It’s Not Dark Souls, It’s Me

By Shamus Posted Thursday May 14, 2020

Filed under: Personal 211 comments

It’s been three months since I wrote a post asking people to stop asking me to play Dark Souls. It was fun, silly, and – if I’m being totally honest – pretty cathartic to write. In that post, a few people asked why I don’t like Dark Souls. Not because they were trying to get me to play the game, but because they just wanted to understand where I was coming from. I know I’ve alluded to this in the past, but maybe it would be handy to have the whole story in one post…

The thing is: I don’t dislike Dark Souls. I actually think it’s an amazing creation. My problem is that it’s deeply unhealthy for me to play it. So let me set aside the jokes and hyperbole and the ranting about fanboys and joking about YOU DIED and describe where things fall apart for me.

But before we do that, let me tell you about General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane

Billy Beane

Beane as played by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball.
Beane as played by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball.

Beane was – or perhaps still is – a naturally gifted athlete. If you read his story, it sounds like he’s a real-world version of Captain America.

“Beane attended Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, where he excelled at baseball, football, and basketball. The high school coach added Beane to the varsity baseball team for the last game of his freshman season. Beane batted .501 during his sophomore and junior years of high school.”

It’s not like this was just some regular guy who happened to be a little bigger than the other fish in the pond. It would be one thing if he was a high school star in some podunk town, but this guy lived in San Diego. He played three different sports, was awesome at all of them, and he managed to put up ludicrously high numbers despite splitting his attention between them. A batting average of .501 is almost superhuman. In his senior year it fell to .300, which is still way above a majority of players. This means that when he was in a “slump”, he was still better than most of the players around him.

The only person I can think of that even comes close is Bo Jackson, the only professional athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football.

On top of that, Beane was gifted in a lot of other areas. He was one of those people who seemed to be cheating at life. He was fit, handsome, likeable, and apparently a top student. This guy seemed unstoppable.

He began playing professional baseball in 1984. His career ended just 5 years later.

He didn’t have a career-ending injury. He didn’t have a bunch of behavioral problems that put him in jail. He didn’t self-destruct with drugs or alcohol. He was just suddenly and inexplicably not good enough to cut it in the major leagues.

In the movie Moneyball, Beane was played by Brad Pitt. The movie briefly alluded to his problems, but to get a sense of why his career flamed out you’d have to read the book. (And to really get an understanding of the guy, you’d probably have to know him.)

According to the book, Beane couldn’t handle failure. He’d never learned how to calmly accept defeat, adapt, and move on. Maybe it was a side-effect of being so good for so long that he’d never cultivated the resilience required to operate at the top level of a sport where all of your opponents are nearly as superhuman as you are. Maybe it’s just a personality quirk. Maybe he’d been told how incredible he was for so long that anything less than complete dominance made him feel like a failure.

This was a nasty cycle that fed on itself. He’d go to bat, strike out, and become completely livid. He’d throw a fit, break stuff, and generally have a very public meltdown. Then the next time at bat, he’d be so afraid of another failure that he’d start melting down before he got anywhere near the plate. The more he failed, the more intolerant he was of failure and the more likely he was to fail.

A future of riches and glory was in front of him. He could make an insane pile of money. He could be the biggest name in sports in generations. All he had to do was calm down, and he couldn’t do it.

I want to stress that Beane wasn’t some dumb oaf. This wasn’t some ape-like jock with no self-awareness. Beane is a smart guy and he could see how embarrassing and counterproductive these meltdowns were – but he still couldn’t stop them from happening!

Like I said above, he eventually became General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. Even then, his demons haunted him. He literally couldn’t watch the games because he’d freak out over every setback. He’d smash furniture and generally make a fool of himself. Eventually he developed this thing where he’d tell people that he didn’t watch the games. He tried very hard to make this true. He’d leave the stadium and try to do something else for a few hours, because he knew otherwise he’d blow his top and make everything worse. What ended up happening is that he’d drive away with the intent to distract himself for a few hours. But eventually the stress, anxiety, and curiosity would get the better of him and he’d end up pulling over and listening to the game on the radio in a parking lot somewhere.

Now imagine how much worse Beane would be if he had all those self-imposed expectations of success, but instead of being a superhuman he was just a regular guy.

That’s me.

Alternately, imagine Bruce Banner turning into an out-of-control rage monster, except he’s physically the same puny guy he was before. That’s also kinda me.

Failure Is Not an Option, It’s Mandatory

A Dark Souls meme swiped from Reddit.
A Dark Souls meme swiped from Reddit.

