The healing power of videogames and animals


This is a story about Loki the Cat and the mental health benefits of videogames and animals. This kind of ties in with my previous post about the Souls series of games and was directly inspired by this reddit post.

I have felt remarkably better the past couple weeks. Of course I’ve still had plenty to fret about and I am by no means ‘content’ (whatever the fuck that means these days) but I have definitely noticed a mellowing out.

It’s because of Dark Souls II but more specifically, it’s about videogame experiences that have the power to make you rethink your own life.

When I first started playing the Souls games it was December 2010 and it was just me and our cat, Loki. He was there with me the whole time I played Demon’s Souls.

Here he is hanging out in the fridge, for some reason.

LOKI FRIDGE“All of this is mine, K asshole?”

He sat with me every single night on the couch, spurring me on with his little cat nods and blinks whenever he saw I was getting stressed. Then when exhaustion took over and I stopped playing, he’d curl up next to me and sleep. Well either that or tear lamp shades to pieces and then wear them as some sort of defiant protest against lighting accessories:

loki lampHail to the king of Lamp

He was my travelling companion in this strange and troubling land. Whenever it got too real I would put down the controller and wrestle with him for a while. He always won.

Two years later and I’m in a new flat, playing Dark Souls and him and me him are there again, couch locked, just hanging like bros. He went missing about a month or so after moving in to the new place. We looked for him every night for a month and a half, in the process finding a pregnant stray cat that had been abandoned which we ended up adopting.

After fruitless searching and a huge poster campaign I get a call one day from the vicar that operated the church near our house. He had found Loki, who was at death’s door on the floor of the church after not eating or drinking for over a month. We got him to the vet and he fought all he could but died 3 days later. Dark Souls would be the last game he would ever witness me play and complete.

There’s a bit more to Loki’s story that I’m not going to go in to in this post as it isn’t relevant, but suffice to say his disappearance and subsequent re-emergence a month and a half later were very, very suspicious. This wasn’t just a simple case of a cat wandering off, there was something more nefarious going on and I still believe to this day that foul play was involved. It was after he died that I realised I was depressed. I know now that I’d been depressed long before that, but his death brought it to the surface and forced me to confront it. But I digress.

Now I’m playing DS2 and Loki is gone, and it feels like I need him there to get me through it. But now we have Shodan (the cat we found who is a carbon copy of Loki in both looks and temperament, only female) and a new puppy who loves it when I rage and hurl the controller across the room so I am not alone.

Every time I down a boss for the first time I think of Loki and those long nights years ago, it makes me sad. But then I look at the faces of our other animals and I’m spurred on again.

When I play these games I’m not myself any more. I’m a traveller in a  foreign land. I’m not a depressed thirty-something with an unsatisfying life, I am a lone warrior with a purpose and a reason to fight. The animals that accompany me on these journeys are not mere pets, they are my familiars, my totems, my friends.

The memories I have of Loki will never go away and even though I get sad when I think about him, I also smile when I remember how he was always by my side when I needed him the most. When I know I can escape to a world where my life can be whatever I want it to be, and that those trusty beasts are ready to come along for the ride, it reminds me that life can be good and that happiness is attainable.




  1. Some things I like about your post (a non-exhaustive, unsorted list):
    1) Your cat was called Loki. The table that all my best friends sat at at my wedding was called Loki.
    2) Your taste in videogames. DS1 ❤ ❤ ❤ – I'll play DS2 when it comes out on PC.
    3) How awesome animals are.
    4) You reminded me of how Raistlin had a soft spot for Gully Dwarves in the Dragonlance Chronicles.
    5) Loki's lampshade critiques – that photo and caption made me LOL.

    I used to think videogames were good for my mental health – now I'm not so sure. They're great for escapism and distraction, but I found them to just be a temporary relief – they never fixed anything. My problems were still there when I finished playing and sometimes they had escalated in severity due to my procrastination. I've barely touched a videogame since Christmas… and I don't miss them. Well, more accurately I don't miss playing them, though I like reading about them and watching videos of other people playing.

    I hope that one day you can feel like "a lone warrior with a purpose and a reason to fight", but in real life as well as in games.

    Thanks for being so entertaining.

    1. Video games are an inherit part of my life, I could never give them up. Sure they are a temporary escape, but then so is alcohol and I’d rather have Gamer’s Wrist than Alchy’s Liver.

      I’m not expecting them to fix anything, but they help deal with mundane reality in a way that nothing else (other than psychedelic drugs) can beat.

    1. It’s a loooong story and something definitely transpired that we will probably never know.

      Still, it gives me a good reason to go back one day and burn that fucking church down.

  2. I just want to say thank you for sharing your story. Sometimes it’s really hard justifying time spent on games to people who don’t need an outlet to cope with their daily life. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety for years now but find that concentrating on levelling up in a game, or following the storyline while watching a tv show is very comforting. Sometimes it’s a vital distraction that stops my anxiety from spiralling out of control. Sometimes it helps just to laugh out loud when your thoughts are starting to slide downhill. Pets are the greatest companions because they don’t ask questions or have unrealistic expectations. Good day or bad day they just take you as you are. Also, all the furry hugs you need. I’m sorry to hear about your cat, but I’m glad he was there for you. Loki is a super cool name btw.

I write nonsense so you don't have to. Although you can if you want...

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