Dark Souls: A reflection of depression and a way to cope?


Within a depressive episode the world can feel dark, hopeless and even the most normal tasks can come to feel insurmountable. As described in one of this month’s post  part of helping yourself while in a depressive episode may take the form of finding some fun activities to do. This may include playing video games. Therefore, I referred you to our blog with recommended games . You will find most of these games are light, fun and relaxing. 

Recently however, I was contacted by a fellow researcher, Joost Vervoort , to discuss the potential benefits of a very different game series: Dark Souls. A series often described as dark and incredibly difficult. Honestly, one of the last games I would have considered as beneficial for those dealing with depression. More of a reflection of depression than a game that would help you cope.

My first impression may very well be wrong though. In learning more about Dark Souls, it indeed seems to draw some meaningful and deep parallels to depression. But more importantly for some players, the real struggle of the gameplay acknowledges the struggle they are experiencing in life while also encouraging perseverance. And through the harshness of the Dark Souls’ world players may experience true joy and agency. So, if relaxing and fun games do not help you, Dark Souls may be worth a try.

These ideas are beautifully articulated by one YouTube creator who publishes on the channel Writing on Games. The creator writes: ‘I'll start off by saying that yes, this video does talk about suicide, in a pretty matter-of-fact way (although sparing any gory details) - if you find that uncomfortable, please feel free to turn the video off. Last thing I want to do is cause any hurt to people. This video's message is ultimately meant to be very positive (at least from my perspective).’ So if you are comfortable with that, please have a look:

In the next few months, Joost and I will be setting up a study into Dark Souls and its potential benefits. Have you played Dark Souls and had a similar or opposite experience? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Marlou Poppelaars

I am a Postdoctoral researcher passionate about internalizing psychopathology prevention and the use of technology and innovation for this purpose while stimulating intrinsic motivation. I love to read, cook and bake everything delicious. Working on finishing my dissertation and Two Dots (Level 3682 and counting).


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