In the past I’ve talked about having meltdowns in cases where I keep getting pulled off-task by a chain of interruptions. Something like this:

This software isn’t working right. Oh, I see I need to install 3Gb of Windows updates to get the small fix for this simple program. Wait, now Windows won’t let me get that update until I agree to a new EULA. Fine. Oh, but to do that I have to log in to my Microsoft account and I don’t remember my password. I’ll do a password reset. Arg. Now the reset page is suddenly displaying everything in Italian for no reason. I try to fix that and end up clicking the wrong thing and now Microsoft has locked me out of my account due to failed login attempts and I can’t try again because I’ve smashed my keyboard into a thousand pieces.

This is the main reason I don’t like talking about this. People read my work and they imagine I’m some Spock-like critic of pure analysis and reason. It’s nice when people think highly of you, and I hate to ruin a good story with the truth, but there it is. I sometimes turn into a ridiculous self-destructive rage monster.

Back in 2006 I described this as nested problems. I’ve spent a lot of time studying this problem since then and I’ve come to think of it differently. It’s not really that the problems are nested that’s causing the rage. The rage happens whenever I’m presented with a frustration and then I’m repeatedly prevented from attempting to solve it. Nesting is indeed a common pattern, but I’ve also run into situations where the frustrations are chained rather than nested. It’s not that things are going wrong, it’s that I’m being prevented from working on the problem in front of me.

“Yeah Shamus, I get mad at video games too. It’s no excuse to smash stuff. Just grow up.”

Sigh. This is the other reason I don’t like talking about this. It’s really hard to get the other person to understand the sheer scale of the problem.

Getting frustrated by blocked progress is pretty normal. What isn’t normal is getting a massive dose of adrenaline in response to mundane problems. It’s not the frustration that’s the problem, it’s the Hulk-sized dose of useless hormone neurotransmitters sloshing around in my bloodstream. That’s a real physiological thing that happens to your body, and you can’t zen your way through that shit. I’ve tried. You can’t shrug off the effects of adrenaline any more than you can shrug off the effects of alcohol. One way or another, biochemistry is going to have its way with you.

I’m trying to solve some subtle reflex-based boss fight and my brain is like, “What are we doing? Are we fighting a bear? Here, have this!” And then suddenly my heart rate spikes and I get so angry I can’t speak.

Like I said, I can keep calm as long as I can continue to concentrate on the problem, but if you yank the problem away from me then my anger spikes. Worse, this isn’t just a one-time dose. This anger continues to grow for as long as I’m prevented from working on the problem I care about.

And when I do get back to solving the problem, it’s not like that adrenaline just vanishes. I’m still in an extreme state of agitation. Resuming work on the problem is just the point where the anger stops getting worse. That stuff can last for a long time after the initial frustration is long solved. We don’t have a word for the sour, exhausting, stomach-churning, sullen feeling you get when you’re coming off a rush of angry adrenaline, but I wish there was. A half hour of rage can leave me feeling awful for hours.

The other wrinkle to all of this is that my wife is an extremely gentle and empathetic soul. Early in our marriage I’d find myself in the middle of situations like this:

INT-Shamus’ Home Office-Day

Shamus is struggling with some ridiculous multi-stage problem with Windows 98. After fifteen minutes of rebooting, pointless error messages, and confusing dialogs, he’s finally at the edge of his self-control. He’s been growling, grinding his teeth, cursing under his breath, and otherwise trying to bottle up his rage. Finally Windows 98 pushes him one step too far and he LOSES HIS SHIT.

Shamus:
AAAAAAARG. WHAT THE FUCK?!!??! FRRRGGGKKKKK.

(He can’t hold it any longer. He slams his fist into the bottom-right of his keyboard and caves in the bottom of the numpad. He’s vaguely aware that he’s just injured his hand, but he can’t feel it yet because of the adrenaline rush.)

(Suddenly, Heather dashes into the room in a panic.)

Heather:

What’s wrong?!?!?!

(Shamus struggles to get a grip on himself so he can form words and phrases.)

Shamus:

It’s… Windows. It… first it wanted the disk, and THEN it says it can’t FIND the disk even though the disk is FUCKING RIGHT THERE! I CAN SEE IT IN THE FILE EXPLORER BUT WINDOWS WON’T LET ME FUCKING ACCESS IT AND THEN

(Heather slams her hands over her ears and looks like she’s on the edge of tears.)

Heather:

Stop shouting at me!

Shamus:

I’M NOT SHOUTING AT YOU, I’M JUST SHOUTING!

