Thoughts on Video Games: An Entertainment Medium

I think awhile back when I started posting on this blog in July of  2016, I was still gathering my thoughts about video games and what it meant to me.  Because I was raised by compassionate parents,  I was always conscious about the things I was exposed to.  I knew I would never harm a single animal or person in real life, and yet I enjoy violent games.  This prompted me to write about Dark Souls and its philosophy on what it meant to be human.  My ideas might be a bit archaic but the dark side of life is not so far.  If I’m not careful, I can lose my humanity too.  So that is why I prefer games that have human qualities which teach me something positive about life.

My belief that video games are beyond a pastime activity has been confirmed while  reading IGN interview with Swery, the creator of Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die.

[Video Games] are something greater than simply a means of generating money, or pieces of mere entertainment to be consumed. [Video Games]  are considered even a little bit as art or something eternal.

Like Swery, I believe some things in life is beyond human comprehension.  Video games are in fact just merely reflecting our human thoughts just like any other entertainment medium.   And yet video games, are often frowned upon as a waste of time by non-gamers.  They don’t understand that not all games are created equal as to not all books are educational.

I know that there is a lot of talk about video games becoming a mass consumption and the game industry is catering to a wider audience.  I have mixed feelings about this.  Seldomly, do I find modern games having the same aesthetic as classic or retro games. Some modern games are becoming longer and unimaginative.  Two bad combination for me.  I wonder is it even possible for developers to create games that appeal to the mass while continuing to take risk to innovate games?

I think you know by now why one of the best developers to me is FromSoftware.  They don’t chase after what is popular.  They create genuine games that are timeless to me.  So that’s why I’m always on the hunt for great games. They really are my treasures.

Nioh Might be Harder than Dark Souls

I played  Nioh second demo released Aug. 23- Sept. 6th. I wish I had more time to play since I was  crunching for time,  but I did make it a priority. And it was fun! During that time, Pax West, a gaming event was going on in Seattle. I could have bought a ticket in an advance if I wanted to do something during the weekend. But I must confess,  I didn’t care that tickets were sold out. I just wanted to play Nioh!

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As I was playing Nioh beta, I didn’t realize how immersive and flowly the game feels compared to most modern games (no offense!). It is often compared to Dark Souls because of its difficulty etc. but Nioh, in my opinion is not the same as Dark Souls. It has a meticulous and methodical game-play style that is very different from Dark Souls. No, you can’t just hack and slash and dodge easily. You got to time yourself. Stamina in Nioh is very important. If I can recall, just blocking, dodging, hacking take up stamina easily.  And if you are not careful, you are left in a vulnerable position, panting for air. Perhaps this is what made it difficult to fight Onryoki.  The area is not as wide and the boss’ attack can easily do serious damage. I guess what I am trying to say is, I really had fun re-learning how to play a game so that I can cautiously time myself to kill my opponent and I died frequently when I am not focused. I welcome this new game-play. I want to play a new game and not play Dark Souls again with a different title.  Now I am not saying  the Souls games are not difficult games. I am in fact still playing it.  I just know that there were a few bosses that I thought were not so difficult because Souls games are fair towards the player if you really know what you are doing.  But then again, this is just the demo I was playing and not the final product. I know for sure this is one of the games I will be looking forward to because it really reminds me of the older Ps2 games such as Genji: Dawn of Samurai and Onimusha.

Dark Souls: What the Bonfire Says about Humanity

Black-Knight

The story in Dark Soul is subtle and deep. But  I won’t go into details about the lore. What I want to do is explain the story from a philosophical perspective. After playing all three installments, I get the impression that  Dark Souls series is explaining what it means to exist and most importantly the meaning of humanity by using the bonfire to illustrate its points.

Looking at the bonfire closely, it is not just a mere bonfire. A sword thrusts into the flames of human ashes. This implies the sexual interaction between man and woman–to procreate is to exist and thus succeed.

From Dark Souls prologue, we know that fire gives life, but what I found very interesting  is the statement from the narrator:”from the dark they came and found the souls within the flame.” Whatever this darkness is, it causes something to ignite within, driven to succeed and conquer.

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So this explains why the non-playable characters seem to have lost sight of their own purpose or why they are even existing at all. Cale the Cartographer points out that there is “something greatly comforting about the flame. It seems to fulfill something very precious, deep within the soul…something essential.” The Undead is naturally  attracted to the flame that gives warmth. Therefore, time and again, the phrase: “May the Flames Guide Thee” is often used in the game. Just how important it is for the fire to remind the Undead of its humanity. By doing so, the bonfires are not just checkpoints to meet the final destination. The bonfires play a significant role in the story as they are “corporeal manifestation” of each Fire keepers’ soul  (Dark Souls I item description). The Fire keepers tend to the bonfire and the Undead, protecting the flame.  Think about it, when there’s no  warmth, we are dead physically and mentally. And Lucatiel from Dark Souls II explains this very well:

“Undead gradually loses his humanity, until his wits degrade completely. Finally, he turns Hollow, and preys upon others. And a Hollow can never be human again.”

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Another example that an Undead gradually loses his wit is the gaming mechanic in Dark Souls I. The more you kill, the more you increase your humanity. This implies that  the player is stealing life from others in order to gain souls. After all, the Undead is cursed to become Hollow and “preys on men [and] feeds upon their souls (Dark Souls II prologue).”

So this brought me to the question: Am I evil for enjoying Dark Souls series? And the answer is no because Dark Souls series is not all dark and sinister. There is warmth in it. Because to acknowledge that we can go Hollow (mad) and acknowledge that human is neither good nor bad only reinforce the question what is humanity.  To question our motives and realize our doings show that we are not entirely mad just yet and we ought to cling onto whatever warmth we have left to keep from going Hollow.

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And if you ask me what defines  humanity, I am not quite sure yet what it means in the game. I feel that I need to investigate more. But  for now,  I’d say civilization are built with an understanding and respect for the needs of every human beings. I think this is the reason why the Greek god Zeus, protector of guests,  favors hosts that provide good hospitality.  Civilized people acknowledge that other people feel the same hunger and coldness as they do. So without warmth, the flame, we are dead both physically and mentally.  And according to the item description in Dark Souls I, “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.