Saturday, January 31, 2015

I formally resign from Dark Souls

Alas, poor Cuthbert. I knew him well.

I quit Dark Souls. I quit. I quit. I quit.

I missed it when it came out, and to be honest, I wish I'd left it missed. I heard it described as "the most rewarding gaming experience ever" and that piqued my interest. I wish that statement had been qualified with "it's the most rewarding gaming experience ever if you are the sort of person who watched that bit in the Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins pulls himself through several miles of sewer pipe and comes out in the rain on the other side and thought to yourself 'wow, that looks rewarding.'" I get it. I get that beating a hugely difficult game will make you feel like a champ. But is that feeling worth all the suffering and horror to get there? Like, I imagine prosecuting the guy who murdered your wife feels pretty good, but at the end of the day you probably would trade that feeling for just not having your wife murdered in the first place.

I did not play Dark Souls for very long. Maybe a week. Less, probably. I got as far as the second bonfire in the Undead Burg, before I flipped my lid and turned it off, probably forever. I enjoyed my character, Cuthbert, a snooty cleric with a ginger bowlcut. I didn't even mind the fact he took hit after hit, because in my mind it was all part of the character. I was looking forward to turning him into a sort of paladin-type with cool miracles and perhaps a sword. Maybe a halberd (I dig polearms and you don't get to use them in many games).

But after two days of being killed mercilessly and going back to that same fricking bonfire, I could take no more. It wasn't that gigantic Black Knight that kept killing me that did it, or those awful guys with spears. It was those assholes with the firebombs. Something seemed to snap in the game after a while and I was no longer able to sneak up on them. No matter where I moved they were always facing me and I couldn't get close to them without being incinerated. And these are the easiest bad guys in the game?

No. Fuck that.

It's not that it's the hardest game I have ever played. Hard is fine. I like hard. I'm the kind of guy who plays RPGs with the weapons their character is worst with just because I get bored of kicking too much ass. It's not that the game is unfair, because it isn't. If you knew the tricks for defeating every enemy, it would be possible to make it through every level unscathed without dying once. But you would have to be fucking Taskmaster with perfect muscle memory to do it. I don't mind dying. In fact so many of the deaths in Dark Souls are actually hilarious - I got filleted by ghosts, mashed by a completely unexpected boulder, hammered into a paste by a giant demon - I enjoyed them. But constant trivial death at the hands of the most banal enemies? I just can't handle that.

I think it will just get worse as the game goes on, and just be harder to quit. So, here it is, Dark Souls. We're just not good for one another. My life doesn't fit you. In another time, perhaps, when I was determined and obsessed with my Csports ranking and I had no wife and toddler and jobhunting and novel writing, perhaps I would have persevered and beat you. Perhaps I would brayed and whooped at your defeat. But that's not who I am now.

I reckon I probably get two hours a week of videogames. Gaming is almost a Taoist experience for me. It's the only time in my life when I am not thinking, planning or plotting. I even do it in my dreams. But gaming is when I am truly able to switch off. I'd rather those times were spent with enjoyable experiences rather than confounding and irritating ones.

I don't usually quit games. The only one I can think of offhand that I did quit was GTA IV, because it bored me. I will play any game through to the end, so long as I'm enjoying it. But if I don't enjoy it, then why play? What is this, sports?

So, yeah, that's me. I'm downloading Kingdoms of Amalur now because it was $3.99 on Xbox Live, and it was on my list anyway.

I don't even feel like a massive failure. It's Dark Souls fault for being the videogaming equivalent of some Japanese game show where you have to eat a tarantula while being shot in the gonads with a paintball gun.