Hello and welcome to You Died: The Dark Souls Companion – an entirely unofficial book about one of the most extraordinary video games ever conceived, Dark Souls, and the world’s communal experience of playing it. The book’s authors Keza MacDonald and Jason Killingsworth, two inexhaustibly enthusiastic long-time Souls devotees and games writers, spent well over a year talking to members of the Dark Souls community and gathering their stories from the muckiest depths of Blighttown to the highest reaches of the Duke’s Archives.
Dark Souls is a fascinating anomaly in the world of video games, so challenging and so intriguingly opaque that even years after it was released, we’re still puzzling out its secrets. It’s made an indelible imprint on everyone who’s played it. Every single person who’s finished Dark Souls has been through the same harrowing, exhilarating journey, triumphed over the same near-impossible odds, and seen the words YOU DIED flash up on-screen approximately 10,000 times. It’s a game that creates stories, little mini-narratives of unlikely triumph and fearful discovery.
This book is the story of Dark Souls and the slightly mad people who play it. It has three questions at its heart: where did Dark Souls come from, what makes it so special, and why are we all so obsessed with it? It’ll dive deep into the lore of the game and the stories that its players have created around it. It will, we hope, be of interest to anyone who’s tasted Dark Souls’ mystery – whether you ever made it past Anor Londo or not.
You can drop us a note on Twitter @YouDiedBook or grab a copy of the book directly from our distributor here.
Hello! I’m Keza MacDonald, and I’ve spent the last year or so wrenching this book into the realms of possibility. This is me, with a great friend of mine:
My Souls obsession was born in Japan, where I spent a chunk of my early 20s learning the language and being generally irresponsible in my spare time. I bought Demon’s Souls from a game shop in the early months of 2009 and very quickly realised that it was quite possibly the best thing I had ever played in a lifetime of video game exploration (and many years of writing about them professionally). My review of that game, for Eurogamer, was the first English-language review of a Souls game on the Internet, to the best of my knowledge. It was part of a gradually snowballing word-of-mouth movement that eventually saw Demon’s Souls released across the world – and which eventually led to its sequel, Dark Souls.
Man, Dark Souls. What a game. When it came out I spent 24 hours playing it live on video for my then-employers, IGN, in a stream that was sadly never archived. We got to Ornstein and Smough on about hour 8 and then spent the rest of the time trying increasingly outlandish ways to beat them. I went away for a four-hour sleep at one point, and by the time I came back, my dear colleagues had killed literally every single NPC in the entire world in a desperate search for Humanity (it wasn’t a rat-drop in that pre-release code). Once again: what a game. My review of Dark Souls was also the first one on the Internet, thanks to IGN’s pulling-power with exclusives – the video version of it has been watched over a million times.
Soon afterwards, our own struggles became part of the shared story of hundreds of thousands of people, all making their way through this fascinatingly opaque world. I learned so much more about the game, its lore and its many intricacies than I would ever, ever have been able to figure out on my own. I watched Dark Souls unfurl as a phenomenon and I’d never seen anything like it.
I’m now the Editor of Kotaku UK, a website about the culture of games and the people who play them. Pretty soon I’ll have been a games journalist for an entire decade, which is a frankly ridiculous span of time, but it’s games like Dark Souls that keep me doing it. Souls’ subtlety, artfulness and wide-ranging influence are unmatched anywhere else in video games. I hope this book will be an adequate testament to this extraordinary game and how much it means to me and the 2.4 million other people who’ve squared up to its challenges.
Author Jason Killingsworth
Hey Souls fans, my name is Jason Killingsworth and I have the pleasure/privilege of co-authoring an upcoming book about Dark Souls with fellow Souls addict Keza MacDonald. (Jolly co-operation or gtfo!) To say I’m excited would be quite the understatement. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my byline from previous articles I’ve written about the Souls series for Edge, Official Xbox Magazine UK, Official PlayStation Magazine UK and GamesMaster, I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself. Something to keep you occupied while waiting for Bloodborne’s loading screen to finish untangling the meaning of life.
I’m currently a senior writer for Riot Games, the publisher behind League of Legends, working out of the company’s EU headquarters in Dublin. Before fence-hopping to to the development side of the industry, I worked for over a decade as a journalist and arts critic. That’s me in the photo above, on the right, grinning like a lottery winner next to my favourite game developer Hidetaka Miyazaki during a visit to FromSoftware’s Tokyo offices.
I’m a huge Souls nerd. I’ve visited From on two separate occasions: once to profile the studio shortly after the release of Dark Souls, and two years later, I returned to gather material for Edge’s Dark Souls II cover story and global reveal, interviewing project leads and learning first-hand from Hidetaka Miyazaki the regrettable news that he wouldn’t be meaningfully involved in the sequel’s development. It was fun to watch EpicNameBro devote a whole video to discussing that cover feature. I interviewed Miyazaki on a third occasion in central London while he was visiting to oversee VO recording sessions for the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. He’s a luminescent chap, full of sunlight, and I look forward to sharing more detailed impressions in the book.
As far as my professional backstory goes, I’ve been fortunate to have a career that’s given me the excuse to chat with interesting people in a variety of creative disciplines. Prior to the job as Edge’s features editor, I was the deputy editor for Paste, a U.S. music and film magazine. It was a dream job full of memorable assignments: getting stranded in a fishing village in Iceland’s Westfjords, waiting for a blizzard to pass while researching a story on Icelandic songwriter Mugison; spending an afternoon in a NYC editing bay with Scarlett Johansson and Craig McKay (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), as they worked on a cut of Johansson’s short film These Vagabond Shoes; passing my work days sifting through bins lined with CDs (RIP physical media), digging for albums that might one day hit gold. In summary, my 20s did not suck.
Of all the inspired albums, movies and games that I’ve fixated on over my career, however, none of them captured my imagination as fully as Dark Souls. It’s a singular work. More to the point, a singular world. I’ve always felt a compulsion to prove my devotion to the game, which is why I undertook the quest to complete the game at soul level 1 and join the OneBro ranks. On a separate character, I persisted to NG++ to secure The Dark Soul achievement for 100% completion. Yet here I am, still thinking about Lordran, yearning to deposit more words of appreciation on the game’s icy doorstep.
This book will be an ambitious project, yet I’m ready to take the advice of all those online pranksters who never tired of urging me to do one deceptively straightforward thing: