A couple of weeks ago, a friend retweeted someone’s public call for real-life stories involving the video game Dark Souls, collected for a potential book on this topic. It happens that I had one, so I emailed this person as directed.
They wrote me back this morning to ask about excerpting my writing for their own work, giving me the chance to read my original letter again at half a month’s distance. I readily agreed, of course — that being the reason for the mail at all — and find that I also feel like sharing that short email in public. So here it is!
I have a couple of blog posts about my personal experiences with this game, from a few of years ago. The first is about how I felt that the game had betrayed me; the second is about how it added further strain, at the time, to an already stressed relationship with my partner.
Despite the someday-I’ll-return language in both posts, I never did pick the game back up, or any other game quite like it. My partner — who has married me, since I wrote these — has made it very clear that she wants nothing to do with the person she would see me turn into when I played it. The closest I have come since involved a week or two playing Ingress last winter; I observed myself falling into an angry, selfish mode that reminded me too much of the nadir of my Dark Souls experience, and I walked.
Looking at the comments on the first post remind me how a part of me will always feel real and unironic shame over the fact that I have never ventured beyond the first areas in the Dark Souls game world. It makes me feel weak. The Gamergater curled around my brainstem snarls about how I’ve let myself become feminized, about how I’ll remain a sniveling milquetoast until I hand it the controller so it can play to the end this time, and to hell with anyone who gets in my way.
But that’s not me. I suppose this game, then, did have the positive effect of showing me what I can become when I allow my most selfish impulses to drive, and how this looks to other people. It’s too bad that this realization comes at the cost of my likely never being able to play this game which so many of friends have so thoroughly enjoyed, and which I myself loved, for the short time I played it.
Sometimes I say, to myself or out loud, “Maybe I’ll try Dark Souls again.” And immediately I think I sound like that guy from that one Kids in the Hall skit saying “Maybe I’ll let those monkeys out tomorrow.” Imagine being unable to watch, like, The Third Man or something, a film you know is objectively great, because doing so turns you (and only you) into a monster, somehow. That’s how I feel about Dark Souls. It still frustrates me. But not like that damn portcullis did, I suppose.