This is a gushy post. Prepare to cringe.
About three and a half weeks ago I came across a podcast called “Checkpoints” Its a lot of fun. This
Irish *Welsh guy, Declan Dineen, interviews all sorts of characters from the gaming industry. He gets them to reminisce from their early gaming days into the present time and what they are currently doing. I don’t listen to podcasts really, so I can’t say whether or not its that great, but I really enjoy it. It’s actually my first real podcast that I’ve gotten into. Weren’t they wildly popular in the early 2000’s? One thing I know is that I am terrible at interviewing other people, so I’m pretty much amazed at anybody who doesn’t completely butcher it. And if the topic is about dem vidya games, I’m in. I’m easy to please, I guess.
Really, its a podcast
Anyway, every so often he will ask his guest what their favorite Final Fantasy game is. He will pretend to listen for a moment before he interjects “Final Fantasy 12 is the best Final Fantasy.” He does it in an endearing way, and after hearing him do that like 10 times, I started to think that there might be something special to that game.
I’ve played quite a many Final Fantasy games 1,4,6,7,8,9,10,10-2… and that’s where it ended. So for the fun of it, I thought I would buy ’12’ and play it. It was only like 10 bucks anyway. I ordered on the only place online to order almost everything, got it asked a friend to come over, and I popped it in last Friday. We watched the opening scenes together. Both of our significant others were off in the world doing important things while we could sit around and play PS2 games. From the podcasts, I was primed to think of FFXII’s plot as “basically Star Wars”, so we were making all sorts of Star Wars references. My friend threw in some Lord of the Rings for good measure.
When I finally got control of the game though, I realized I couldn’t play it. The camera was inverted, I couldn’t walk off a tiny ledge onto another platform. I went into the menu, but I couldn’t adjust the camera options. Was this a joke? I wasn’t sure what it was at the time, but I remember sorta laughing and saying something about how if this were Dark Souls, I would be able to fall off the ledge at the beginning area and die. I made it to the first save point, turned it off and haven’t had the desire to play it again.
I’ve given it some thought while procrastinating about my real life goals and realized that Dark Souls was such an impactful game on my “game taste” that it has rendered (*some) games unplayable. I should have expected it though, because that wasn’t the first game Dark Souls defeated for me.
When you killed a boss in Dark Souls, this “Jinglish” phrase came up
It all started in 2011, I was in S.Korea and hoping for something to help me pass the time. I bought Skyrim and beat it. What an amazing world! Like a scrub, I started to play the game again in order to, I don’t know, make more potions, do more side-quests, or something? But I had heard from another ESL teacher that he was going to try this game called Dark Souls that was apparently a pretty hardcore game. It didn’t sound like he had the intention to beat the game, he just wanted to try the game. The title sounded vaguely familiar even though I wasn’t really too connected to the world of games at that time. It was intriguing, brooding, enticing. In Korea if you want to buy a console game, you actually have to go out and try to find it. I knew a guy who knew a guy, y’know.
Okay, well it wasn’t that hard. I just took a bus downtown and picked it up at the only video game store in the area. Half of the store sold models of Japanese robot things you can paint and the other half sold console stuff. Both are somewhat niche in S. Korea because if you know anything about anything, they are a PC gaming country. They also still have competitive arcades too, but as far as home gaming, it was almost strictly PC.
I played it and I cannot describe how blissful the experience was of dying in that world, hundreds of times over. This was the first time I almost broke a controller. Really though, it was such a strange game. It was this mute, muting, isolating and immersive experience with bursts of light snuffed moments later by the melange of sadness that inevitably follows. The only solace of the game was its aesthetic of abandonment and the gentle decay of a crumbling civilization. This game came from somewhere else, it was inspired by the world of someone‘s nightmares. I absolutely loved it! Its action orientation, its “asynchronous” multiplayer aspect, its perspective, its mechanics, it was impossible for me to imagine had I not played it myself.
This is your brain on Dark Souls
Enough gushing about the game itself. The community was amazing. Everybody was making videos, fan art and all sorts of crap like that was going on. Sorry, getting lazy here. And then the Artorias DLC dropped. It was like a lightning bolt of ninjas screaming into a giant mountain made of green gelatin only to detonate an H-bomb within its dark green pulsing heart! I got lost for almost a year in this game and didn’t need to pick up any others.
I did eventually pick up Skyrim again, after things cooled down. I started on my most recent save. It was right near a yeti thing. It came right at me. I couldn’t roll, I was slow. My arms felt detached from my body. I tried to run, but the monster kept beating on me. I paused the game out of desperation before I died. I thought, “you can’t pause in Dark Souls.” At that moment, something clicked and I just turned the game off. I knew what my next game should be.
Demon’s Souls. It was like experiencing the distilled version of Dark Souls. I played it spoiler free and I couldn’t believe it. It was like touching the nightmare. I highly suggest it. If you do manage to get a chance to play it, don’t forget to say hi to the babies for me.
Since then, Dark Souls II, Bloodborne, and recently Dark Souls III have come out… but… still, nothing compares. You defeated so many games for me. You defeated, Dark Souls.