I have never seen The Lord of The Rings. Once when I was indisposed away from school, still with all my viewing wits about me, I tried to marathon the whole of it but after 45 minutes of the first film- act- whatever- I found I just couldn’t place myself into that lauded universe at all, at least not enough to immerse myself and enjoy the experience. I am still not sure why this is, my suspension of disbelief is usually maintained for similar shows like Game of Thrones and for games such as Skyrim, but whenever I see Elijah Wood dressed up like he’s in his fourth grade World Book Day celebration costume, accompanied by his vaguely Liverpudlian comrades, my brain just kind of shits itself, I don’t know…
This apparently makes me some kind of nerd-turncoat, especially to my girlfriend who would euthanise my ilk of intact Gandalf-hymens had she the jurisdiction (she likes me really), but I mean… I just… don’t… get… it…
I bring this up because recently I saw the same exact paradigm in a different form of media- with Dark Souls. As an outsider looking into the Dark Souls fanbase and internet presence, I seemed to see something analogous to that of an extremely popular and ubiquitous abusive relationship. A game so unrelentingly ball-busting in its nostalgic NES-iterative difficulty alongside a community so sadomasochistic as to actually like it, it was weird, maaan. Seriously, you see their relentlessly marketed slogan ‘Prepare to Die’ so much around gaming and tech websites that you’d think From Software struck a deal with Co-operative Funeralcare. To a gamer, how can ‘Prepare to Die’ be anything but unappetising? Forget ‘Be the Batman’, forget ‘Conquer the Jungle’, ‘Slay your Enemies’, it’s evidently all the rage to be frequently subjected to a state of failure. It’s entirely interchangeable with ‘Fail’. Just ‘Fail’. It’s the opposite of what gamers want to hear, but this small subculture of Souls fans have evidently fetishised the idea. It’s just not for me, really, you know, pain. Similarly, I’d rather have a botched laser pube-removal procedure by a drunk nurse with 4 fingers than endure 9 hours of Frodo’s Fucking Fantasy Fun Time.
But I’m a spineless arsehole so I bought the game anyway. I bought it for a few reasons, the first and foremost being that everyone I know adores it to no end, and I’ve heard recommendation from people I trust. Secondly, Miyazaki’s tale of the self-made-man absolutely Randy Ortons Jamie Vardy’s, and that’s saying something. Miyazaki was genuinely too poor to be able to afford the manga all his friends were reading growing up in Japan, and so it’s said in a short biography I’ve read that he used to read material too advanced for his reading age at his public library as a kid, and fill in the literary gaps with his imagination. Considering that I’d heard Dark Soul’s philosophical commentary on limbo, death, and atonement was pretty stellar, I couldn’t let this title slide, as I’m a huge nerd for story games. The bearing that Miyazaki’s childhood process of internalising media through implicit and explicit readings has had on the game, is a beautiful relationship between visual aesthetics and subtext, and it is an absolute joy to wonder over.
As for the gameplay, I’m only two hours in, but there is something so satisfying in overcoming your own obstacles through necessary repetition. It’s an incredibly unique system of set enemy animations with their own preliminary indicators and timings, honestly, combat is more like Guitar Hero than Skyrim. The skill is in having a keen eye for different types of enemy attacks, and having a quick but alert trigger finger for your own appropriately timed response. The hyperbolically formidable, looming enemies allow for an unparalleled victorious euphoria, as well. I’d never before thought that the most satisfying enemy to overcome in my experience of gaming would be myself, but the necessary element of trial and error in this game has proved me wrong.
So, I guess the point of this post is that… I’m a sadomasochist now?