By Nonused 3 Comments
I’ve been playing Dark Souls. I’ve also been flagellating myself. But mostly, I’ve been playing Dark Souls.
I can’t believe how solid everything in this game is. Just everything. The design, the art, the world, the music, the…Solaire. EVERYTHING. However, I’m uncomfortable living in a perpetual state of disbelief and sought to find out why everything about Dark Souls clicked for me. And I think I’ve found it, guys. I think. The jury’s still out.
It’s gotta be, right? The lengths the game goes to create a “1 to 1” relationship with the player and the world deserves some kind of medal. Preferably one made from the sins of mankind and goat hair.
But perhaps I need to explain why the context in this game is so damn important. Or, at least, my reasoning behind making it so important. I think it would be difficult to argue that an abundance of context would create a lack of immersion. I mean, if we can’t get passed that, I’m not sure this bit of text is going to get anywhere. But, if you wanna make a case against my assumption, go for it. I’ll be here. Waiting.
Before our dramatic knife / dance fight, however, lemme try to show you. Lemme try to explain to you why the context of this game is so very, very important. Also, as a sort of disclaimer, I have a responsibility to inform you that the following words are going to contain what you might consider spoilers. In fact, the letters your brain is registering right now are 20% more likely to contain spoilers. However, the points behind explored are more conceptual than lore based. I’m not gonna be discussing the plot. That being said, if you harbor a desire to play Dark Souls and haven’t yet, you might wanna stop reading now.
Is he gone? Christ. Fucking hate that guy. Anytime you hint at flagellation, he comes running. Keeps trying to tell me about his fucking ant farm. Bleugh.
Back to context. I’m not even sure that word correctly describes the idea that I’m trying to explore. Hang on, I’m gonna go to Urban Dictionary. Alright, I’m back, and I’m not sure Urban Dictionary should be your go-to source for words. But it did help me (a little bit). A lot of the definitions for “context” revolve around its literary meaning, with books and words and all that boring stuff. I guess I say context in the same way everybody in videogames says it; creating a sort of attachment to the player and the world. In doing so, a greater meaning is applied to the creation as a whole, harkening back to the original definition of context.
That could also be considered immersion, but in the case of Dark Souls, there’s more support for the idea of context. By making the player channel Sherlock Holmes to get the most out of the world, the inherent value of discovery is multiplied by about a billion and the player’s place in the game is recognized. Even more than recognized, I think it could be argued that the player’s existence is integral to that of the world’s.
Case in point, the idea of Hollowing. It blew my goddamn mind when I discovered what Hollowing was and how it related to the player. If you don’t really get what Hollowing is even after completing Dark Souls (no one’s blaming you, that shit was obtuse), lemme do my best to explain. When an undead in the Dark Souls universe loses any sort of desire to cling to unlife(?), they become Hollow, losing all reason and making their next death their last. Those branded with the Darksign (like you) have the ability to resurrect at any of the bonfires, but still possess that potential to go Hollow.
And that’s what struck me as so curious. You’re constantly told not to go Hollow, by pretty much everyone. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they’re goading you; that your Hollowing is inevitable. That asshole at the Shrine certainly seems to think so. But, if you possess the ability to revive whenever and wherever, and if you yourself are in complete control of your avatar’s actions, what threat of Hollowing is there? Is it just something the designers put in there for story purposes? For immersion purposes?
No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the developers had something to say with their ever-present threat of Hollowing the player. In fact, that threat is foreshadowed within the game’s marketing of all things. The player’s Hollowing may have happened to you even. Did you beat Dark Souls? No? Too difficult? Did you keep trying, or did you give up, detaching yourself from it completely? Well, then, you’re Hollow.
Or at least, your avatar is. But since that’s you, we’re gonna go with you. You’re quest is over. Never going back to that game, your destiny as the Chosen Undead is a failure, and one of the many other undead (see everybody else that bought the game) have picked up the torch. You’re insane; you’ve lost any will to go on, forever distraught at the insurmountable odds placed before you.
Don’t take that as a slight if I just described you. Game’s tough. Trust me, I know. I just wanted to express that THAT is your story. You gave up. Your tale is one of misfortune and tragedy. And it’s all thanks to that beautiful, beautiful context we were talking about earlier. Without the concept of player Hollowing, I wouldn’t even be writing this nonsense. The game would be over, and you would return it to the Blockbuster with a bad taste in your mouth. But, now that we both get Hollowing, a greater meaning is applied to your experience as a whole and the product feels more complete.
And that’s why I think Dark Souls is fucking awesome.
I actually had more stuff that I wanted to go over (as in, other examples of context in games), but this seemed to be getting kinda long. Oh man, but so many things! I’ll just ask you.
What are some examples of context that you can think of in any game that you’ve played? I’m actually hard pressed to think of one that does it better than Dark Souls. Oh wait…