This is… a disaster. I really love my wife and I can’t stand seeing her hurt or upset. But she’s also a gentle person and does not react well to raised voices. At the same time, her personality compels her to help people in distress. So then she’d come in to help and I’d have to bottle up my emotions. I was originally raging out because I had one too many things preventing me from working on the (seemingly) simple problem in front of me. But now I have to calmly and quietly describe a very complex technical problem while also masking my rage because otherwise I’ll terrify the person I love most.

If you look closely, you’ll realize this is yet another layer of interference keeping me from working the problem. She’s trying to help, but she’s accidentally adding to my anger while also putting herself in close proximity where my shouting will be most upsetting. She’s trying to help her husband and stop the shouting, and instead her noble intentions are adding to the chaos. I’ve lost count of the number of times I shouted, “I’M NOT ANGRY AT YOU, I’M JUST ANGRY.”

Eventually I sat down and figured out the mechanics of this mess. It seems simple and straightforward from my description above, but the behavioral pattern isn’t as obvious when you’re living through it. I sort of imagined everyone else felt the same sanity-destroying anger that I did, and I was just a terrible person because I couldn’t bottle it up like they (apparently) did.

Once I understood some of the problem, I was able to explain it to my wife. Now she knows not to dash into the room just because I’m shouting at Uplay or whatever. These days, she’ll offer to solve the problem for me if it looks like a meltdown is coming. When this happens, I act exactly like Billy Beane. I leave the scene and pace fretfully. I want to know how it’s going, but I know it’s a bad idea to ask. She’ll probably tell me that the Windows Store is somehow asking for my Xbox login or something else insane and then I’ll start ranting about Microsoft’s miserable pile of broken infrastructure.

(This is made easier by the fact that she likes helping and seems to get a lot of satisfaction from sorting out problems like this. I’m really lucky I didn’t marry a tech-illiterate woman.)

Over the years, I’ve learned and observed a bit more about this condition…

  1. These anger spikes first appeared just before puberty. That’s also when I started taking medication for my asthma. It’s also about the same time as the Dark Year. I’ve been on various medications over the years, but I haven’t been medication-free since 1982 or so. I have no idea if puberty, the medication, or the personal trauma have anything to do with it.
  2. It’s gotten better with age / experience. I’ve figured out some triggers and I’ve gotten better at avoiding them. When I was a young guy, meltdowns used to happen a few times a month. I think I only had two in 2019.
  3. Large doses of highly processed sugars are a huge trigger. I’ve noticed that if I eat candy, the next day I’ll be redlining on anger. I’ll just be one good nudge from a rage fit. I don’t know if it’s the sugar, the dye, or some other ingredient. Yes, I’m aware that people have claimed that the effects of these foods are overblown. Actually, it’s complicated. I don’t know. It’s not like I can run a proper double-blind study on myself. I’ve found a trigger, and so I stay away from it. It’s just not worth doing further experiments. It’s a shame. I have a massive sweet tooth and I really miss jelly beans.
  4. Like I mentioned back in 2017, aerobic exercise also messes up my moods. I can lift weights with no problemNo problem beyond the difficulty of, you know, lifting them., but jogging and other high-intensity exercise will do something (probably mess with my hormones) that will make me very angry for no reason the next day. At that point, all I need is a tiny frustration to pop up and my adrenal glands will be like, “I KNEW IT. I KNEW WE WERE GOING TO FIGHT A BEAR AT SOME POINT TODAY. OKAY LET’S DO THIS!”
  5. I’ve had a few magical moments in my life where I DIDN’T have a huge melt-down in the face of an ongoing frustration. I was working on some confusing problem with broken technology. After an hour or so, I suddenly realized I was long past the point where I’d normally freak out. I was frustrated, sure. But I was, like, normal-people frustrated. I could still think straight and I didn’t want to shout or smash anything. It was magical. Being able to stay calm in the face of continuing frustration feels like a superpower to me. I’ve never been able to find a pattern to this. Diet? Exercise? Medications? Sleep patterns? I have no idea.

Regarding #5: My son Issac is able to stay perfectly calm when playing frustrating games, and it looks miraculous to me. He’ll be in the middle of a long run-back to the boss he’s working on. I’ll ask him how a game is going, and he’ll reply – in a perfectly calm voice – that he’s a little frustrated because this boss just killed him 7 times in a row. I’m deeply envious of his zen, but I’m relieved he didn’t inherit my demon.

