Sometimes, Fighting Depression Means Beating 'Dark Souls' Using Dance Pads
Louis "ATwerking Yoshi" Hamilton hasn't had an easy life, but overcoming ridiculous challenges, sometimes involving bananas, has helped.
Image courtesy of Bandai Namco
If you’ve been on the Internet, you’ve read an article about how someone beat a Dark Souls game in a weird way. Maybe they were blindfolded, playing upside down, or with a weird controller. There’s also a chance you reading or watching Louis “ATwerkingYoshi” Hamilton. He recently beat Dark Souls 3 on a dance pad, but it was hardly his strangest feat; he’s also finished the game with a Wii steering wheel, Donkey Konga bongo drums, and, uh, bananas.
Did I mention the time he beat the final boss of Dark Souls 3 with a fishing controller?
There’s a lot of reasons why a person might fall into schtick like this. For one, it’s difficult to stand out as a streamer, so having a gimmick helps you fight through the noise. And while it’s true Hamilton takes his streaming seriously, that’s not why he’s always looking for a new way to try and play one of his favorites. It’s because it helps him work through depression.
“My depression mostly comes from life,” he told me recently. “Being a minority, living paycheck to paycheck for the past adult years of my life, and feeling like I have to work twice, maybe three times as hard because of conditions I did not have control over. To deal with depression, personally I tried to learn something or set a goal to beat.”
Those goals were numerous, including everything from beating games to graduating college.
Around the time he started school, not long after the Great Recession, his parents lost their jobs. Hamilton’s family wasn’t exactly skating down easy street before, so things only got worse. His father needed back surgery, which further drained their finances. He was able to stay in college, but the only way he could earn just enough to cover food and rent was working seven days a week, with loans and scholarships making up the slack. Life was paycheck-to-paycheck.
“I remember living off of $20-$40 a week for almost four years straight,” he said. “It was a struggle not being able to afford basic life things. I remember having to choose between buying food or buying new clothes. Do I want a haircut or should I put some of my fund into cleaning supplies for the week? I was so skinny [and] possibly malnourished, it's scary to look at old pictures of me.”
This was hardly the only stressor, either; at college, suddenly his race was an issue. Half African American and half Filipino, Hamilton grew up in a wildly diverse area, meaning his race was often a moot point. That wasn’t the case in college. Sketchy encounters with police, random accusations of theft—whatever stereotype you can imagine, Hamilton likely saw it.
Being the oldest, Hamilton felt pressure to finish college, by whatever means necessary. All of this contributed to his depression, and video games became a comforting outlet.
In between classes and work, his friend group would pass the hours with games. One day, a friend stumbled upon his old Dance Dance Revolution mats for PlayStation 2. Another person pulled out a copy of Street Fighter II, and the eureka moment: Why not together?
“It didn't take long for us to find out how fun it was trying to do combos with your feet,” he said. “Shortly after that we wondered what would it be like if we played games with DDR pads. I figured out how to get the inputs to work on an emulator and tried out Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. It was fun trying to beat a game I've beaten many times before but with a different controller scheme. I guess I got hooked after that.”
Hamilton would, despite adversity, graduate. and it’s around this time when Hamilton was introduced to Twitch. His gaming stunts were primarily about personal accomplishment and group amusement, but on Twitch, absurdity wasn’t just rewarded—you could get paid, too.
Like a lot of people these days, he wondered “Why not me?”
His first challenge involved beating Dark Souls 3 with dance pads. (He was not the first to do this.) Crucially, he hadn’t played Dark Souls 3 before—this was a blind run. 44 hours later, the game went down, and Hamilton experienced his first brushes with success. Outlets like Polygon wrote about him. It was an enormous morale boost for Hamilton, external validation for the hard work he’d put in.
Things escalated from there, as Hamilton tried to turn Twitch into a part-time job. That’s when the Donkey Konga bongo drums came in. His experiments weren’t limited to Dark Souls, either. He would play games like Overwatch with everything from a hair dryer to a Ouija board. He made a controller out of a Mountain Dew bottle, too.
Hamilton’s most popular video came a few years ago, when he got a kill (and win) in League of Legends with a dance pad.
His brush with fame proved, as it often does, temporary. On the plus side, he’d secured an internship at Gearbox Software, a job he would eventually be hired full-time for. But Twitch remained one of his great passions, even though it wasn’t growing at the pace he’d hoped.
(Related: The Verge’s Patricia Hernandez reported a terrific piece recently about the people who spend days, months, and years streaming to an audience of no one.)
“I honestly believe that working so hard on my Twitch channel and not showing any results really put me in a depression when it came to streaming,” he said.
Even Hamilton’s moment in the sun had drawbacks. The more people knew about him, the more people would talk shit, and try to cast doubt on the work he was putting into his stream.
“The more attention I got, the worst they got,” he said. “I saw how bad comments were in videos I watched on YouTube, but I understood what content creators had to deal with until I dealt with it. What contributed to my depression was putting a ton of work into my passion, only to have people downplay it.”
He found the racism easier to deal with than people downplaying his accomplishments.
“The more attention I got, the worst they got.I saw how bad comments were in videos I watched on YouTube, but I understood what content creators had to deal with until I dealt with it. What contributed to my depression was putting a ton of work into my passion, only to have people downplay it.”
“As someone who's been black on the Internet for quite a while and also spent many years on Xbox Live, nothing surprises me anymore,” he said. “Putting 40+ hours [into a challenge], doing something that no one really has, only to hear ‘This doesn't count because he used [insert whatever weapon].’ Or ‘It must be nice to not have a life,’ ‘This guy should go get a real job,’ ‘This dude needs to go outside.’ Those kind of comments got to me.”
It’s not like Hamilton ever really left streaming, as he continued to post videos where he’d play everything from Bloodborne to Breath of the Wild with strange controller setups, but his interest was waning. For whatever reason, he wanted to give Dark Souls 3 with a dance pad another run. There was nothing daring about this; it’d be a repeat of what he’s already done.
But that run is what set him on this path to begin with, and would bring things full circle.
“I felt so much self-doubt in even thinking about trying the run again,” he said. “I would think of the articles and comments people made about my previous run and would get discouraged to do the run again.”
He pressed on. What he anticipated taking a week or two, however, took two months.
“Some nights,” he said, “depression would get the best of me and discouraged me to continue the run. There were weeks where I just didn't even want to think about the challenge run.”
A few weeks back, everything clicked into place. Hamilton was blazing through boss fights, his confidence building with every strike and dodge. Then, the Soul of Cinder went down.
“All my self-doubt that came from the online scene felt like it has disappeared,” he said. “I stopped feeling as down in the dumps as I did before the run. Depression-wise, I still have things to work on. But after beating Dark Souls with my feet, I feel like I just had a well earned victory over it!”
Hamilton has made peace with streaming a hobby, rather than a job, but he’s feeling inspired again. In the past, he’s experimented with building custom controllers, like modifying a Wii remote to act as a motion control-driven boxing glove for playing Doomfist in Overwatch. He is currently designing a keyblade controller to be used on an upcoming Kingdom Hearts run.
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