Demon’s Souls as a Metaphor for Life; or The Reason I Play Video Games is Because They Are More Fair Than RealityPosted: September 27, 2011 | |
Part I: It’s Either This or Suicide; or Since We Can’t Solve the World’s Problems, Let’s Not Even Try
You know what I’m sick of? People that make fun of or bitch about people who play video games, proclaiming those that play video games as “not having a life” or as “not being productive members of society.” Seriously, what the fuck do you people do that’s so goddamn great? I don’t rip you new ones for keepin’ up with Kardashians or thinking that Chuck Lorre-produced sitcoms are actually fuckin’ funny? Okay, I do, but video games are way fucking better. Also, what do you assholes mean by “not having a life” and “not productive members society” anyway? If “not having a life” means not having sex or not going out to bars and shit like that (typically, those making such claims seem to be implying as much), then, fuck it, I’m sticking to video games. Also, saving Princess Zelda and catching all the Pokemon is being productive because in video games, unlike real life, there’s actually a goal that can be reached: there’s a point; there’s meaning. Anything that I really want (or wanted to do) in my real life isn’t even fuckin’ possible, so if my real life goals are impossible, I may as well achieve some virtual ones that are. (However, MMOs are a different beast. They never really end, so they are more like real life. For example, I played DC Universe Online, but after a month, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a nice ending cutscene to let me know I did something. They are too much like real life—long, pointless, and not at all that satisfying.)
Anyway, if you are one of these people who have a problem with video games, then, on behalf of the millions of people who play them, fuck you! I’ve met several of these “serious” social critics over the course of my disappointing life. Typically, these are some of the most weird-ass, uninformed people you’ll ever have the misfortune of being around. In their delusional eyes, video games are the new rock music—the new Marilyn Manson causing Columbine—responsible for all of society’s problems. Man, I would love to live in a world in which such serious, complicated problems have such fucking simple, illogical solutions. For example, convicted money launderer and former Republican Party House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, actually blamed Columbine on the teaching of evolution in public schools … see, very logical, makes perfect sense. Case closed. Man, what the fuck happened to us as a species?
It must be nice to be kind of dumb. Really, I’m serious. These people seem just as happy and content as they are angry and stupid. Fuck, at least, they still feel something. Increasingly, I’m so overwhelmed and aware of the world’s problems that I’m beginning to absorb all of its negativity, making me only feel an overall general disconnect and a sick numbness to my own condition and situation (which is pretty fucking bleak), but hypersensitive to everything else (which is also pretty fucking bleak). I’m like John Coffey. Seriously, here are some of his lines: “Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?” Hell yes, I can understand. That’s I how feel all of the time, too. However, I’m fuckin’ useless. I don’t heal anyone; I just make everyone around me just as depressed and miserable as I am. Also, I don’t have the option of being executed to remove myself from the unbearable heaviness of being. Of course, there’s always suicide, but c’mon, that takes real courage and commitment. I don’t have such qualities.
Society really needs to stop calling people who kill themselves cowards—nothing is further from the truth. It takes a person of great conviction to complete the act, real “go-getters” and “risk-takers” that—if it weren’t for them being such good, decent, and sensitive people (I sense this about many that commit suicide) that see through corporate bullshit—would make great business executives because they have what is known as “follow-through,” which is essential for the driving entrepreneurial spirit that our great nation was founded upon (sadly, there are people that actually believe this shit). As for myself, I don’t even have it in me to change my underwear on daily basis, so suicide is definitely out of the question (see, it really does take commitment, planning, and dedication). When you realize that your life is truly insignificant and you don’t really have anything to look forward to, you don’t bother with such things. For instance, you don’t give a fuck if your room is clean and orderly. It’s not on the fucking radar. It’s not fucking important.