Same goes for ryukahr. I’ll watch as some cruel and deliberately unfair level kills him again and again at the end of a taxing series of jumps, and I’ll start feeling this sympathetic outrage on his behalf. Meanwhile, he’s still grinning from ear to ear and having an amazing time. Watching his videos is like watching bullets bounce off of Superman.

The final cruelty is that I’ve had rage melt-downs trigger one of my migraines. Or maybe the two problems have a common root cause? I don’t know. I’ve tried to get help for my headaches but so far traditional medication hasn’t provided any solutions. (Incidentally: My migraines first appeared in the exact same window of time around 1982 or so.)

I cracked a couple of ribs back in the mid-aughts. It made every breath painful and it hurt so bad I could barely sleep for a few days. But if you gave me the choice between cracked ribs or a migraine, it wouldn’t even be a contest. Do you break my ribs, or do you want me to do it? Because I want nothing to do with that headache.

Which brings me to…

Dark Souls

A Dark Souls meme swiped from Reddit.
A Dark Souls meme swiped from Reddit.

Dark Souls is almost perfectly engineered to push my anger button really hard. Bosses often take a few tries to beat. Additionally, there’s a non-trivial run-back penalty when you fail. Remember that I don’t get angry when I die, I get continuously more angry during the run-back. The longer the reset, the more enragingFun fact: Google docs was convinced this sentence was wrong, and that I must have meant “Intriguing” instead of “enraging”. That’s a very interesting suggestion. it is.

I can handle games with lots of death like Hotline Miami, where there’s zero penalty for failure and you reset instantly to the start of the room. I might get a little frustrated if I die 10 times, but it’s normal-people frustration. I don’t get a bunch of useless adrenaline floating around in my bloodstream.

I can handle games with a bit of a reset time, like the classic five-minute checkpoint. I can sorta handle that long run-back if it looks like it’ll be the only one. But if I died, and I don’t know what I did wrong, and I know I’m going to have to make several attempts, and I know every attempt will incur this penalty, then I’ll know I’m heading for a meltdown. Worse, if I see I’m going that way then I’ll get there even faster. “Oh shit. HOW many times am I going to have to do this run?! I don’t even know! IT COULD BE A MILLION!”

I know Dark Souls fans like to argue with everything I say about the game, but I hope they’ll at least concede that the bosses are not designed to be beaten on the first try. Some of them take many tries. And there’s usually a run-back penalty, and sometimes that penalty can be steep.

So then a well-meaning fan will try to explain why it’s not that bad: Hey, there are shortcuts! You can follow a guide! Some bosses are easier if you know the strategy ahead of time! Sometimes the run is actually pretty short! Just unlock the shortcuts, read the strategy guide, and watch YouTube videos to see how to handle the fights so you don’t have to work it out through trial-and-error.

So what we’re talking about is playing the game where – instead of being immersed in the world – I’m reading the wiki to tell me about the shortcuts and how to unlock them, and reading a strategy guide and watching YouTube videos so I’m not going into fights blind. That means the game might not push my anger buttons as hard or as quickly, but it’s still going to be pressing them. Sooner or later I’ll run into that one boss that has just the right combination of long run + tricky fight, and it’s meltdown time. Plus, spending so much of the game with your nose in the wiki is a really boring and immersion-breaking way to play. At that point I might as well watch a dang LP on YouTube.

Hey Shamus, why don’t you just summon a friend and have them escort you through the game?

See, I don’t just want to get through a game. I want to master it. That’s the part that feels good. Having someone else doing the heavy lifting might get me through to the next bonfire or whatever, but that doesn’t really help me master the mechanics so that I can play the game on my own.

Compounding this is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I don’t want to just barely scrape by and emerge from a fight with a tiny sliver of health. I don’t want to squeak by on blind luck. I want to win for real, in the sense that I have control of the situation. In a perfectible game like Jedi: Fallen OrderI’m not totally sure JFO is actually perfectible. I’ve only done 2 playthroughs. If it isn’t, it’s dang close., Batman, OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, I’ll often intentionally reset to the last checkpoint if I feel like I’m not performing as well as I could.

The Usual Disclaimer

A Dark Souls meme swiped from Reddit.
A Dark Souls meme swiped from Reddit.

