Darkest Dungeon's Great Gift

"The best loot isn’t up in the starting area, it’s down in the dragon’s hoard."

I’ve pulled up Darkest Dungeon again, and I’m determined to beat it. I love this game.

Darkest Dungeon, like Dark Souls, gives tenacious players a great gift - thicker skin in the face of failure. Anyone who has beaten Ornstein and Smough has failed over and over, and was probably really frustrated at some point. They were certainly the victim of both random chance and unlucky timing, and many “YOU DIED” screens.

Darkest Dungeon is a game built upon random chance. When so many of the game’s mechanics include a roll of the dice, you are forced to come face-to-face with your reaction when things don’t go your way. I put the game down last year after getting halfway through my first run, deciding that it was really fun and had a compelling game loop, but that I couldn’t put up with the chance elements of the game.

This year I’ve been learning a ton about myself, and one of my biggest discoveries is that I’m pretty darn failure-averse. Dark Souls took me a couple years to beat, because I would get frustrated and put it down and blame the game and decide “I don’t care about this anyways.” All of my PS2 controllers are beat up because as a frustrated teen I would throw them on the ground when things didn’t go my way in whatever game I was playing.

I look back now and see how many things I’ve talked myself out of because I didn’t think I was ready, or convinced myself that it wasn’t worth the time when in reality I was just too afraid to try.

This is of course connected to a myriad of other personal issues, including some serious negative self-talk (if you struggle with this like me I recommend starting with this exercise). These are challenging and debilitating habits that take practice and conscious effort to overturn.

Games provide us with a wealth of opportunities to confront failure. They give us a chance to pay attention to how we act in defeat, and most importantly, how we treat ourselves when we fail. They afford us chance upon chance to practice healthy responses when things don’t go our way, and teach us that the only way forward is by overcoming the challenges in our path. The best loot isn’t up in the starting area, it’s down in the dragon’s hoard.

There is an opening pop-up in the title screen for Darkest Dungeon, wherein the first sentence states: “Darkest Dungeon is about making the most of a bad situation.” To me, this is a game about making the most out of life.

Akash Thakkar has a great video about dealing with failure that I wholly recommend.

Check out Darkest Dungeon if you haven’t, it’s awesome!

PS - I love the Houndmaster. He’s super versatile and has a healing ability where he hugs his doggo. 10/10 that’s my Darkest Dungeon character.