Join us in our new series where we talk about why games matter. In this first episode I share how Dark Souls helped me through a really rough period in my life. Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Why Games Matter: Zach’s Story
Welcome to the Raccoopod! This is going to be the start of a smaller series in our podcast. We wanted to have an open and honest dialogue about the power that games can have and what they have done for us. I’m your host Zach Bearinger, and Today we are going to talk about one of the most impactful games I have ever experienced.
In order to set the stage for how much games have helped me we have to go into my state of mind. I was entering into my second year of university and my first year as a resident assistant. After my first semester my grades had dropped a bit and I was feeling stressed about being a good RA for my residents. I suffer from pschlothemia which has long periods of depression or mania. During this time I was struck hard with a deep depressive swing. I found myself waking up every morning, opening my eyes and questioning if it was worth continuing on. I found myself struggling with thoughts of suicide every couple of days. It was a dark time for me.
It was during this time when the first dark souls game released, I had a resident who was really excited and had got me excited for it as well. So on release day we headed over to pick up our copies and headed home excited to play.
By playing the original Dark Souls I found myself up against a game that seemed too difficult and was going to be something that I couldn’t ever beat. However every attempt I made I found myself making improvements becoming better at the game until I could conquer the challenge in front of me. Then the game would throw something harder and harder and harder and I eventually hit the point where one of the last bosses I fought I was able to beat on my first try. I had gone from someone who struggled with some of the easiest enemies to someone who beat a late stage boss on my first try. The sense of accomplishment I felt at that moment was something I don’t know if I’ll ever forget, and it seems weird to have that be a moment I won’t forget but during that period I was feeling less and less like I was worthwhile and everything I touched was a failure. But through Dark Souls I realized that those perceptions I had about my life just weren’t true, that I did have value, and that I could always do more than I imagined if I would continue to push myself beyond my current limits. That’s just one example of the power a game has in my life where I have been uplifted by many different games for different reasons.
Ok so games have some value outside of just entertainment but how can we apply something like this for gamification. After all Dark Souls required years of development and cost millions of dollar to make. If we want to have gamification in more things we need to distill lessons from larger projects so that we can apply them on a smaller scale. What can we learn from my story with Dark Souls? There are a couple lessons we can learn but we’ll stick to 3. First is that being in a game world you are able to fail with far more freedom than the real world. There is a well known mechanic from Dark Souls where when you die you lose all your currency and have to return to where you died to recover your currency. This meant that failing would give you an immediate goal on your next attempt, get at least as far as you were and recover your gains. And it’s a great segway into the second lesson we can learn setting effective goals. At the start of the game you have a long term goal, a medium goal and a short term goal. Each of your goals leads to the next, short term can either be recovery or exploration, medium is to meet the next boss and overcome them and long term are to ring the two bells of awakening, defeat the 4 Lord Souls and to best the final boss. Lastly feedback in providing you a sense of direction is huge. In dark souls the world is expertly crafted and through subtle shifts in light, colour, and having differing looks makes it hard to get lost. At times you can clearly see where you are trying to get to and you can understand how things are interconnected. I’m gonna stop myself here as it’s too easy to completely dive into praising many of the design decisions that were made in crafting the dark souls experience.
If you would like to learn more about the power of games I would recommend checking out the Because Games Matter series on the Extra Credits youtube channel. Also subscribe to our youtube channel to see new episodes when they come out. You can also learn more about gamification and the raccoopack at raccoopack.media or by following us on social media. Have a great day.