As I’ve said before: None of these things mean that Dark Souls is a bad game. I recognize that it does a lot of cool stuff. I’ve never followed the lore of Dark Souls, but I LOVED Dan Olson’s breakdown of Bloodborne. That thing sounds like solid gold. I enjoy atmospheric games. I love games with a lot of clearance between the skill floor and the skill ceiling. I really appreciate games that allow the mechanics to stand for themselves and don’t feel the need to trample all over my gameplay with their stupid cutscenes. Dark Souls has many design decisions that I admire, but this particular way of presenting challenges is a deal-breaker for me. If I had a magic pill that could inhibit my anger, then I could take it and practice the game until I had the experience and muscle memory to get through with minimal deaths. If that happened, then I’d probably play Dark Souls like I play Batman Arkham City: I’d Go through the game again and again, refining things and trying to get the perfect run where I don’t make any mistakes.

But no matter how much fun I’d have with the game after mastering it, there’s no way to get from where I am now to where I need to be, except to go through the Valley of Absurd Temper Tantrums and into the Caves of Smashed Controllers and Busted Keyboard Drawers before coming out the other side.

“Hey Shamus, Instead of getting mad that you can’t resume fighting the boss right away, just think of the whole thing – respawning at the fire, running back to the boss, and repeating the early stages of the fight – as a single challenge. Then it’s like Hotline Miami, where you resume playing right away. If the entire journey from the bonfire to the death of the boss is a single challenge, then there’s no penalty for failure!”

You can try to convince me that this is the case, but that won’t stop the release of adrenaline. It’s not always clear what will cause rage and what won’t, but I know from experience that you can’t change it by “thinking about it differently”. I’ve messed around with this a lot over the years, trying to find some zen state of mind or mental model that will avoid meltdowns. “Maybe I’ll just assume ahead of time that I’m going to die 50 times and that’s okay. Then when I only die 6 times I’ll actually be elated!

It would be nice if changing your frame of mind worked, but it doesn’t. This problem seems to be happening on the hardware level, so we can’t fix it at the application layer. All we can do is avoid triggering the problem. (By avoiding certain situations / games.)

“Have you tried counting to ten instead of getting angry?”

Counting to ten would have the opposite of the suggested effect. I realize it works for some people, but for me it would just extend the delay between failure and the point where I could resume working on the problem. It literally intensifies the anger. It’s effectively making the run-back longer.

A lot of people have these intense outbursts like this. This Reddit thread has people exchanging tips on how they handle their particular anger. Some of that advice is stuff I’ve tried with no success. Some of it would make things way worse. Some of it doesn’t make any sense and seems to be talking about a completely different problem / emotional state.

Not only are the solutions different from person to person, but so are the triggers. Comedian Bill Burr talks a lot about his explosive temperHe calls it his “Demon”.. He’s prone to blow his top in domestic arguments and road rage at other drivers, and I’ve never had a problem with either of those. I just have lowkey regular-people anger in those situations.

Hey Shamus, have you tried yoga / meditation / martial arts / weed?

I’m not really looking for a new hobby?

This is the final reason I don’t like bringing this up. I know some people won’t be able to resist the urge to try to help. Like I said in my previous post on the topic, there’s a small minority of SoulsBorneo fans that can’t take no for an answer and think that every “no” means “try again but use a different argument”. The last thing I want is for one of those people to attempt to psychoanalyze me / diagnose my problem.  This is pretty personal and it’s not a lot of fun to talk about, so arguing about it with a pushy stranger who doesn’t understand boundaries would be… not fun.

I understand that some people can’t resist the urge to try to help. My wife is one of those sorts of people. Maybe some people struggled (or knew someone who struggled) with similar problems and they found some tricks for dealing with it. Maybe their advice will help, and maybe it won’t. But most advice revolves around doing something large and time-consuming. Trying the advice of 50 different internet strangers and testing to see how they work in intense rage-inducing situations would be a very long and unpleasant process.  After struggling with this for about 30-ish years, I’ve managed to work out a system that mostly works for me.

I love videogames a lot. I’ve built this entire second career around playing, analyzing, reviewing, appreciating, and criticizing them. But the love I have for games is like one billionth of the love I have for my wife. I don’t want to sit in my office making her flinch every time I shout at the screen. If that means I miss out on some landmark titles, then so be it.

I’ve been careful to avoid advocating for changes to the game like, “We need pre-boss checkpoints!”, or save-on-demand, or an easy mode, or whatever. I know how frustrating it is when the unique game you love pivots to a more mainstream audience and leaves you out in the cold. I don’t want to be the guy shouting for Dark Souls to be made more like some other game. If they changed the game to suit me, then it would no longer suit all the die-hard fansI mean, that’s what the fans keep telling me. I have no reason to doubt them. You can disagree if you like, but please take it up with each other and leave me out of it.. So I’m content to leave the game alone.

All I ask in return is that the fans leave me alone about it.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] No problem beyond the difficulty of, you know, lifting them.

