Dark Souls Life Lessons

Thanks to Necropraxis on Chris McDowall’s Bastionland podcast for convincing me to play this one.

I have sunk over 40 hours into this game, which for me, is a lot to put into any video game RPG. I tire easily.

But Dark Souls is different. It’s an RPG where you don’t win by default. Victory is not assumed.

A counter-example to prove my point.

Pokemon stopped being a game for me when I realized as a youngster that I already won. All I had to do was spend X hours leveling my Pokemon until my team was above Y difficulty. Then I could just smash the competition and the game would be done.

Input, output.

I put in the time, I win the game.

Dark Souls has no such formula.

The game frustrates, challenges, at some points just doesn’t care.

There is no level at which you can just win. No gear guarantees victory.

You have to fight it out at every stage of the game.

And that gives it amazing appeal to me.

At a time in my life when some things are a cakewalk and others are soft.

I descend to the depths to test my mettle.

And find that achievement is won by neither talent or persistance alone.

Here are a few life lessons from the game.

#1. Life is hard. Wear a helmet.

The game is tough. The world of Lordaeron does not care about you.

You came from a hole in a prison. Who are you to ask for anything?

There’s hurt. There’s despair. There’s straight-up hostility.

You are, at most times, and ultimately,

alone

How do you defend yourself?

Your helmet protect your head, your logic, your reason.

But what protects your heart?

What fuels your courage and determination?

Is it pride? Is it rage? Is it more?

Can you call on others?

Can you even trust others?

Do they repair your armor? Or do they push you down another hole?

If you get pushed down or fall down of your own stupid volition, do you keep playing?

How many times do you throw yourself at a boss or a gauntlet of enemies before you give it up?

When do you give up for good?

When do you become Hollow?

Once you stop short of the Goal, your soul dims.

And when you put down the controller for good,

The light goes out.

#2. What’s done is done.

There was loss, there is loss, there will always be loss.

You tried to recover, but made a mistake.

You had a huge haul of souls, ready to spend them, ready to become better.

Only to be crushed by what lies in the next room.

You thought you knew, you thought you had it figured out.

And then the Fall.

Maybe the Designer is just toying with you, putting that barely visible trap there.

Maybe you’re supposed to come back to this area after a weapon upgrade.

Maybe you just got away with something the monsters weren’t ready for.

Maybe.

Could be.

It’s possible.

But it is true that you can’t take it back.

Those souls are gone, that curse is on you, that boss is defeated.

Whatever happens, happens.

The faster route to acceptance of Being is the better filter from which to view your situation.

Look instead to what is ahead, not to what is behind.

#3. The darkest path is the way forward.

Exploration is cyclical.

Every path you take follows the same structure.

At the start of a new area, everyone is terrified.

Every shadow, a demon.

The flickers are malicious.

The corners conceal nightmares.

Then you find the hiding places, the traps, the secrets, the treasures.

And the area becomes familiar.

Eventually, you’re running through places that once had you cowering to a crawl.

You defeat the boss and conquer all.

And then the next area, you forget where you once started.

“The monster guarding that area is too frightening.”

“I’m not high enough level.”

“Perhaps I’m supposed to come back later.”

No.

The darkest place.

Head there.

You’ll be scared no matter which new area you tackle.

Might as well go for the one with the highest potential.

You don’t know what lies ahead,

But to stop taking risks means you risk going Hollow.

In short:

Go. Confront the problem. Fight. Win.

How long must you Fight?

Better question: how long until you quit?

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