It is abruptly cold in your house, or perhaps you’ve only just begun to notice. With your teeth, you pry your frozen fingers off of your controller, or perhaps your keyboard. You use your overclocked PC as a miniature stove, radiating a solid 93 degrees Celcius. As cogency and mobility slip back into your brain and body, you can finally take a step back and appreciate the game you’ve been playing. You were swept into the puzzling lore, its ghostly setting, its unnarrated abundance of in-universe history. Now, you start to really think what Dark Souls® is about.
You decline another concerned phonecall, a familiar motion, but distracting enough from your playthrough of Dark Souls® to result in another death. It just so happens you lost all your souls, again, all 744 of them. It’s enough to make you scream: the lack of a learning trajectory, the difficulty, the enemy variation. This game must be designed to punish you, and you alone. Your Youtube account has gotten a lot of subscribers since your last Dark Souls® analysis, so you flick on your webcam and take the plunge to talk about the gameplay.
When you think about it, nothing has to be difficult. But the game developers chose to make this a very difficult game and that makes me personally feel bad. When you really think about it, feeling bad is bad, Personally, I feel as if all interactive, artistic experiences must be geared toward some consigned, productive idea of ‘goodness’. When you really think about it, the fact that Dark Souls® doesn’t make me feel good makes it a bad game.
The comments pour in: one commenter disagrees, the other tells you ‘get gud[sic] scrub’, and another asks why you said ‘Dark Souls registered trademark’ out loud. You spit upon your computer monitor, dejected by your fans’ lack of understanding the facts and logic of media interpretation. You disable comments on your video and go to sleep.
It’s been three days since you last ate. The only hydration you imbibed was the sweat of your brow, produced during challenging boss fights like Ornstein & Smough. All you’ve done in this game is die and try again, the progress you make unstable and the droning repetition of frustration culminating in your body like a wet balloon. You die, you hollow out, you die again. Environments are difficult to navigate and enemies are unfair, almost like the game wants you to be patient, observant, and strategic. But what’s the point of learning or doing anything when death is ever-present? You realise, yes, this must be comment on the inherent meaningless of action, of life itself! It must be, right? Failure is met with death, you lose everything you have, yet it forces you to start over. Damn, that’s just like what that guy Neatschee said, when you really think about it.
As you chomp into a disappointing sandwich, its taste describable as ‘gray’, your life gains a new perspective. You were a horse with blinders this entire time, but thanks to the hermetic engagement with Dark Souls®, a new universe awaits you, but disregards you. A darker one, where it doesn’t matter what you do, all actions lack context and therefore impact. The game mirrors this, when you really think about it. Nothing has meaning, thanks to Dark Souls®. It’s very difficult for you to handle all of this. You throw away half a sandwich, refusing to go to bed; life is just another waking nightmare, after all. You resume your save of Dark Souls®.
You wear the armour of Artorias, a legendary figure of Arthurian stature. Your phone has stopped ringing. Maybe your provider pulled the plug, or people have given up on you. But you haven’t given up on Dark Souls®. You’ve finally beaten Ornstein & Smough, one of the hardest bosses in the game, and, by the way, if you kill Ornstein first, you can see that his finger is still twitching, which is exceptionally meaningful. You feel empowered, like you’ve overcome a massive obstacle by your own bootstraps.
It was you who did this, never mind the helpful phantoms you’ve summoned along the way or the NPCs that upgraded your weapons and armour for you. You killed, collected souls, and improved your stats. You invested in yourself and never gave up, and when you think about it, that’s what Dark Souls® is all about. You are the Chosen Undead, the mythical prodigy who will save the world. Only you are the hero, even though other people play this game. Fight through the early-onset osteoarthritis, make no use of networks or welfare. In Dark Souls®, everyone is alone. When you really think about it, anyone who doesn’t know the ins-and-outs of this game, the best builds and playstyles, the minituae of the world lore, is just not good enough and don’t deserve good things. You make this claim on your long-assumed dead Youtube channel, and many other Dark Souls®ers agree with you. Based on a video game, that’s a reasonable assumption.
Social justice warriors?
Pouring another Mountain Dew down your desperate gullet, you invade your 6703rd person. Dark Souls® is your world, and in this world it’s kill or be killed. You’re one of the only reasonable people left: only you understand how cruel and unforgiving the world is, and people need to be taught a lesson. Terrorising the player who has only 20 minutes of playtime clocked for about two hours straight, you leave a repulsive message on their Steam page.
You do the same thing to anyone writing about what Dark Souls®’s really means: Is it about toxic masculinity? Hell no, they just don’t understand it’s a man’s world out there. Does Dark Souls® have things to say about psychiatry and mental illness? How about you stop moping around and play more? Could it have a meaningful insight about the paradox between player agency as the driving narrative force and the neglect of setting? Ugh, whatever, if you’re bad at this game stop playing it.
When you think about it, the game is all there is and any conversation you try to have about its ‘greater meaning’ is just SJW nonsense. Learn the lore, ffs.
☠ ☜> ❑ ❑ ✞?
The squiggles in your eyesight have worsened over the past two weeks. The way you move your physical body is understood in terms of tilting the left analog stick. Spoiled orange juice and stale bread sustains you, but the bare minimum of nourishment is enough to continue playing Dark Souls®. You stand in the living room, empty, playing Dark Souls®. Like a lowered shield, there is nothing between you and the game. That reality is this reality and the ideas pour into your mind like an Estus Flask.
Time is irrelevant when inside of Dark Souls®. Meaning is irrelevant to Dark Souls®. All that matters is itself, not what it means to you, or me, or anyone else. It is an echo from the deepest star in the galaxy, not meant to be or capable of being understood. You warned your peers, but no one listened. You yelled at them to trying to pine semiotics to this astral gift, but no one listened. Now you are all that’s left. No, not even that is correct. There is only MeatGuy5, your Dark Souls® avatar. Or should I say, your true self.
Dark Souls® has always been about you. Dark Souls® has been you.