[2] Fun fact: Google docs was convinced this sentence was wrong, and that I must have meant “Intriguing” instead of “enraging”. That’s a very interesting suggestion.

[3] I’m not totally sure JFO is actually perfectible. I’ve only done 2 playthroughs. If it isn’t, it’s dang close.

[4] He calls it his “Demon”.

[5] I mean, that’s what the fans keep telling me. I have no reason to doubt them. You can disagree if you like, but please take it up with each other and leave me out of it.



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211 thoughts on “It’s Not Dark Souls, It’s Me

  1. jpuroila says:

    I have similar temperament problem, though from your description perhaps not as severe. Microsoft products seem especially prone to making me mad(seriously, the program should do what I tell it to do, not guess what I might be intending to do. I’ll take having to occasionally mess with Wine to get a game to work over dealing with that). Thankfully I have a pretty sturdy mechanical keyboard, so hitting it will at most make a few keys get stuck until I pry them off and reseat them. There are a lot of dents on the wall next to where I usually sit, though…

    When it comes to games, I can usually see it coming well in advance, so I’ll just quit the game and do something else for a time. One thing I’ve noticed that helps is getting fresh air. I get crankier if I don’t go out for a walk every day or so.

    1. I have EXACTLY this same emotional outbursts problem, with EXACTLY the same trigger (frustration), although in general what frustrates me is PEOPLE rather than THINGS. I also don’t smash things, I just yell at people. Or I clean things. Sometimes I yell at the things I’m cleaning. So it has SOME utility, at least, but it also means that most cleaning chores are indelibly associated with being Super Pissed Off for me, so ordinary cleaning can MAKE me Super Pissed Off when I was perfectly fine! That’s a nasty loop. However, since I got a Kindle Fire, I’ve found that I can short-circuit this loop a bit by watching a comedy act or something while I’m cleaning. But, please, if you ever encounter me in the midst of cleaning/cooking/household chores, STAY THE HECK AWAY. Chances are I’m pissed as all hell.

      I do EXACTLY what Shamus does . . . a series of minor frustrations chain together and eventually cause a blowout. I wrote about it on my blog years ago. It’s worse because I have incredible self-control (although you would not believe this if you’d ever seen me blow up), so to other people it seems like I go INSTANTLY from perfectly normal and chill to RAWR I KILL YOU NOW!!!!!!!! And then I appear to “calm down” again almost instantly.

      Caffeine makes a blowout more likely for me. Sugar doesn’t seem to, but I have other problems with sugar, yay. Being around people AT ALL makes a blowout inevitable, no matter what they do–a thousand tiny things will eventually add up enough to make me go boom. I’m an extreme introvert/hermit because I HAVE to have time away from people to maintain my sanity.

      I’ve become extremely adept at detecting personality traits in other people that push my buttons, often within minutes of meeting them for the first time. I have somewhat come to realize that these traits don’t NECESSARILY indicate CHARACTER flaws, but I still simply dislike the person and never will like them and give them the hard brush-off whenever they try to interact with me. One of the biggest problems is that two of the worst offenders I know are . . . MY. PARENTS. Talk about a challenging parent-child relationship. My mom has the same explosive rage problem, too, so that ain’t fun.

      As far as actually fixing the problem . . . I got nothing. I got no advice. Shamus’s strategy of avoiding triggers and withdrawing when you feel a blowout coming is the best I’ve been able to manage, too.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily adrenaline, though. I did some reading recently that indicated that adrenaline does NOT mediate the “fight or flight” response . . . it’s actually YOUR BONES and the hormone osteocalcin. Weird, huh? https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-09/cuim-bna090519.php

      1. I have a suspicion–only a suspicion mind you–that insulin levels may be related to the issue. My body makes too much insulin. I have a suspicion that this is further related to sex hormones. As a result, I have all the symptoms of diabetes (severely) . . . except the diabetes. My blood sugar is actually perfectly controlled, but I have absolutely every symptom of a raging case of diabetes. This generally throws health care people for a loop, because they take one look at me, say “diabetes”, and then when they test my blood sugar they stand there baffled and have no idea how to proceed.

        Fasting and other measures that reduce insulin output help somewhat.

        The other women in my family have generally had a huge reduction in these kinds of problems after menopause, so I’d like to give that a try as soon as I can.

        1. Michael says:

          My blood sugar is actually perfectly controlled, but I have absolutely every symptom of a raging case of diabetes.

