Dark Souls sounds pretty dark, so dark that my non-gaming friend asked me why I play such a satanic game. Her question made me probe about my obsession with it. So, I googled Dark Souls content on the internet. What was the result that stood out to me the most? The word masochist. In fact, I didn’t know that word exist. Dark Souls players are masochists. According to Google dictionary, a masochist is
a person who derives sexual gratification from their own pain or humiliation.” the roles of masochist and mistress (in general use) are a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious.”
Feeling self-conscious about myself, I begin to ponder my true nature as a human being. So, I start to reflect on what Dark Souls really mean.
From Dark Souls prologue, we know that fire gives life, but “from the dark they came and found the souls within the flame.” Whatever this darkness is, it causes something to ignite within the life form–which drives living things to action and eventually to madness. So to prevent going Hollow (cold), players have to reach the bonfire. The game design is very addictive. So, addictive that I couldn’t play any other games for a long while. I was possessed by the satanic game!
If you look at the bonfire closely, it is not just a mere bonfire. A sword thrusts into the flames of the human ash. This implies the continuous cycle of life and death. A place for the souls to resurrect. Once a player dies, they come back alive at the bonfire. Think bonfire as a home–where you rest and prepare yourself for tomorrow’s battle.
All undeads, including you as the player, are naturally attracted to the flames because that is where you came to exist. Going without flame for too long, you will die and eventually lose your humanity. The result is Hollow. I like to think of Hollows as corrupted politicians. I think every politician started out with good intentions, but the more power he/she has, the more abuse he/she can do without having remorse.
So time, again and again, you’d hear the phrase: “May the Flames Guide Thee” in the game. It is a reminder to the undead to cling to the warmth within them. By doing so, the bonfires are not just checkpoints to meet the final destination. The bonfires play a significant role in the story because they are “corporeal manifestation” of each Fire keepers’ soul, the protector of life. She attends to the bonfire, protecting the flame from dying so that the player does not “gradually loses his humanity until his wits degrade completely (Lucatiel’s quote from Dark Souls II).”
So this brought me to the question: Am I a masochist for liking Dark Souls? The answer is no, but I can be corruptible–in fact, everyone can. The Souls series is like a video game bible. It preaches its story through gaming mechanics. That’s why players eventually turn into ugly skeletons. I remember when I created my character, I want it to look beautiful, but then I quit caring about my appearance when I kept turning ugly! I then turn all of my attention to reaching the next bonfire at all costs. I was literally in fact, on my way to turning Hollow (mad).
You might think it’s all dark, but the ability to grasp that one can lose sight of what it truly means to live means that there is also a lot of warmth in this game. It wants to teach us how to think. That’s why I enjoyed this game a lot.
Civilizations rise then fall and fire begins it all. We are built with an understanding and respect for the needs of every human beings. That is humanity. I think this is the reason why the Greek god Zeus, protector of guests, favors hosts that provide good hospitality. To be human is to offer warmth. Without warmth, the flame, we are dead both physically and mentally. And according to an item description in Dark Souls, “the soul is the source of life and whether Undead or even Hollow, one continues to seek them.” What are we without the soul? We cease to exit. So yes, the game is about dark souls. We kill others for their humanity until there is no point of return. We kill others to survive. No wonder my friend called it a satanic game.