks or just being active. In one of Ms. Conway’s hotline phone calls, she tried to help a distressed caller, but the sprite kept interrupting with insensitive advice, eventually driving the caller away.
Ms. Conway struggled to help the many callers, falling deeper and deeper into her own darkness. She eventually called the hotline herself. She asked the audience whether they could relate to her feelings, and to stand up if they did. Everyone stood up, expressing solidarity with Ms. Conway and each other.
In several Nintendo‑esque mini‑games, the audience helped Ms. Conway collect “life points” (red balloons and small balls) to help her fight the darkness. She asked the audience to read aloud some of her negative thoughts, which she bopped away with an inflatable mallet. These games were super fun, and brought the audience together. Many people experience similar feelings of isolation, no matter what the darkness leads you to believe.
Ms. Conway’s show invites the audience to work through difficult emotions through collective play. In her fight against the darkness, she returns to what made her happy during childhood: playing video games. She realizes that classic video games are a useful lens through which to address adult problems. As long as we can play games together, we don’t have to face our emotional challenges alone.
“Super Awesome World”
Written and Performed by Amy Conway
Nov. 5 at 7:30pm
Direction, Sound & Video Design: Rob Jones
Production Manager: Sarah Wilson
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
DONASIA SYKES is a freelance writer currently based out of Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BA in English and Textual Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing from Syracuse University, where she saw and performed in various small stage shows.