I would like to tell a different story, but it was not until Bloodborne, in 2015, that I really started enjoying Hidetaka Miyazaki's games.
I remember the word of mouth with Demon's Souls, I also remember how difficult it was to get my copy for PS3, and on top of all that, I do perfectly remember me putting the game aside, frustrated and convinced that it was mechanically broken, totally unfair with the player. Some short of niche title for super hardcore players, but not something I could appreciate, not to mention enjoy.
With these premises it was not strange that I didn't care about Dark Souls. It simply was not in my agenda. By that time Skyrim and Battlefield 3 were my principal focus.
As I've said, I had to wait until 2015, with a new generation of consoles in between, before playing again a game from From Software. I was not super fascinated about Project Beast at the beginning, I did not follow the development, someday it was just released and I told myself "Why not?", so I went to my local store and got my copy.
This time, although I struggled during the first couple of hours, something changed in my mind. It was like I had finally understood what I was here for.
When people understand this for the very first time while playing Miyazaki's games they experience kind of an epiphany. It was not a broken game, it was the way I was approaching it. There were no unpolished mechanics, I had to improve my skills.
From Software's games are widely credited for remembering the industry -remembering us the players- that games are named so because they are meant to be mechanically demanding. Demon Souls' generation was somehow a paradigm of simplification. The generation of the never-ending tutorials and quick-time events. The generation of infinite shields and life regeneration.
It was as if after discovering their own narrative possibilities, video games would have forgotten about their most representative feature. They were way more video and way less game.
Let's be fair and say that possibly part of the transition was necessary. Studios like Naughty Dog which entered into the generation with a fun Indiana Jones clone, ended up creating a deep, powerful and melancholic introspective reflection about the demons of the human soul. Unfortunately there were others, like Crytek, who decided to destroy their legacy and make a bad Call of Duty out of their most important franchise.
There is no doubt that we, the players, needed someone to remind us that this simplification path was a tricky one and so did Miyazaki. He presented himself in front of the industry with a groundbreaking idea: Let's play some videogames. Let our level design be the players learning vehicle. Let the world, hostile, force them to remain alert. Shall the X never, ever, mark the spot.
And the players accepted the challenge. Some directly embraced it. Others, like me, needed more time; but when we heard that click inside, we knew there was no turn back.
We were in a hostile world, that's true, but we were ourselves. After that corner the danger was not threatening our avatar, it was threatening us. When we were dancing to death with a boss the triumph was perceived as something personal. We felt the euphoria raising in a primal, visceral way.
Miyazaki gave the curiosity back to us. He made us investigate every location. We became one with the game world.
Both the disturbing Victorian beauty of Bloodborne and the decadent medieval sadness of Dark Souls hit us hard, but also touched us deeply. As we were advancing in the game we were suffering, but also growing feelings. Every stone, every dust mote, every musical note was telling us something. Not with a clear description of what was happening, off course without cinematics. The game was not helping us. We had to want to know, to find out the details in our own. It was not a novel, it was a lyric composition. It was a poem open to our interpretation.
And then there was death. Death was the pillar of everything. We kept dying. All the time. But we learnt out of each death. Every time we died we also improved our skills and our knowledge on the game.
We keep dying. Human beings cannot scape from death. But now we know our place in this world. Now we are awake.
We do not go gentle in that good night.
Note from IPQ: You can read Dylan Thomas' poem here: