For those of you who somehow haven’t heard of Red Dwarf, it’s a British sci-fi comedy series. It’s heyday was in the 80s and early 90s. In the show, there’s a sentient toaster that’s always trying to get people to order toast. At one point, Lister has the following conversation with it:
Would you like some toast?
(Already exasperated from all of his previous dealings with the toaster.) Look, I don’t want any toast, and he doesn’t want any toast. (Points to Kryten.) In fact, no-one around ‘ere wants any toast!
How ’bout a muffin?
(Getting worked up.) Or muffins! We don’t like muffins round ‘ere! We don’t want muffins, no toast, buns, baps, bagets or bagels, no croissants, no crumpets, no teacakes, no potato cakes and no hot cross buns! And definitely no smegging flapjacks!
Ah, so you’re a waffle man!
This. This is what it’s like arguing about Dark Souls. It’s annoying. It’s repetitive. And barring some planet-wide extinction event, I don’t think there will ever be a cure for it.
If you’re one of those non-crazy Dark Souls fans who is happy to enjoy the game without needing to evangelize the teachings of our Lord and Savior From Software, then we’re cool. I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about THE CULTISTS.
You know who I mean. I’m sure you’ve seen them in various discussions around the web, always popping up to tediously re-hash this nine-year old argument and enforce the SIX RULES of Dark Souls.
Oh, you don’t know about this six rules? Let me explain. See…
1) You are not allowed to not like Dark Souls.
There’s no such thing as taste. No such thing as individual preferences. If you don’t like it, you’re wrong. Moreover, you need to be told you’re wrong. Each zealot pops up, just to let you know, by the way, in case nobody told you – and I’m not trying to be pushy about this – but you should know that you’re totally wrong about this video game in every way.
The cultists are always confident that nobody else has taken the time to let you know. You don’t play Dark Souls because nobody stopped to tell you that it’s wrong to not like Dark Souls. Each zealot is positive that you’re just one good nudge from diving into the game, falling in love, and joining the cult.
If telling you that your tastes are wrong doesn’t work, then the zealot will the resort to describing the mechanics to you in excruciating detail. They will do this even if you’ve played it and showed them footage of yourself playing it. They’ll talk about dodge rolls and I-frames and repostes. Stamina, environmental awareness, and fairness. They’re sure that if they can just describe why they like the game in enough detail, then somehow that affinity will be transplanted into you.
Me: Dark Souls gave me eye cancer.
Cultist: See, this proves you still don't understand the game. Repeat after me: Dark Souls is not about eye cancer. It just isn't. If you're worried about eye cancer, then it's no wonder you're not enjoying the game. You're focused on all the wrong things. Stop being a bitch, get some chemotherapy, and try again, but this time PAY ATTENTION to what the game is showing you.
And don’t bother arguing back with the same technique, because…
2) You are not allowed to talk about Dark Souls.
If you’re not a Dark Souls fan, then you are never allowed to describe the Dark Souls gameplay. I’ve tried. I’ve described the game in my own words, based on my time with the game. I was told that I was wrong. I tried describing the game using words that other zealots have used to describe the game. Wrong again. I’ve even repeated the other person’s own description back to them. Still wrong! I finally realized that it has nothing to do with the gameplay. It was wrong because I said it, and I’m not one of the faithful.
If I said, “Dark Souls was Developed by From Software and was released in 2011”, then a zealot would respond with, “It’s actually incorrect to think of Dark Souls as a 2011 game. To really understand Dark Souls, you have to look past the release date and realize that [12 paragraphs of meandering digressions on I-frames, paired animations, and ripostes.]
So you think you can just route around this rule by ignoring the game? Well…
3) You are not allowed to NOT talk about Dark Souls.
By all means, try it. Write an article on difficulty levels, environmental storytelling, or melee-focused combat, and make no mention of DarkSekirosBorne games. See how long it takes before the cultists stop by to let you know you messed up.
“I can’t believe you wrote an entire article on atmospheric levels and you didn’t even MENTION the Fortress of Falling Into a Pit Every Ten Goddamn Steps. And only an idiot would leave out the Valley of Skeleton Guys that Nearly One-Shot You With a Bullshit Lunge Attack. At the very least, the Church of What Keeps Hitting Me FUCK FUCK FUCK SHIT should make the list! That place is legendary. Next time do some proper research.”
Whoops. I shouldn’t make jokes about the game being hard, because…
4) You are not allowed to say that Dark Souls is hard.
If you make the mistake of claiming that Dark Souls is hard, then you have to deal with this guy:
“Stop saying Dark Souls is hard. It’s a dead giveaway that you don’t know what you’re talking about. You might not know this, but you can invite strangers into the game and they’ll win for you. It’s easy to watch someone else play the game for you, therefore Dark Souls is easy.”
Of course going by this standard, all games are easy. You’re never more than a YouTube search away from watching a random stranger play the game for you. If you’re foolish continue to argue with the cultist, then you’ll end up in this conversational dead-end:
“Besides, the combat is actually super easy once you know what you’re doing.”
Gosh, thanks for that profound nugget of wisdom, Sun Tzu. I never would have guessed that learning how to play a game would make it easier to get through it. Any other earth-shattering tips? Aim the bright side of the monitor towards my face? Use my hands to operate the controller instead of my mouth? All this time I’ve just been making screeching noises at my computer, but based on your mind-blowing revelation I’ll try learning to play and figuring out how the game works. Thanks genius.
