Dark Souls: The Counterculture of Hard Video Games

When describing the Information Age, Bill Gates once said, “Content is king.”  We now have an overabundance of content.  We possess more than we could ever read, watch, or consume.  In order to deal with this over saturation of content, we have become more selective about what we consume.  In addition, we have become massively impatient.  Content is seemingly limitless, but our time is limited.  This can be seen in many manifestations.  For example, people become angry when their internet is slow, or the latest episode of their favorite TV show hasn’t been posted online yet.  It has also bled over into the gaming world.  We see games that are easier and shorter than before, that tend to hold the gamer’s hand in small ways such as explaining all the ins and outs of the game early on.  While games can certainly be very difficult, there is a noticeable lack of the grueling sluggish difficulty of older video games such as the Adventure of Link, which advertises itself as, “another journey of ultimate challenge.”  Yet, there is a game series which spits in the face of the impatient Information Age crowd, and that series is the Souls series which is most well known for its games Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2.

These games don’t explain their mechanics other than the bare bones basics.  You are left to your own devices to figure out which weapon would be best to use, and how best to upgrade your stats.  In many games, average enemies can rarely kill you.  In Dark Souls, any enemy can kill you in seconds if you aren’t careful.  The game rewards players for slow, cautious gaming as you traverse the treacherous lands of Lordran and Drangleic.  The games are unique blends of single player and multiplayer.  Although you spend most of the game alone, you can summon other players to aid you in boss fights, or more likely other players will invade your world and try to kill you.  Because of the always online nature of the game, there is no pause button.  This is a game that demands your complete attention if you want to succeed and it takes up quite a bit of time and dedication.

In other words the game requires you to actually learn.  In our impatient culture, learning seems to be almost counter cultural.  We see evidence of this on social media, when people rashly share stories that support their biased views without researching the stories first.  We want quick answers to our problems.  We all buy into the idea that we deserve as much content as we want but only as long as we are spoon fed said content.

Thus, difficult games that actually force you to try, try, and try again foster learning.  When you accomplish tasks in these games, you feel a sense of accomplishment.  The same can be said of true beneficial learning.  It is immensely satisfying to look back on your work and see how it started out rough but now has become a work of art.

So remember, when you see the words, “Game Over” or “You Died” that is only a challenge to fight our impatience and continue the journey.