A person that shall remain nameless once said to me, “When you’re not as messy and more organized, you’ll feel better about everything.” I quickly replied, “No, that makes your ass feel better, not mine. Besides, I’ve tried that, and it didn’t make anything any better. All it did was create the following scenario: my life is still shitty, meaningless, and hard … the entire world is falling apart, but goddamn, this room is spotless!” Really, if something as trivial as having a clean room can make you happy, well … to me, that’s kind of fucking sad. Those of you that are “truly” miserable understand this, but those that are not miserable or the type of assholes that try to relate by passing off your “mild disappointment” as major depression or those really bizarre people who think that life is just a party, well … I don’t know what to say. I’ve never really been in that frame of mind, so I’m not even going to pretend I know what that’s like. How the fuck do you get there, to that plane of existence? Let me know, so I can join you and ruin that, too. But, seriously, how do we sleep while our beds are burning? I’m surprised so many people go through life without giving serious problems much thought. Again, it must be nice to be kind of dumb.
Part II: Hey Mom, You’ll Find Me In Closet Thinking About Some Deep Shit; or Merry Fuckin’ Christmas, You Idealistic Fuck
Video games entered into my life in late 1987. Looking back, at ten-years-old, I was the perfect age for Nintendo’s first console. I really needed something that I could actively participate in that didn’t involve sports (I was [and still am] a tiny person—plus, I never looked up to professional athletes or the more athletic kids in my class, always seemed like real cocksuckers to me), school (up until high school, I was an “A” student [like that even fucking matters], but regardless of doing well, I hated it), church (never went, but was constantly invited—the last place I wanted to be was with Christians, always found them scary as fuck), or anything that involved being around most other kids (they bored, annoyed, and didn’t understand me). I preferred (and still do) solitary activities (for example, I would rather masturbate than partake in an orgy—I’ve turned down a couple of invitations to orgies thus far in my life, just not my thing). It wasn’t like I didn’t try to participate in a few things, but communication was way off—I couldn’t talk to my peers worth a shit, had nothing in common with any of them. They just didn’t seem know anything; they couldn’t talk about anything with any detail, passion, or depth, so fuck ‘em. I was on my own. Anyway, I needed something challenging that also provided some amount of fun. Therefore, video games and my personality were a great fit. They were the friends that I just didn’t have. Now, did video games change my life? I don’t know if I would go that far, but they certainly left quite an impact (actually, they seem to be more important to me now than then, but I’ll get to that later … okay, upon thinking about, they did change my life).
For the Christmas of ’87 (it feels strange to admit that I even celebrated Christmas—I was never religious, however), I asked for the NES and The Legend of Zelda, and that was it. If I got these two things, everything would be okay in the twilight years of my childhood (sadly, just a couple of years later, I started growing hair around my dong—and, trust me, it all went downhill from there). Like most kids on Christmas mornings, my brother and I always got up really fucking early. This particular year was no exception; I can’t speak for my brother, but this was the most exciting Christmas that I could remember, better than the year we got all the Constructicons and Areialbots.
It was a tradition in my family for my parents to put the presents under the tree while my brother and I were sleeping (never bought the concept of Santa, but I went along with it because, for some reason, I liked it … it was kind of fun, made things more exciting). It was always a great feeling to look at the tree on Christmas Eve with nothing underneath it and go to bed only to wake up to an explosion of color caused by the wrapped gifts and the decorated tree itself. (If I’m honest with myself, nothing has rivaled that “Christmas morning” feeling thus far in my adult life. These memories will be on loop as I approach death.)
Anyway, I did, in fact, get the two items I requested, but it turned out to be a disaster. Why? Well, the console itself didn’t work. Something was horribly wrong, and we couldn’t even get the goddamn thing turned on; it was dead … no power, no red light, no Mario, no Zelda, no happiness. I begged both my mom and dad, throughout the morning, for assistance, but they were too busy getting ready to make the rounds of various family gatherings, bracing themselves for the upcoming sad parade of alcoholics, drug addicts, chronic gamblers, mental patients, and suspected child molesters (and all of those things just described “one” fuckin’ guy on my dad’s side). I didn’t want to deal with that shit; of course, they didn’t either.
Somehow, I convinced them to let me stay at home and try to remedy this problem … fix this broken machine, which, at that point in my life, was the greatest personal tragedy I had faced. I was a tenacious little fuck. I was doing anything and everything that I could to get that motherfucker to work. I almost asked for a Christmas miracle from a “God” I didn’t believe in, and if that didn’t work, I was going sell my soul to Satan, which, of course, I didn’t believe in either. Obviously, when you start thinking things like this, you’re pretty fuckin’ desperate, but I wanted this to work more than anything. This combination of desperation and desire was rather distinct; I remember it to this day, for it is kind of what I feel like all the fucking time.
