Dark Souls probably isn’t the first game that comes to mind when you think about games that help with depression. It’s punishingly difficult, with swift deaths waiting around every corner. The game’s world is hopelessly bleak. It’s about the furthest thing from cheerful that you’ll find.
But that’s just what some players need.
Motherboard spoke with fans on the Dark Souls subreddit who credit the game with not only helping them through their depression, but with saving their lives (content warning: discussion of suicide). They brought up both the darkness of the world and the difficulty of its combat as things that have helped them cope.
“Depression can feel like you’re in a bleak world that’s ending,” he said. “You get up and you have a choice. Do I try today or do I just duct tape tin foil over my windows and stay in bed all day? Waking up in the morning can be like waking up next to a bonfire after you’ve died in the game. You have to decide whether you go on or not.”
Players make a decision every time they get their ass kicked by a boss or an environment in Dark Souls, Delaney said. Do they keep going, or are they going to never play again because it’s too damn hard? To be more specific, he said Dark Souls helped him because it put me in situations that felt impossible.
“I can reflect on what I’ve been through in the game and I can tell myself, ‘Hey, you beat Ornstein and Smough [the bosses in the game where many people quit]. If you can do that, you can get out of bed today and try to be a decent human being.’”
Others learned the benefits of persevering when death is commonplace, or connected with the idea of going hollow, the state between life and death in Dark Souls.
Just as players can find their way back from going hollow, they’ve learned to find their way back from their darkest moments.