• Matthew Kaufman

Failure in Video Games

“This is Dark Souls”

The achievement really does say it all. The vast majority of modern self branded "hardcore gamers" have most likely seen this achievement at some point. Dark Souls is a fairly popular game series that is well known for being brutally difficult. However, there’s a particular mechanic that exists specifically in Dark Souls 2 that has long intrigued me.

In just about any game made by From Software, creators of the Souls franchise, you can be pretty safe in assuming you will fail a lot. You will most likely become so well acquainted with the reaper that you will start offering to split the power bill. Every time you die in Dark Souls 2, you leave behind a blood stain where you died. If you can return to your most recent bloodstain, you can recover your lost possessions. Additionally, if you are connected to the internet, you can see the bloodstains of other players. Viewing the bloodstains of other players allows you to see their final moments and see how they died.

True progression in Dark Souls 2, isn’t beating the boss. True progression isn’t obtaining experience points or currency in the form of souls. True progression in Dark Souls is about improving as a player.

Many Dark Souls players find they are able to play through the game a second time with significant ease because they have learned and improved as a player. The game no longer poses the same challenge to them because they have grown and improved. It’s not that their character is stronger, it’s the fact that the person controlling the character has improved.

In the same manner, this is an analogy for life. While we’re not running around dying time and time again without a care, we often find ourselves falling short or failing to achieve something. In failure, we learn what didn’t work and what did work. After failing to do something, we get better and closer to success. We attempt to recover the positive progress we had made towards a goal and then try to correct the errors we made along the way. We view the failures and experiences of others and remember our own failures and experiences, then use those to guide our decisions and how to proceed forward. In this manner, life and Dark Souls mimic each other.

But life isn’t quite that simple...and neither is Dark Souls 2. You see in Dark Souls 2, every time you die, it chips away a little more at your health bar, Sure, you come back to life, but a little bit is gone. Similarly, our failures in our life demotivate us over time. While our failures are what teaches us how to move forward, they also chip away at us with each occurrence. But there’s a silver lining. In Dark Souls, you can restore your humanity and regain your full health bar. Likewise, in real life, there are activities and things we can do as human beings to leave behind the weary burdens of failures and recover our former full unfettered beings.

For some, this is going to see a therapist and talking through their issues. Other people may have completely different mechanisms that they employ to restore themselves. Without these restorative behaviors, we slowly become bogged down our failures and find it hard to continue forward. But once we undergo our restoration, we can come back and attack life’s challenges at full force once more.

Once more though, death changes things in Dark Souls 2. If you kill an enemy or overcome a certain challenge in Dark Souls enough times, the game simply stops spawning that enemy, That challenge no longer exists. Even if you’re not improving, the challenge is still becoming lessened with each repetition regardless. In this manner, Dark Souls 2 is once more mirroring life. In life, there are some goals that you achieve not because you got to a stage where you were good enough, but rather because you wore down and beat the challenge simply through raw tenacity and veracity. By refusing to be turned back by failure, the challenge may gradually just disappear, both in life and Dark Souls 2.

In this manner, it’s no wonder why there is such a large community behind the Dark Souls franchise. These gamers are experiencing microcosms of life each time they die and come running back to their bloodstains. It also tells a beautiful story about life. In Dark Souls, your tenacity eventually lends you to slaying even gods. There is no challenge in Dark Souls your character cannot achieve given enough time and your own will power. Likewise, human beings have been able to do things unthinkable with our tenacity and repeated attempts. We are so limitless that we can build rockets and leave even the planet we are born on behind.

So go forth, fellow limitless being. Every time you fail, learn a little more from it. Become stronger and attempt the challenge until the challenge submits to you. When the cumulative sum of your failures becomes too large, restore yourself and make yourself whole again. Achieve things that are unthinkable. Go forth fellow “chosen undead” and “git gud”.

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