Anyway, nothing I did worked. The thing was broken. I was devastated. For the remainder of the Christmas break, I spent all of my time in my closet. Now, this wasn’t entirely unusual for me. I used to sleep in my closet. For some reason, I really liked (and still do) small, confined spaces; I slept much better in the floor of my closet than I did in my bed. Plus, subconsciously, I was just getting myself used to less-than-ideal and uncomfortable situations, prepping for myself for my inevitable homelessness. In my closet, there was this area underneath a shelf where I would curl up into a ball and cry. At first, my crying spells were based on truly petty circumstances: my fucking NES didn’t work and I couldn’t play The Legend of Zelda. However, within a couple of days of being in that closet, something happened: I began to realize just how terrible life is going to be. I started thinking about my parents and my brother, about how, one day, they were going to die. I started thinking about how no matter how much progress we make as a species, no matter how much knowledge we gain, the sun is going to go supernova and everything human beings have accomplished will be wiped out (of course, we are well on our way to destroying ourselves before that even happens, which I thought about, too). Basically, I came to terms that our lives are meaningless. The Christmas of ’87 fucked me up good and proper. I’ve never been the same since. December 25, 1987 was the official end of my innocence.
Part III: Well, I’ve Got About Fifty More Years of This Shit; or Playin’ the Existential Blues on the Ocarina with the Other Skull Kids
Since the meaninglessness was (is) inevitable, I decided that video games were my distraction of choice. From 5th grade to my sophomore year of high school, most of my free time was occupied with video games. I loved them. I truly loved them. The more difficult the game, the more I liked it. I was fucking good at them, too. My explanation as to why is because, at the time, video games were solitary endeavors. I didn’t have to be part of a group or a team. It was just myself on my own time trying to get through these damn things. As I said before, this suited my personality. It was a great relationship, better than most marriages. It was a wonderful way to end childhood and a pretty good way to start adolescence.
During this period, Nintendo was king (I was a Nintendo loyalist until this current generation). The NES paved the way for the Super Nintendo with the Game Boy acting as a buffer between them. I owned them all. I loved them all. Then, something strange happened, I was buying fewer and fewer games and started to become interested in other things: film and music. I always had an interest in film, but how could I actively participate in it? Well, I couldn’t, so that left music. Guitars were affordable and assessable, so it only made sense to go in this direction. The next decade of my life (late high school until the end of college) was wasted doing things related to music. Unlike video games, I rather sucked at music. I was a horrible lyricist and had a terrible singing voice. I wish someone had set me down, told me pawn my guitar, and go pick the controller back up.
(Now, to be honest, I didn’t entirely give up on video games; they just weren’t the primary focus of my life anymore. There were certain IPs that I could never resist: Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, etc. So, yes, I did own a Nintendo 64. And I don’t want to downplay the experience of playing through Ocarina of Time; it was bitchin’, but for some reason, at the time, I was attempting to be less solitary. What the fuck was I thinking?)
After I graduated from college, I thought things would fall into place: a decent job would be obtained or something unusual or exciting would happen. But, nothing at all happened. I found myself working in fast food, telemarketing, and retail. I was (am) miserable. Fuck, nothing in life was working out. Most people who reach this point deal with it by getting married and (accidentally) having children (which, in my opinion, is a terrible idea—“hey, our lives are kind of shitty; let’s make some more people” … I’m not feelin’ it) or by heavy drinking, popping pills, and that kind of shit. I’ve never been a drug person. After even trying some of it, I’m still not a drug person. I don’t get it. Perhaps I haven’t hit rock bottom yet or don’t have the personality for it; regardless, for whatever reason, I don’t like that shit. It’s boring. However, I needed something to take the edge off of the drag of being alive. So, what the fuck did I do? I dealt with the misery the same way I did when I was less miserable and still I had the hopes and dreams of my youth: I played video games
In order to alleviate the utter demoralization that most people experience, with even the slightest amount of dignity and self-awareness, after of working just an hour of a shitty job, I bought Nintendo’s latest console, the GameCube. Almost overnight, I was back into video games in a huge way. So, once again, just as in my ass-end of childhood, video games monopolized all my free time. While many panned the GameCube, I felt it was a pretty solid console. It had two The Legend of Zelda games, two Metroid Prime games, a Metal Gear Solid remake, and a couple of Resident Evil exclusives. Its controller remains one my favorite designs in gaming history, and I’ve always loved the color purple. Honestly, it felt good to be back into gaming. It was the happiest I had been in quite some time. Really, some of the best moments of my life have been experiencing certain moments in games for the first time. Yes, some of them are that fuckin’ good.
