DARK SOULS CHANGED THE WAY I THINK ABOUT VIDEO GAMES

A personal insight on what makes Dark Souls special



I’ve been thinking a lot about video games, as usual perhaps. What’s weird is that whenever I come to a conclusion that there’s something about video games that are or would be really interesting and make me go “Now that’s what video games are capable of”, my mind eventually links it back to Dark Souls, without it being the origin of my thinking, and how I believe that Dark Souls has made some contribution in bringing video games towards something more than what they’ve been doing in the last couple decades.

One of the things Dark Souls does so right to me, under the perspective of a work of art, is that it delivers the emotional impact in a very direct and genuine way. It engages excitement, bewilderment, surprise, coldness, loneliness, inferiority, and perhaps especially, fear. Everything that you hope to be immersed in when playing video games. And the impact is delivered through a very … pure and straightforward way, in that there is no “character” acting as an expressive medium that attempts to make you feel what they feel. Everything in Dark Souls contributes towards delivering the feeling that you are nothing special in the universe. You are a nobody, who, in Dark Souls 1, is no more than a mere pawn manipulated by the Gods, and in Dark Souls 2, a random, unnamed Hollow seeking to reverse the curse of the Hollow. Thus, the impact of those emotions are delivered to you in what I think is the purest form of emotional communication. I’m not saying Dark Souls is the only game that has ever done this, but it is something I really appreciate and think there should be more of.



And then, because of such, there is the strong sense of coldness and loneliness in Dark Souls. Sceneries (including both visuals and sounds), while are spectacular, gorgeous, sometimes realistically disturbing, all have a common mood that basically says “Everything in this world was born beautiful. And they weren’t born to serve you a feast. In this world, you are an ugly creature that belongs to nothing.” Similarly, enemies in Dark Souls, at least from what I remember, never utter even half a word. If you’re seen by an enemy, then you are to be killed. No mercy. No questions asked. In many other games, you’d expect an epic fight in which the protagonist and the villain exchange witty one-liners while battling to the death. None of that here in Dark Souls. Nothing but killing. The brutality cloaked by the coldness, makes for a terrifying, and at the same time, immensely exhilarating experience. That’s not something I’ve seen many other games do. While I could be missing out and wrong, that is something about Dark Souls and video games in general that I treasure a lot. I wish more of them would be mean to me like that, instead of catering to my every need and want (or maybe I’m just a masochist). This is something my friend moon/NewBlack, who surprisingly has yet to play the games, realized before me, so mad props to him for that.



Unlike many other games, narrative in Dark Souls is a different deal. Remember that while cut-scenes are the traditionally useful device for storytelling in many things, there is also undoubtedly the fact that every second you spend on watching a cutscene, is a second you are away from the trademarked interactivity of video games. While in other games, everything in the world is open and welcoming in the sense that they’re almost always ready to tell you something about themselves and the world, Dark Souls lets the story unfold itself around you, as you immerse yourself in the play itself. Games are a fundamentally different medium compared to literature or movies, and I think Dark Souls takes good advantage of such difference. The story in Dark Souls is rich, not because it is told in lengthy reads and conversations, but because it is unfolded sporadically through the structure of the world, and most interestingly, through the description of the very wide range of different items you find throughout your journey. I daresay, 95% of Dark Souls’ story is told through your own interpretation. There are dialogue and cut-scenes for sure, although they’re very very few and occasional. But they are the thinnest slice of traditional narrative that you can ever find in video games so far, and you’re never away from the actual play itself for long. I am actually still in the process of cracking the mysterious lore of Lordran and Drangleic myself through pieces of information gathered from many relevant sources, and I find this process very similar to the process of discovery, very joyful and satiating. This, I think, is a storytelling device that nothing other than video games can do.

This post was taken and reposted from my Tumblr blog.

Posts

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Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
The only emotion Dark Souls elicits is boredom.
I believe that Dark Souls has made some contribution in bringing video games towards something more than what they’ve been doing in the last couple decades.

What is it bringing? Extra generic, double uninspired fantasy? A "difficulty" (aka we added five zeros to the end of all the enemies stats HARD MODE UNLOCKED) designed to punish the player for trying to enjoy their free time, with no option to turn it down?