          I’ve got to ask… the most classic symptom of diabetes, the symptom it’s actually named after, is very sweet urine. (“Diabetes mellitus”, “like honey”.) That symptom is pretty directly linked to failure to control blood sugar. Do you have it?

          1. No, because I don’t actually have high blood sugar, go figure.

            1. IIRC the sweet urine is caused by your kidneys desperately trying to offload sugar before it kills you. It won’t happen unless you actually have high blood sugar.

  2. ivan says:

    I Wanna Be The Guy did what seems to me like A decent solution to this whole Easy Mode/No Easy Mode kerfuffle of a debate. I forget how many exactly, but there were at least 3 seperate difficulty modes you could select from when starting a new game, and the only thing that selection changed, was how many checkpoints existed within the game. Everything else, was exactly the same. Oh, easy mode gave you a heart bandana or bowtie or some such also.

    But yeah, that would be my suggestion, if anyone wanted to listen to me about it, just have different play modes (if you’re that hung up on something specifically named a difficulty mode, then don’t call it that) where there are more of the bonfire thingies. Hell, that’s probably something that could be modded in. And then, those real hardcore players can also have the equivalent of the hardest difficulty in IWBTG also – no checkpoints mode.

    Also, I feel bad, but I kinda laughed at the descriptions of you and your wife interacting in this situation, Shamus, cos it was like one of the worst heartbreaking sitcom scenarios you could ever imagine. Like, you can’t help but gallows laugh at how tragically awful it all is. I’m glad that situation is now minimised though, if not totally resolved.

    1. Gurgl says:

      A game like I Wanna Be The Guy is probably not a good example because it’s a gimmicky abstract puzzle game that you cannot play independently from its challenge, whereas Dark Souls is a third-person action-RPG and many people love those, even when they don’t care about difficulty.

      Someone who can’t handle difficulty, either mechanically or mentally, isn’t missing out on anything by not playing IWBTG, but odds are they’ll be upset about missing out on a game with as many genuine qualities as Dark Souls.

      1. James Schend says:

        You hit the nail on the head of why Dark Souls, its sequels, and Bloodborne are so infuriating to me: they create this great artistic WORLD I want to explore, but then gate it with game mechanics I can’t stand.

        The fact that its designers and fans absolutely hate the entire concept of a difficulty slider (something the entire industry decided was a good idea literally decades ago) is just the topping on the cake.

      2. ivan says:

        I don’t understand how what you said relates to what I said?

        “and many people love those, even when they don’t care about difficulty” – like, this, what do you even mean by this? I don’t understand the point you are trying to make by saying this? Explain further please. Like seriously, wtf point do you think you are making there? <- My hangup, not being able to understand what point someone is even trying to make, mainly because they decided to be lazy, pithy or vague with purely written communication, that makes me irrationally angry.

        Anyways, your seconds paragraph, Shamus even addresses – he'd like to be able to play DS games, he just can't as they are now.

        Anyway, I can explain Myself a little bit more, if that helps You. I thought that was a good suggestion, with an attached example, of a type of different difficulty modes that bypass one major argument against difficulty modes that DS evangelicals always trot out: the fact that easy mode will train the player to play wrong, and develop skills that do not transfer over to playing the game at a harder difficulty. And I'm not really sure what the genres of the games has to do with why you think that's bad.

        Not that I agree with that argument, particularly, I imagine it is slightly true, but that most of the stuff you might learn in a typical easy mode would transfer over, just fine, you'd just have to adjust slightly, which people are capable of doing.

        1. Jason says:

          No to put works in anyone’s mouth, but I believe what Gurgl is trying to say is that people who don’t like really hard games will look a I Wanna Be The Guy and say, “That’s not for me.” And they won’t feel bad about not liking it, and nobody is going to try to convince them that they should like it and that they are thinking about it wrong. To me, the entire gimmick of the game is that it’s an extremely difficult game. I don’t think anyone is arguing that it should be easier. It wouldn’t be the same. The challenge is the game. There’s no deep lore or backstory.

          With Dark Souls, people see it and say “The environment looks incredible. And I love 3rd person action games with swords and skeletons and castles and monsters.” But if it’s too hard for them, the get upset, because they still want to explore the world and kill monsters and learn the story. Because it looks a lot like other action games that aren’t as hard. The argument from some is that the game would not change too much if it were easier (this is the main controversy). The challenge is part of the game, but so is the lore and the environment.
          It’s harder for people to just say “That’s not for me.” And if you do say it, there are people out there that will try to convince you that it is (see the entire article above or any of Shamus’ other articles about Dark Souls).