Eventually, after one of my shitty jobs came to an end, I found myself being revitalized. For some stupid-ass reason, I started believing that I could actually do something with my life again, so I gave up on gaming for a second time. I had some money saved and moved around the country, hoping that something—fucking anything—would happen. Of course, nothing did, and this just cemented what I always believed: I’m never going to escape my class or economic situation. I’m motherfuckin’ stuck. So, once again, I just wasted more time. Completely out of money, I moved back home, where my GameCube was waiting on me, wanting to be played. It’s been far too long, but, fuck yes, the relationship was back on. She took me back. I was in love again.
Desperate, I returned to school for a graduate degree in a field that I thought was practical, but had no real interest in at all. During this period, the new generation of consoles was released. It was time for an upgrade, but my loyalty to Nintendo was in question. I played the Wii at my friend’s house and was completely disappointed, worst thing Nintendo has ever created (however, it became their biggest seller). After 22 years of buying their products, I decided to part ways with the company, not even a new Zelda game could make me stay; I hated it that much. I have never really been impressed with Microsoft and the Xbox. Plus, after reading about all the problems they were having with the “red ring of death,” I decided to pass. That left Sony and their Playstation 3. However, I was still hesitant about making such a large purchase, but from what I’ve read, the PS3 seemed to be more my kind of machine and their exclusives were more to my tastes. Then, I read about a game called Demon’s Souls. That sealed the deal. I was buying a PS3.
Demon’s Souls appealed to me because it seemed to be a blend of old-school difficulty (over the years, games, on the whole, have gotten a bit too easy) and more modern mechanics, design, and features. Also, I was really craving a hardcore RPG, something that I could invest a lot of time into and not a game that I could finish after a few evenings of play. Moreover, the screenshots just looked cool. The art style looked very mature, serious, atmospheric, and foreboding, but with its own style (the armor, weapon and enemy designs were crazy bitchin’). Again, I just had a desire to play a game that wasn’t typical of its era, something that was a bit out of the mainstream. After simply finishing the tutorial, I knew that I made a great purchase. This game wasn’t for everyone, and that’s a good thing.
Since it’s really a hardcore, underground title, it’s no surprise that Demon’s Souls is a truly unusual game. There’s a constant feeling of loneliness as you play. You meet some bizarre NPCs that remind you just how bleak the situation at hand really is. One guy loses his will to live and fades away into nothing. There’s no Hollywood-inspired action set pieces or a theatrical orchestral score. Instead, it features intricate level design, methodical and challenging enemies and bosses. Also, it has an intimate score that doesn’t drive the action, but colors it; the score seems like a sonic introspection of the game’s situations more than an extraverted exercise in being loud, epic and over-the-top (I’m looking at you God of War). Honestly, it’s amazing this game was even made, let alone a success. This is a special game, one that will be remembered for some time.
The game has some truly fucked up and genuinely frightening moments. For example, world 3-1 of the Tower of Latria is scary as shit. It takes place in a prison. You constantly hear the moans and screams of the prisoners. Sometimes, when you open up a cell, you see the prisoners trapped in iron maidens, slowly bleeding to death. You see bodies strewn all over the floor. Every few minutes, you hear a voice cry out “help me!” in extreme agony. However, you don’t know who the fuck it is, where the fuck it’s coming from, or how, or even if, you’re supposed to rescue this person. All the while, you’re in narrow passageways that are being patrolled by enemies called Mind Flayers. These humanoid octopus-looking things walk around with lanterns and cast powerful magic spells. There’s a real sense of dread seeing their lights in the distance and then hearing their chimes (or something) as you get closer to them. Then, in 3-2, there are enemies known as Man Centipedes. I found them just awful to look at. I hated knowing that they were out there, and that I may have to encounter them. It fucked me up. Maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, but, trust me, reading my description and playing the game are two different things. The first time through it was scary, but it still wasn’t as bad as the Resident Evil remake for the GameCube—that one scared me so much that, while playing at night, I was afraid to leave my room, causing me to piss in jars and empty them in the morning after a night of playing.
