I’ve been playing a lot of Dark Souls recently. The game is about 7 years old today with it having received a remaster this year, but apart from some quality of life changes and a 60FPS upgrade there really hasn’t been all that much change to it. I’ve decided to pick up the older version on steam since I had it in my list of games anyway. It’s been a long time since a game really got a hold of me this much, even stranger because I remember playing it a couple of years back and it didn’t have that same impact it did now.
This time it got a hold on me, I needed to finish it that was my sole( soul HAH) purpose. And to that end I did my best. Slowly and steadily I worked my way through the game, found myself a weapon and armor set I liked and went for it. But when I started tapping into DLC territory I hit a roadblock. The HARDEST BOSS IN THE GAME. Manus, Father of the Abyss ( screenshot ). This guy destroyed me with ease. I never got him past 50% HP and I tried plenty of times. I experienced a few moments of extreme mental clarity, almost meditative calm while playing which was nice actually. But there came a point in which I got tired of fighting him. I started wondering if it really mattered to me if I beat this guy? What did I have to prove? And to whom? Did I pressure myself too much into this? Why was I beating myself over the head against something that wasn’t even on my path? SO I decided to get back towards the main game. Every other was dead anyway, all I needed to do finish the final boss and be done with it. So I grabbed my paladin armor, and my +15 katana and went after Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. To be honest I was going in with the idea of just giving him a go, see where it led me. Just for fun I decided to just try and parry all of his moves. And to my astonishment, when he lept up into the air with his first strike, I found myself staggering him with an actual succesful parry. But not once, no, 3 times I easily staggered him and stabbed him in the chest. By the time he dropped dead on the floor, not even 60 seconds had passed. I had taken NO damage as the final boss of the game sank to the floor. That moment just.. I just couldn’t fully grasp what I had just done. I’d been practicing on a way harder boss and though I hands down lost to that guy, I totally mobbed the floor with this one. I had been defeated by one, but had bested another.
It got me thinking though… Maybe victory is not an absolute thing. You can win a war while suffering a few defeats so long as you succeed at crucial times and places. Actually, technically you could even lose at all strokes but still come out on top if you have a good ace-in-the-hole.
A part of gaining something sometimes ( or maybe often) also means losing something. You choose, you lose. What are you prepared to give up to win? What makes a victory.. a victory? In this case I’ve chosen defeat over a DLC boss, but claimed total dominance over the “final boss” of the game. What’d had happened if I’d burned myself out on Manus. Would it have been worth it? I set out to finish this game once and for all, which in my mind meant defeating the final boss, and I did just that. That being said it does feel a bit like a hollow victory, the game automatically forces you into a NG+ so I can’t just go on and duke it out with Manus again, but honestly I also don’t really feel like it. I don’t think that’s where my enjoyment really lies. The catharis of beating a boss is great and all, but learning something new or reinventing yourself in a way, is so much more expansive.
I’ve always harped about the idea that “knowing” and “understanding” are different concepts. I heard Rupaul also mention it on his show saying something like “you know it, but do you own it?” many people have mentioned things like this. And I’ve used it as an allegory for the times when I knew things, but did’t fully understand it. Perhaps what I can learn from my experience ( and understand ) is that… No, you don’t always get to have it your way, but that’s fine. Just make sure that when you do want to get it your way, that it matters to you. A lot of times when I’m self-absorbed I tend to think about what something matters to me rather than what it means to everyone.
I was playing together with a friend of mine in Dark Souls 3, we were just slamming through the game. ( we’ve both already finished it once ) It’s a ton of fun, but I found myself enjoying myself less and less because I got into this way of thinking that I couldn’t figure out what to do. Which weapon should I use? I want to like weapon X, but I really enjoy weapon Y. The choice may seem obvious looking back. But at the time sometimes I wanted to reach for that obscure X weapon, putting a lot of expectation into it, eventually being underwhelmed.
I’ve been getting into the mindset of “experience the journey, because that IS the experience” and more and more I’m starting to see that phylosophy in the things I like. For example, this entire post, has been about “victories” and “defeats”, as for dark souls, I believe there are more defeats than there are victories. If you hang in there and get back up every time you get knocked down,eventually you’ll get there. OR you’re learn that maybe some of the things aren’t just your cup of tea. And you learn to deal with them less often. Life is a long series of situations in which you can come out on top or not, try as you might, with plenty of random factors ( nature ) you cannot always win. Nobody can. But that isn’t the takeaway here. No.
All you have to do is walk the path you’re on in the way that you want to. Head towards where you want to head. Even if you never arrive, you might cause a chain reaction.
I’ve recently seen the same lesson appear in “Detroit: Become Human” and “Devilman: Crybaby”. In D:BH there’s an ending where the protagonist sacrifices himself literally and in a very symbolic way. He will never see the fruits of his labour, but the world takes his plight, the world is forever changed after what he did. And all he did was what he though was right.
As for Devilman, boy that show has something in it. I don’t want to go into any spoiler territory ofcourse, but there’s also plenty of “doing what feels right” in it.