5) You’ve never heard the One Truth of Dark Souls before.
You’ll say, out loud, that you don’t enjoy playing the game. Despite this, six people will give you conflicting advice on how to play it:
Cultist #1: Don’t worry about your build. In fact, ignore the leveling mechanics. They’re a distraction. You just need to pay attention to your stamina bar and dodge-roll at the right time.
Cultist #2: You need to learn the leveling mechanics. Build up lots of [some inscrutable abbreviation] and wear heavy armor to improve your survivability. In fact, just grab [some heavy gear you’ve never heard of, from a place you’ve never visited and that you don’t know how to reach] and you’re basically invincible.
Cultist #3: Whatever you do, avoid heavy armor. It’s a trap. It’ll deplete your stamina and leave you a sitting duck. High-mobility builds are where it’s at.
Cultist #4: If you’re a newbie, then the best thing to do is wait until you get a weapon you like and design your build around that.
Cultist #5: Use magic if you want easy mode.
Cultist #6: Don’t worry about your build. You need to focus on your gear. I suggest you just open up the wiki and read about all 200 weapons to get a feel for what’s available.
It’ll be a little confusing because they’ll be arguing with each other while giving you conflicting advice on how to play this game you’ve already explicitly said you don’t enjoy. You can roll the dice, follow the advice of the least-crazy sounding person, and then report back that you’re still not having fun. The five cultists you ignored will all insist that you should have listened to THEIR advice, and the other one will accuse you of following their advice wrong.
If you’re a fool, I suppose you could spend hours and hours slogging through a game you don’t enjoy to placate the cultists, but there will never be a point in the debate where you’ve exhausted their advice, you still don’t like the game, and they’re content to move on. I can only conclude the cultists get paid on commission based on who turns you into a fan.
Ignore all those other zealots! I’m the only one with the right guidance to help you unlock this mystery! You just need to play it differently. Or think of it differently. Or think of playing it differently. The game can’t possibly be the problem, so the only explanation is that there’s something wrong on your end for failing to love it. It doesn’t matter if you explicitly say you’re sick of the discussion. It doesn’t matter if you say you’re not interested. It doesn’t matter if you have other demands on your time. You haven’t listened to MY advice, so therefore none of those previous discussions count. I’m the only one who REALLY understands, so ignore what all the other people are shouting at you and listen to my voice in the crowd. I’m the sane one. Listen to MEEEEEEEE!
Protip: Do not listen to him.
6) If you’re not willing to discuss this, then you are a bad person.
Come on. I’m just trying to share this game with you. All I’m trying to do is convince you that your opinion is wrong, your personal taste is wrong, and that my views on Dark Souls carry more weight than your first-hand experience with the game. I’m just trying to have a conversation where everything you say is wrong until you agree with me, and the conversation will go on until you get frustrated and leave so I can declare myself the winner. I can talk about this game literally forever, and I can’t imagine that anyone else might feel differently.
Why are you being so rude about this? Excuse me for trying to share this beloved video game with you. It’s not my fault you’re too narrow-minded to listen.
It really is unavoidable. SoulsBorneo games are massively important. The difficulty and presentation of challenge is unique, regardless of how difficult or trivial anyone claims it is. It’s a wonderful example of how you can reveal a story and world without stopping everything for a flow-breaking cutscene or a radio conversation every 4 rooms. It’s a beloved series and makes for an immensely useful landmark for comparison between games and genres. I don’t have anything personally against the game or the people who love it.
But it is such a chore to bring the dang thing up, because there’s always that one loony who wants to lead off with “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”, before launching into an incoherent side-discussion that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Or the crazy person who wants to argue that your personal experience is wrong.
Sure, you can rebuke the annoying people and ban the ones who can’t take a hint. It’s not like annoying people are a rarity on the internet. But it really is tedious after all of these years. I’ll be writing an article, and then I realize I need to bring up Dark SoulsEither because it makes for a good comparison, or because someone will express disbelief if I DON’T bring it up., which means I’m going to have to fend off a couple more cultists.
For a while we had the joke “Talking about Dark Souls is the Dark Souls of talking.” But even that thing is worn out by now.
I have a script / article I’m working on now, and it pretty much requires me to bring up Dark Souls. I can see this trouble coming, and I know there is literally no combination of words, gestures, or expressions of intent that will save me from going another round with the cultists.
In the future, I plan to reply to all such inquiries, admonishments, passive-aggressive questions, and nitpicks with a simple URL linking back to this article. Feel free to do the same if you find the cultists are getting you down. Good luck.
 Either because it makes for a good comparison, or because someone will express disbelief if I DON’T bring it up.
id Software Coding Style
When the source code for Doom 3 was released, we got a look at some of the style conventions used by the developers. Here I analyze this style and explain what it all means.
Zenimax vs. Facebook
This series explores the troubled history of VR and the strange lawsuit between Zenimax publishing and Facebook.
Bethesda felt the need to jam a morality system into Fallout 3, and they blew it. Good and evil make no sense and the moral compass points sideways.
A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.
A look back at Star Trek, from the Original Series to the Abrams Reboot.