Demon’s Souls also features my most hated level in the history of gaming, world 5-2 of the Valley of Defilement. It fuckin’ blows. Ask anyone that has played the game and I’m certain they will say the same thing. The level is a total pain in the ass. The water or sludge or whatever the fuck it is that makes up probably 80% of the level is poisonous, so you constantly have to heal yourself (and healing items are not in abundance). Also, while in the water, you can’t roll away from enemy attacks, which sucks because this level features Giant Depraved Ones, enemies that are hard hitters and very aggressive that you typically encounter on tiny islands with no room to fight. I have been one-hit killed by these assholes several times during my first playthrough. Also, the water slows your movements down so much that you’ll think that the frame rate has taken a dive. Visibility also sucks in this level. Really, all you can see is a lot black with some faint glows of purple. 5-2 is excruciating, painful, and difficult, but I was determined to keep moving forward. When a game is hard, but you still want to keep on playing, well, I think you know that you are playing a great game.
Part IV: I Pressed a Button and Did Something Cool; or I Graduated, Got a Job, and Can’t Do Anything at All
Now, how is Demon’s Souls a metaphor for life? Well, there are several reasons for this, and I’m going to try to tackle some of them right now—however, there’s a twist. For most of us, life is pretty fuckin’ hard, yet we keep going, much like how we do when we play any video game, not only Demon’s Souls. In life, our plights feel (and often are) hopeless. In life, there are no answers, no set paths, and no guarantees. In life, we are constantly searching for something to help us through tough circumstances; we are just out here guessing and feeling our way through various shitty situations. At first glance, the exact same thing could be said about video games. We battle through tough predicaments. We overcome obstacles. We search for useful items. However, in a game, no matter how hard it may be, it’s always possible—it may take some time, but it’s always possible. In life, this isn’t the case. You may never find that item you need. You are unable to level up. You probably won’t ever earn enough money to afford something you need in order to overcome a challenge (healthcare comes to mind).
Eventually, two years after I bought the game, I finally earned my platinum trophy for Demon’s Souls, which is another way that the game is better than real life. Now, when you accomplish something in a game (thanks to the trophy and achievement systems), you have something to show for it. When you do something in real life, often times, you have nothing to show for it. Yeah, you finish college and get that piece of paper, but it doesn’t mean shit. It doesn’t lead to a job. If anything, unlike the reward you get in a video game, in real life, you are penalized with debt and uncertainty. You can’t enter up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start and get thirty chances at this motherfucker. You only get one chance. In real life, you’re probably not going to get very far: you’re fucking stuck. Video games are nice enough to provide you all the items you need to complete your journey (again, some of these things may be hard to find, but they’re there). In real life, for the most part, you’re on your own, and with the austerity measures being implemented on a global level, it’s going to be even worse. The powers that be (mainly financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank) are going to make an already shitty situation even shittier. And really, since forces out of our control determine so much of our lives, how can we be held accountable for anything that goes wrong in our lives?
Luck has a lot to do with life, maybe everything to do with life. No one likes to admit it, but it does. The more realistic, honest, and enlightened will freely admit to such a notion. Where you were born, to whom you were born, if were you born with any major mental or physical defects are all factors that determine how your life will turn out, far more than hard work and persistence. For example, much has been written about the crushing difficulty of Demon’s Souls. Yes, the game is hard, but, once again, it’s not impossible. The game rewards planning and careful play, which is in contrast to most games currently on the market, so, unlike real life, the game rewards persistence and hard work (a myth that needs to be debunked).