I always thought the Dark Souls series contributed pretty much nothing to the medium besides catering to an exclusive club of masochists that are too obsessed with games being "too easy". But that's just me.
Did you even read anything at all?
slash
Let's fall in love.
3971
Well, I can definitely get behind the kind of video game that doesn't just take you on a sightseeing tour and instead just nudges you sort of forward and leaves you to deal with the rest on your own. Whether or not the story in Dark Souls is all that appealing, I appreciate that they let you stumble into it.
That's what you get for expressing your opinion on the internet.

I really need to try these games, probably the first one(cheapest). Good or bad I hear a lot about them but I never played. I could use a difficult game in my life.
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
I encourage you to try it for yourself so you can see through the comically overblown hype, but don't make my mistake and waste money on it. Borrow it from a friend or watch an LP. There are better-designed games on RMN.

Alternatively, play the spiritual predecessor, I Wanna Be the Guy. It's actually more fun.
kentona
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
21217
Dragon Warrior changed the way I think about videogames.
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
Candy Land changed the way I think about videogames.
Really appreciate how logical, on-point, totally non-arbitrary and non-trolly your arguments are.I guess people are right ahaha. If Sailerius hates a game, it must be pretty fucking good.

Oh well, I tried. 30 makerscore was worth it. Idiots changed the way I think about RMN.
sorry for not liking everything you do
Not liking something someone else likes is fine. But if you're going to be vocal about disagreeing with them, at least have the balls (or even intelligence?) to get specific.
Let's try not insulting each other over personal opinions, okay?

Personally I have to say I agree with the article, but something like emotional connection and appreciation of games is a pretty divisive subject - hence why there are so many people who swear by shmups and war-game simulators and those who prefer RPGs or casual games.

Any and every game has merit - even ones that seem dumb or stupid to us. They have something to teach us. Hell, the games that have taught me the most about what is good or bad design are the ones that have been unilaterally laughed out of the RM arena (and I did a lot of the laughing too). Mainly because bad games teach a lot about what not to do. That's fine, though.

That said, everyone has different tastes and respond to games in different ways. Sailerus isn't a fan of Dark Souls or games like Chrono Trigger (iirc?) but that doesn't mean that his opinion is null and void. He just enjoys and feels an emotional connection to other kinds of games. That's completely valid.

Frankly, I liked Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. The combat is a little clunky in areas, yes, but that's the norm for most action games anyway - even big titles like Skyrim or Fallout 3 have their issues. I can't say it's the best game I ever played but it does a lot of little things in interesting ways. I was inspired by various parts of the games and enjoyed playing them. And that is completely valid too.
Sure I'll take that. I don't mind getting a warn or two or even a suspension that much. Sometimes things just need to be said.
I disagree because even after reading the article I just couldn't see it that way that EE did. Also I don't think I need to be called cowardly AND stupid just because I made a jokey post about the topic.

I did play a bit of Dark Souls, and I wasn't enthralled. The game has a high entry level of difficulty and pretty much does nothing to assure me that sticking with it would be worth my time. The material I was presented with was uninteresting.

To me, saying something like the above quoted
I believe that Dark Souls has made some contribution in bringing video games towards something more than what they’ve been doing in the last couple decades.

requires incredible amounts of support. Because you're stacking the game up with the innovators of the last few decades, and saying that it brought more to the entire medium than those games did.

So like, you're saying that this game was on (or above) the likes of Half-Life, Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario 64, etc. If you really think that it was a game changer then you're free to think that, but I disagree.

Basically my point is that I don't see it as having introduced really anything at all to the medium. I see it as a standard fare action-adventure series with the difficulty stuck on impossible.
Finally you're getting cool about this. I'll go ahead and apologize for the rude manner.

And to discuss Dark Souls with you:
author=Pizza
I did play a bit of Dark Souls, and I wasn't enthralled. The game has a high entry level of difficulty and pretty much does nothing to assure me that sticking with it would be worth my time. The material I was presented with was uninteresting.
Not trying to grab you in with a hook is exactly the point of Dark Souls though. It's never been about presenting you with the most mind-blowing appearance ever to give you a feast. The charm lies in the fact itself that the game doesn't even try to show you much more than just subtle hints, those that make you form your own arbitrary goals, proceed and fulfill it yourself. How meaningful that concept is, is fully covered in what Psychology calls Intrinsic Motivation. But sure, from this point, if the process of discovery and satiating curiosity isn't something that appeals or piques your interests, then fair enough.


author=Pizza
requires incredible amounts of support. Because you're stacking the game up with the innovators of the last few decades, and saying that it brought more to the entire medium than those games did.
I don't think one needs an incredible amount of support to back a statement, as long as one's reasoning makes sense and is meaningful, which I believe I have, and I just wrote about it up there. Don't you think that's enough? There's no need to pretend that everything new ever absolutely needs to require rocket science to make it happen.


author=Pizza
Basically my point is that I don't see it as having introduced really anything at all to the medium. I see it as a standard fare action-adventure series with the difficulty stuck on impossible.
If you disagree with the idea that it brings something new to the medium, then would you mind getting specific about the points I made up there that prove so?
But sure, from this point, if the process of discovery and satiating curiosity isn't something that appeals or piques your interests, then fair enough.

