I’ve been a gamer since I can remember. The language and visuals of video games are ingrained in my subconscious to the point where I frequently dream in video game format. I played The Legend of Zelda for hours when I was six, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and obsessively trying to find every temple and every secret, but having to start over again every day because for some reason, my save file never worked. My love of gaming never diminished, either. As an adult, my favorite game became Skyrim, and I explored its realms as intensely as I had explored Hyrule as a child.
When I heard about Let’s Plays, well… While I wouldn’t criticize someone for enjoying them, I thought it was stupid. Why would you want to watch someone play video games while jabbering obnoxiously? I understand watching them for the purposes of finding out good strategies for games you might get stuck on, but just watching a Let’s Play for fun? What are you gaining from that?
Well, one day I wanted to see if The Evil Within 2 looked like it was worth buying, so I searched YouTube for a game play video. I clicked on one from IGN, because I figured they would have a quality video with pertinent info. Oh, ugh. There are people talking over it. I bet they think they’re funny, but they’re really just obnoxious. I’ll give this video five minutes. If it sucks, I’ll find a different one.
Oh, wow, they’re actually really fucking funny.
I’ll share with you the joke that convinced me to keep watching the video, because it’s still one of my favorites:
“I didn’t even know there were zombies in it before he said.” “What did you think it was gonna be? Evil Within?” “Well, The Evil Within… so… racism, or something.”
After that video, I was hooked. For anyone reading this who is not familiar, I’ll give you a quick rundown: This series was titled “Prepare to Try,” and it was created for IGN in 2016. It started off as a challenge, pitting a gamer, completely inexperienced with the crushingly difficult Souls-type games, against the original Dark Souls, attempting to finish it before the release of Dark Souls 3, roughly a month later. Rory Powers held the controller, while Dan Krupa gave insight into the rich lore of the series, and Gav Murphy kept the banter going. Eventually, the series grew and produced play throughs of Dark Souls 3, Resident Evil, Bloodborne, Cuphead, and more. All of which I’ve now watched at least twice and still enjoy.
Everything about the series was a pleasant surprise. It was informative, funny, and exciting. At the same time I was laughing my ass off, I was learning about the background of whatever game they were playing. I was also glad to find out how progressive their views were, as they often made remarks decrying sexism, racism, and homophobia. In the wake of fiascos like Gamergate, when so many people associate geek culture with toxic behavior and bigotry, this series stood out as a brilliant contrast to all that negativity. Their zany humor, positivity, and frequent Simpsons joke references charmed me.
Cut forward to 2018. I’d pretty much never been lower in my life. Financial problems, the death of a friend, and familial turmoil, to name just a few things I was dealing with. It had come to a point where I was pretty sure there was no reason to keep living, and the best I could hope for was the dignity of being able to check myself out of a miserable, humiliating existence. Insomnia set in, giving these noxious thoughts plenty of time to ferment in my head. It was too easy to think of ways to put an end to it all, too many methods that were within arm’s reach. I had to drown out those thoughts. Distract myself. So I’d binge watch Prepare to Try.
I’m not sure why, but it was the only thing that made me smile. I would still be crying, but I found myself laughing through the tears.
Struggling with depression is like climbing up the side of a cliff above a whirlpool. You search for a foothold, a grip, anything to keep yourself from falling, be it friends, pets, hobbies, whatever… Just something that keeps you above the water another day. And eventually those days turn to weeks, months, years, a lifetime. It is about survival. And whether profound or simple, anything that keeps you going becomes close to your heart.
I soon found that my experience wasn’t unusual. Within the following that sprung up around Prepare to Try, there were many who said the series had helped them cope with their depression. Joining their unofficial Facebook group, I found that their fans are some of the nicest damn people on the internet, being very supportive of each other and happy to talk with fellow fans who reach out in the midst of personal struggles.
There’s a recurring joke on Prepare to Try: When struggling with some simple task like going up an elevator, opening a door, etc, they’ll ask, “Is this a Boss?” and laugh at the absurdity of laboring with what’s literally the easiest part of the game. But in a way, silly as it sounds, that’s a great metaphor for living with depression. Sometimes, getting out of bed and making breakfast is a Boss. Cleaning your room is a Boss. Walking to the store is a Boss. Things that should be easy become arduous under the weight of depression, and sometimes you beat the Boss, and sometimes, you just have to try again.
I never expected to gain so much from watching people play video games. It sounds so ridiculous. It’s one of the last things I would have thought would help me fight against my suicidal inclinations, but there’s no denying that it gave me great comfort in one of the worst periods of my life. I think their Bloodborne play through, in particular, is a great analog for life: You’re not equipped for this, everything is trying to kill you, there are spiders everywhere, and nobody has any idea what’s going on, but you keep trying. And sometimes you have to respawn and start all over again with nothing, but you keep trying.
You. Keep. Trying.
I’d like to mention that, while the Prepare to Try series has ended, Rory, Krupa, and Gav have moved on to found their own channel, RKG, and will be releasing their long-awaited play through of Dark Souls 2 very soon. I encourage you to check it out, as well as the content on their old Prepare to Try channel on YouTube.
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