Also, while Demon’s Souls implements luck in your character stats, it’s not much of a factor in the overall game; however, in real life, luck is the determining factor of your entire life. If you are born in a low-income situation, you will probably remain there, most likely move down in economic class. Who your parents are, the night they decided to have sex, the strongest sperm reaching the egg out of that particular ejaculate, and the specific egg that was fertilized are all totally fucking random events that are out of our control. If you’re physically attractive, it’s fucking luck. If you were born without any a debilitating defects, it’s fucking luck. Again, if you were born to rich parents, it’s fucking luck. All of these things are out of our control. Unlike video games, it’s almost impossible to “level up” to and become strong enough to overcome our situations. Upward social mobility is almost impossible in this country as writer Dan Froomkin describes in his article “Social Immobility: Climbing the Economic Ladder Is Harder In The U.S. Than In Most European Countries” :
Is America the “land of opportunity”? Not so much.
A new report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) finds that social mobility between generations is dramatically lower in the U.S. than in many other developed countries.
So if you want your children to climb the socioeconomic ladder higher than you did, move to Canada.
The report finds the U.S. ranking well below Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany and Spain in terms of how freely citizens move up or down the social ladder. Only in Italy and Great Britain is the intensity of the relationship between individual and parental earnings even greater.
For instance, according to the OECD, 47 percent of the economic advantage that high-earning fathers in the United States have over low-earning fathers is transmitted to their sons, compare to, say, 17 percent in Australia and 19 percent in Canada.
Recent economic events may be increasing social mobility in the U.S. — but only of the downward variety. Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, for example, argues that America’s middle class had been eroding for 30 years even before the massive blows caused by the financial crisis. And with unemployment currently at astronomical levels, if there are no jobs for young people leaving school, the result could be long-term underemployment and, effectively, a lost generation.
My life is totally stagnant. I’m part of this “lost generation.” Nothing is working out. One thing people need to stop doing is blaming themselves for their misery. There are far too many people who are fucked and are in the same situation—so many that it would delusional or a complete denial of reality to blame them individually. The problem is systemic in nature. For a lot of us, the most you can hope for is 38 hours a week at Walmart wages, but you can’t really live a comfortable life working such a job. It’s no wonder America has one the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse and violent crime. When you’re backed into a corner, you’re going to react. Some will lash out at other people, and some will torture and numb themselves with drugs, alcohol, and sex. Me, I have video games.
I am anxiously awaiting the release of Dark Souls, a spiritual successor (not a direct sequel) to Demon’s Souls. Early reports claim that it’s even more difficult than Demon’s Souls, which is fitting because my life is only becoming more and more difficult with every passing second. I’m about $100,000 in debt from college. I have no prospects for any “good” job. I’m 34, unemployed, and live with my mom. After months of sending out hundreds of resumes and getting no responses, I don’t see much point. I’m done. It’s over. I’m never going to do anything that I wanted to do in my life, even the mundane, uninteresting shit doesn’t even seem to be a possibility at this point. I majored in something that I have no interest in because I thought it seemed like a somewhat practical decision, which has now shown itself to be a complete bust. I’m fucked.
No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I compromise, I’m not winning this game called life. Fuck, I can’t even get through the first level. However, what keeps me going is that I know with some serious effort and diligence, I’ll probably be able to get somewhere in Dark Souls, most likely finish it or, if I give it my all, even platinum the game—no matter how difficult it is. In real life, however, a vast majority of us are stuck, even with occasional access to walkthroughs (help from friends and family). Eventually, we grow so tired of playing that we decide not even to play anymore. It’s not worth it. We aren’t getting anywhere. It’s broken. Life is the shittiest game ever.
In video games, there are answers and solutions to problems. In life, there’s nothing but problems; you’ll hardly ever find solutions to them, and, even if you do, more problems will arise, making existence just a series of meaningless conflicts. Life, like Demon’s Souls, goes on, and both only get progressively more difficult with each day, each playthrough, but, at least, Demon’s Souls is fucking fair.
“What, you again? The disciples and the magicians in the Nexus despise one another. Did you notice they never sit in sight of each other? The fools. What good comes of childish rivalries? We are all prisoners here.” – Crestfallen Warrior (the blue asshole)