May you find your worth in the waking world.

If you're a regular browser of any of the soulsborne subreddit you've probably at least once set eyes upon a post (or ten) that essentially boils down to "dark souls cured my depression and made my dick 3 inches longer". Well I'm here to tell you it's all true! and that there are lonely singles hosts in need of a concord kept in your area.

Saying what you already know: Miyazooki teaches you to fail

Many people in their life have never been given an opportunity to fail gracefully. They structure their life around avoiding failure entirely. Being uncomfortable is a way of life for many, because life is essentially one long gambit of "don't fuck this up ol' boy". Anything from as simple as talking to that cute cashier to something more intense like a job interview can be nerve-wracking because you're staring down the barrel of failure, wishing you were at home doing your thing and the pressure was off. This weighs on people until they no longer see the positives in life, but rather one long gauntlet of pressures and trials. Life is quite a daunting path if you look down it that way.

Enter sandman Demon's Souls. What a game you say breathlessly. Another world full of archaic shit, enemies packing heat, and a general apathetic attitude towards whether or not you exist. You're not the hero of this journey, you're a soul trapped in the nexus with a daunting digital world staring you in the face telling you it's going chew you up and spit you out. It commands respect, but also gives you respect in equal measures. The tools are handed to you, the direction given, and all that remains if you're will and ability to overcome those challenges.

The magical pieces are already in place, this is an opportunity for the player to attempt intimidating challenges that look unwinnable. Through failure and adaptation the player begins to understand they can overcome these challenges. That they aren't that impassible after all. Challenges begin to reshaped from "that's impossible" to "That time was close" and "I'll get him next time!". The fact that you're currently failing stops necessarily mattering, failure and struggle is becoming a critical part of success.

Souls is the only game I consider art.

That was a pretty heavy jock-rider title so hear me out. The core difference between an interactive medium like games and an uninteractive medium like movies, pictures, or books is participant agency. The tool that ultimately renders games fundamentally different from those other artistic mediums is that the viewer is an active participant within the art. With regards to that, soulsborne games are the only creation within the medium that I feel fully captures that unique defining feature. Souls games are ultimately about one thing. You, the player. The enigmatic setting and backdrop are fed to you slowly, but the main feature of the game is your struggle as an insignificant undead. The narrative of DS1 even captures this, by framing the game as dichotomies, where your success is not measured in anything but the resilience of your purpose (hollowing). Narratively your first hand emotions when faced with this world is the story.

Traditionally the player is thrust into a far more passive role, understanding narrative from observation. Eliciting those feelings not through direct player participation, but through second hand empathy with another character. In "The Last of Us" we are thrust into the role of Joel almost begrudgingly, we do not experience joel's emotions but rather sympathize with them. All the defining moments of the games narrative we are passively along for the ride, only conjured forth like some sort of avatar state when there is violence that needs to be doled out or more often ladders/planks that need to be placed to buy time for the characters to interact in a way for us to empathize with.

Souls games on the other hand tell the story through you, not to you. This is why they are so powerful for allowing people to actualize ideas/feelings they previously couldn't access. The struggle to overcome challenges is genuinely your struggle. It allows me to sympathize with a character like Siegmeyer. Despite his almost goofy appearance and mannerisms, he is powerful and memorable because I understand him. I understand his struggle and his failure, because I share that struggle and failure. Likewise, gaining victory is both earned, cherished, and owned by me the player. This is not some characters triumph over adversity, this is my triumph over adversity. When you struggle with nameless kingler/flamelurker/midir/arty and set the controller down or take a break to collect yourself. We are not being shown a crestfallen character overwhelmed and temporarily broken and asked to understand their plight, we are the crestfallen character. We aren't perceiving someones willpower being frayed by an insurmountable challenge, we experience it. When I got this song after crossing the final hurdle, it feelsgoodman genuinely felt like a befitting reward not just a credits song. This was not a game designed to tell the player a story, it isn't even a game meant to be finished. Many games are designed to bring you through to the end like an amusement ride, Soulsborne is more like a personal journey the player is tasked to complete. This directness of experience is what allows people to apply the lessons introspectively so easily. Being shown a concept and asked to internalize it isn't nearly as effective as facilitating someone understanding the concept through personal experience. It's also why this community is so wonderful, we're all companions on FromSoft's wild ride.

Though enchanted by the dream, he/she remained strong, and eventually saw the light of dawn. …I pray you have found meaning, and comfort, in the waking world.

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