May 25, 2018
The Art of Dying
in Gaming Art
I haven’t died enough. After every defeat, I’m returning to the closest bonfire to once again force myself through the unstoppable obstacle. And - to my surprise - after traveling to the place where I left my souls - I prevailed. And then went further. But a slight misstep, bravado, an ambush or tougher enemy tempered my excitement. Then I’ve died again. And loved every part of it.
I’m merely a freshman of Souls experience since I’ve started my journey around 2016. Until then, I’ve blasphemously considered Dark Souls a nuisance, an unnecessary trigger for anger management. You have to understand. I was an angry man. There’re lots of emotions I’ve suppressed to prevent them from exploding. By that time I understood Souls as a gaming equivalent of masochists dreams came true. I wasn’t far from that description when I’ve started playing Demon’s Souls - which are considered a template for Dark Souls.
What motivated me to play besides the price obviously? Curiosity and fascination. By that time few of my friends that I wouldn’t even expect to be called gamers - almost drilled me a new hole with their tireless nagging.
I’ve launched Demon’s Souls.
And few moments later I’ve died. And then I’ve repeated dying a lot.
I was on the verge of rage quitting but some unspoken need of exploration and curiosity kept me going. It took me about 15 or 16 attempts to open the main gate to Bolaterian Palace. After that, twice as many to beat the first boss, Phalanx. I had to take breaks to unwind because all that emotions started to boil. But not once I've thrown my pad.
Not the masochists dreams, but an endless trial towards victory, towards feeling powerful, towards getting good.
It's hard to admit but It took me almost a year - with breaks for work, other activities or just to keep my cool - to finally finish the game. But my thoughts were revolving around the game almost all the time. I remember asking my friend if he had episodes when he couldn’t think of anything else beside the game 24/7, at which he replied that he was not aware of it. I’ve then realised I’m seriously addicted to the Souls experience.
Without a second thought I’ve approach Dark Souls like 'a boss' I felt after beating Demon’s Souls. Oh boy I was wrong. After I’ve picked a warrior as my starting class and chosen the pendant as my “gift” - didn’t want to get a handicap at the beginning - I roamed through the Undead Asylum. It was moderately easy for ‘the boss’ of DeS. I’ve stumbled upon first serious obstacle - Asylum Demon - and only experience with the previous game prevented me from shitting my pants. After beating the guy after second try (later I’ve learned he can be killed at the first encounter) a giant raven brought me before Firelink Shrine, a quiet and soothing place, the closest one I could call safe haven. The comforting thought that I can return here when the things go south was something I was quite familiar with - the Nexus from Demon’s Souls worked similarly, but was separated from the open-world experience. Here, I’ve soon realised the Dark Souls is an interconnected labyrinth-of-a-world, with shortcuts and level design solutions I’m still in awe with. The bonfire I’ve humbly curled up before was first of many. I’ve toughen up, readied myself, stretched the tongues of near NPCs, and got to work.
By now, starting from Firelink Shrine my journey spanned across 60 hours full of struggles, deaths, victories, more deaths, rinse repeat. My cocky attitude wandered off. I’ve learned my place. I was a filthy casul again. I had to git gud.
The deaths hadn’t scared me, although there were many. I’ve lost track but I know some did not, as one man made the map of all players deaths in Dark Souls. Several bloodstains are mine to be sure. The death in Dark Souls serves a purpose though. Aside of its plot mechanic - and gameplay, obviously - death serves educational purpose. It’s a pure learning experience. If I died, it’s my fault. What have I done wrong? I have to figure out by trial and error. Patience is the key. Contrary to many opinions, Dark Souls is not really difficult game. It mainly exploits the mistakes players do when blinded by frustration and lack of patience. Keeping emotions in check is critical for victory. Single misstep might result in another “You Died” screen. Perseverance is a virtue. Especially at the end of every boss battle. Almost all the time, I’ve caught myself at the edge of the seat, knees weak, palms sweaty. Adrenaline rushing in, trying to stay calm when victory was just ahead. That’s when bravado set in and with it, a “greed mentality”.
'Shit I’ll reach this guy with another hit.' But I don’t, because my stamina bar is depleting faster than my bank account. My greediness just costed me starting from the last bonfire. With it, every enemy respawned and ready to frustrate me once again. Rinse repeat.
By the way, I’m one of the lucky ones, who traveled to the bottom of Blighttown at my first try. I’ve methodically killed one enemy after another thus slightly reducing the infamous lag. However how many times I’ve died near the Quelaag's Domain is another story for another time. Yesterday, with 60 hours in, I’ve defeated Pinwheel in the Catacombs. Now I want to reach Anor Londo again (I was looking to meet with Gwyndolin but I haven’t obtained Darkmoon Seance Ring - thus my detour to Catacombs) and go through it properly.
I know my journey is far from end but every defeat will bring me closer to finish. Then after I close the chapter of Dark Souls, I will start Dark Souls II, and after that, Dark Souls III. Maybe even Bloodborne in the meantime. And another FromSoftware game (that one announced at E3 2018). And after I’ll end this one as well, I’ll come back to Dark Souls Remastered - which is out today - and I will die again, and again, and again. Because after what I’ve experienced I know with certainty: I won’t die enough.
Praise the Sun!