Those things definitely pique my interest, it's just that to me-an extremely visual person (and no, I don't mean "ultra hi-def real is brown" shit) the world itself seemed nothing more than a generic fantasy cut and paste, so I felt no desire to see what it had to offer. You know what I'm saying? It's like with the Elder Scrolls games- they may seem like a generic fantasy thing to begin with, but you can tell there's something "off" about it, so it's more interesting. Perhaps Dark Souls does that, I don't know because I never played it at length and I never saw any hint of it in videos of the game.

If you disagree with the idea that it brings something new to the medium, then would you mind getting specific about the points I made up there that prove so?

I'm not gonna go trawling through the article to find and quote the exact points, but basically just that you said that the series pushed an entire medium slightly into uncharted ground- but there are plenty of games that either partly or wholly tell their stories through player discovery. There are plenty of games with vicious enemies that cant be reasoned with or understood.

One good example of the former is Oblivion. The quest pits you against Merhunes Dagon, the cult of the Mythic Dawn, and the hordes of Oblivion, but there are plenty of details that the quest line and dialogue itself don't mention about those things. It's up to the player to decide if they want to fully know what they're dealing with, or just play the role of an unassuming hero.

I'm not really gonna go into it to heavily because honestly I'm tired of talking about it, we just disagree and that's that. I'm not putting any stock into it.

The one thing that I agree with you about is that cutscenes and player involvement in what would be called a "cutscene" need to be rethought in games, and if Dark Souls does that well then good on it.
author=Pizza
Those things definitely pique my interest, it's just that to me-an extremely visual person (and no, I don't mean "ultra hi-def real is brown" shit) the world itself seemed nothing more than a generic fantasy cut and paste, so I felt no desire to see what it had to offer. You know what I'm saying? It's like with the Elder Scrolls games- they may seem like a generic fantasy thing to begin with, but you can tell there's something "off" about it, so it's more interesting. Perhaps Dark Souls does that, I don't know because I never played it at length and I never saw any hint of it in videos of the game.
Sure that's fair. And I'll tell you Dark Souls does. And again, it's not about the aesthetics, but it's about HOW the aesthetics or environments leave loose traces of mysteries to pique your interest in the most subtle manner, so that you don't feel like what you're about to find out isn't what the game has been yelling into your ears and your face about.

I'm actually on my 3rd playthrough of DS2, and I still keep discovering new things from the game. It's worth mentioning too that I'm absolutely not a PVP player at all, so I'm playing through it all just for the adventure and discovery.


One good example of the former is Oblivion. The quest pits you against Merhunes Dagon, the cult of the Mythic Dawn, and the hordes of Oblivion, but there are plenty of details that the quest line and dialogue itself don't mention about those things. It's up to the player to decide if they want to fully know what they're dealing with, or just play the role of an unassuming hero.
I haven't played Oblivion, so I can't verify this. But if it does, then that's good. That's still something very different from how most games are done anyway. I did not say that Dark Souls is the only game over that has done this, but sure, there's perhaps some degree of generalization in that statement of mine. But if it's still not something the majority can realize, then I think the video games industry still has to work on that.


The one thing that I agree with you about is that cutscenes and player involvement in what would be called a "cutscene" need to be rethought in games, and if Dark Souls does that well then good on it.
On this point, no I don't think Dark Souls has done anything new to the way cutscenes are executed per se, but at least I think we need to recognize its attempt to step outside of the conventional bubble, reducing the amount of time spent on cutscenes and pushing the narrative towards the interactivity that games are about.
I enjoyed Dark Souls because it's all about learning patterns and reacting properly at the right moment. Which is far from innovative though. Games in the Megaman and Ys series for instance have been using similar gameplay for ages.

If you enjoy Dark Souls, you might also enjoy what inspired it: the King's Field games and the cult classic manga Berserk.
Yes you're right. And that's also not what I was referring to as innovative.
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