When I’ve played Dark Souls or Bloodborne, I’ve noticed the rich, dark worlds, and the heartwrenching stories waiting to be discovered — but most of all, I notice how often I fail. I could probably afford to ‘git gud,’ but honestly, I don’t mind failing. I like getting up again and trying to reclaim my souls or echoes, then trying to get a bit further before I fall once more.
It’s strangely satisfying, even when I don’t succeed.
Over at The Cascade, Chris Towler takes a look at that loop of failure, and how struggling to keep getting back up feels a lot like the everyday struggles of coping with depression (Disclosure: Towler is a friend of mine).
The Undead are drawn to various locations in the series, usually by the false promise that in completing the quest given, the curse can be broken.
And that is where the Dark Souls series is less about any of the compelling lore, or immersive fantasy backdrop. What makes the series so interesting is the personal story it tells. And that story is yours. In playing the game, it implicitly asks you a very personal question: why go on? Why do you do this to yourself? You know the world is a brutal and unforgiving place, you will die many times, failure is assured, and you will lose everything, over, and over, and over again. So why do you press on in the face of overwhelming despair?
For anyone who knows depression, these questions will seem very familiar. In fact, the world of Dark Souls III itself probably feels very familiar. It is a world that is not just indifferent to you, but actively hostile to your existence. The feelings of loss, suffering, and being endlessly trapped in a cycle without hope are the quintessential symptoms of the condition.
But it’s not all bleak, because as Towler goes on to point out, we keep getting back up. No matter how many times our characters get smacked down, we keep pressing forward. No matter how many times we wake up feeling hopeless, we keep finding ways to face the day.
The Dark Souls series can be a metaphor for mental health issues in so many ways, but perhaps the most hopeful is this: no matter where we think our struggles will take us, no matter how hard things get, we always find a way back to our feet.