Because Games Matter – Light in the Dark

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Welcome back to our December full of your stories about why games matter. Today’s tale comes from Daniel Starkey. Enjoy!

I’d known it for months, but I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t face the idea the future that I had in my mind for years was just gone. I don’t like hard games. I-I mean, I personally don’t mind them so much, but more often than not they feel to me like they’re wasting my time, and on the off chance that I do find something special amidst the countless game-overs, I still come away from it feeling isolated. Most of my friends, most of my family, don’t play games at Casinoslots, but I review them for a living so when I come across one that really really speaks to me, I feel alone in that experience.

I can’t talk about the atmosphere in Metroid over a beer with my best friends. I can’t hash out the best strategies for “Spelunky”or “Dwarf Fortress” with the people that matter to me. It’s just crushing to know that I have a lifetime’s worth of memories that I can’t share with them. So I largely avoid tougher games. I go through most games on easy just so I get a good sense of what the game will be like if I do chose to show it to my friends and family. When my partner and I split, I was listless.

I kept trying to avoid processing my feelings I would seek out anyone and everyone I could to avoid being alone, but it only made the problem worse. What started as loneliness grew into the kind of gnawing isolation that left me feeling constantly alone Even when I was with my closest friends, I felt like there was a chasm between us and, in a sense, there was When I realized that, I understood it as a sign, a sign that I needed to take time and think, to process and mourn the relationship. A close colleague recommended “Dark Souls”.

I thought it was an odd suggestion after all, I had only heard the marketing slogans, the “prepare to die” tagline and the incessant wine from the hard-core Souls players that newbies just “Git Gud” I was not confident in this suggestion but he assured me “Dark Souls” helped him think through some things when he was struggling “It’s like martial arts” he told me “Believe me, you’ll see what I mean” It was halfway through my bout with Ornstein and Smough when I had “the moment” That pair comprised one of the toughest boss-fights in the original game Normally in “Souls” games you’re facing off against just one foe It lets you keep your shield up, play defensively, and dodge all over, whatever it is you need to do to avoid death. This fight is different. Smough is hefty and slow, but he attacks in massive arcs that cover a good chunk of the arena. Ornstein, with his long spear, is much more precise and also much quicker. For the first few bouts they seem almost impossible to handle They compliment one another so well that if you’re blocking one attack, you’re often open to assault from the other But then something in my mind shifted It’s the point that so many fans of the series joke about, it’s the you start living the game rather than playing it. And from that point on, it all made sense.

I could see the attack patterns, I could feel out how a foe would approach and where I needed to be to avoid getting hit. I wasn’t perfect by any means, but that was the exact moment that it sort of unfurled before me. Games, by and large, try to teach you certain skills. “Dark Souls” trains you to be patient and cautious.

This is a world where gargantuan dragons really will smear your broken body on the ground You cannot approach anything carelessly you have to wait, you have to be calm, you need to have control and self-restraint, and you have to be observant That realization changed “Dark Souls” for me I have a mental illness that can cause me to have a hard time managing my emotions I’m often described as “intense” and I’ve always been prone to outbursts When my partner and I separated, I said a lot of things that, to this day, I’m not proud of. I was rash and cruel Part of me was afraid of being forgotten, the idea that the years we spent together wouldn’t have meant anything Part of me was hurt by watching somebody who knew me so intimately slowly turn away, as if they were rejecting who I was That pain was excruciating and I felt like I lacked agency in my life Now obviously I can’t MAKE someone stay with me that’s not only wrong, but just not genuinely possible But, even knowing that, I felt like I was just being pushed down a path that I didn’t want to take Playing “Dark Souls” forced me to slow down and to start thinking about my choices carefully. The colleague that recommended the game to me knew that I had taken Judo and Kendo for years In both martial arts, you’re taught to consider, to adapt to what your opponent does both are largely sports of waiting, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have agency Making that connection when I did taught me how to regulate myself Just because I feel rudderless doesn’t mean that I am it doesn’t mean that I don’t have choice Taking time, reflecting on myself, is as valid as anything else That is not a line we hear often in games, perhaps even less so in life Our modern world is filled with externalities that push us to DO to press outwards instead of focusing on the internal Since that moment, I have found countless other lessons littered throughout the “Souls” series Asking for help from other payers when you simply don’t have the strength is sometimes necessary for some of the game’s tougher challenges, and, in fact, the player messages littered throughout the world, to me, are there showing that these places are not insurmountable Just because it seems difficult, just because you feel overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you can’t succeed Every not exclaiming “I did it!”

After a challenging boss fight is a testament to that No matter how good I get at these games they retain their edge Carelessness will always lead to an untimely death They serve as a reminder that personal growth is hard, life is hard! And sometimes it can be exhausting, sometimes it can be stressful, and sometimes it might seem overwhelming But I’m never alone, and others have been there and survived before me I can ask for advice, I can seek their help. That’s okay. But ultimately, my choices are my own and it will take constant effort to be the best person I can be But that effort is worth it because, through that personal vigilance, I have gained something beautiful; A feeling of comfort with myself, no matter where I am or who I’m with. Much like the once terrifying lands of Lordran have come to fell like a digital second home, games have helped anxiety and dejection become peace and focus for me.