          Disclaimer, I haven’t played either IWBTG or Dark Souls, so if I’m wrong, I apologize, but that’s my opinion. I would love to play Dark Souls, but I have a feeling I would just get stuck early on, and rage quit. So unless it’s free or really cheap, I don’t want to waste my money. I have absolutely no desire to play IWBTG.

          1. tmtvl says:

            I think you hit the nail on the head. If the rabid Souls fans (as opposed to the regular ones who can leave sleeping badgers in peace) left normal people like Shamus be, there would also be less of a discussion about an easy mode, and therefore less angry shouting.

        2. Syal says:

          “and many people love [3rd-person action-RPGs], even when they don’t care about difficulty.”

    2. Background_Nose says:

      I want to point out that there is a large community of people making “fan games” for IWBTG and the community generally regards the original IWBTG as a bad game.

      As for the difficulty thing, it’s also generally accepted that in fan games any difficulty above easy is only there as a joke. The games are designed around having all the checkpoints available and taking some away is really just for flexing.

      There is an IWBTG fan game “mario maker” on steam called “I wanna be the maker” that is fantastic. Highly recommend it if you enjoy that kind of thing.

    3. Redrock says:

      I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of an Easy Mode in Dark Sous and came to the conclusion that, yeah, it probably won’t work. Hear me out here. I’m not the first to make the argument that the whole gameplay loop of those games is built upon learning through failure and the adrenaline rush of overcoming tough obstacles you’ve previously failed at. But what about the people who only care about the story/lore/game world? Well, I tend to think that the fabled Dark Souls lore is only engaging because of the difficulty. It’s the difficulty that forces you to be more focused, more immersed in the game, that makes you respect its world, for lack of a better term. Makes you take it more seriously than the writing warrants in and of itself. It’s the synergy of atmosphere, tone and moment-to-moment feel of threat and danger that makes the world engaging enough to make you care about all the snippets of info, that makes it real. I firmly believe that being able to casually run around slaughtering enemies would tear off that glamour and expose the many limits of Dark Souls storytelling. Nothing about it will work without that central lynchpin of difficulty and hostility, and that’s not me praising the game or its approach to difficulty – that’s just admitting that Dark Souls is simultaneously more and less than the sum of its parts.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I can’t say if you’re correct except for anecdotes that I personally never felt I could convey the lore of the game to people who haven’t played it in a way that would make it effective, though there is the possibility it’s the abuse and Stockholm syndrome talking.

        Regardless though of whether that is true it is the devs right to think this way and make a conscious decision not to offer easier difficulty, which after these many games I think is clear is the course they’ve decided on.

        Then it is the right of the majority of the gaming community not to have a subset* of DS community shoving the game down their throats demanding beating the game be recognized as some sort of requirement to talk about videogames ever.

        And then it is the right of the rest of DS community to enjoy their experience of the game have the right to not be considered exclusionary, stuck up “tru gamer” jerks.

        This is why we can’t have nice things.

        *Back when I was playing the game and when I watched streamers go through the game for the first time I’ve seen the positive side of the community.

      2. Gurgl says:

        I don’t want to rant on the difficulty yet again, but in short the idea that people who want an easier mode want it to be a brainless faceroll mode is incorrect. Of course no grimdark setting would survive such a ridiculous lack of difficulty, but there are ways to provide a meaningful challenge while still being approachable to the “almost there” audience.

        Your assessment about the writing is pretty spot on: people fetishize the lore even though the studio themselves said they just put it in to provide basic mood and context, and never thought too much about it. Seeing hour-long videos on YouTube carefully combing it and trying to find deep meaning when you know they’re overanalyzing low-effort filler is pretty surreal.

        There is a degree of self-awareness here because the community has been making fun of it since forever:

        https://i.imgur.com/NaxE3ic.jpg
        https://i.imgur.com/veBvUyv.jpg

        1. Redrock says:

          Like I said elsewhere, I think that Sekiro was moving in the right direction – the trick is to lower the penalties, remove the blatantly unfair bits like ambushes and untelegraphed traps and the like. Basically, bring the experience closer to Hotline Miami in terms of difficulty – something that requires multiple attempts, yet doesn’t punish you too severely for each failure.

    4. Lars says:

      Hitman 2 (Original) did that kind of difficulty settings. Easy – Quicksave wherever and as often as you like. Normal – 7 Quicksaves per level. Hard – 1 save per level in a not observed area.

  3. My father had an explosive temper that was most likely caused by a head injury he sustained during a motorcycle accident. Because of this, the family members who adopted me when I was 4 years old were convinced that I also had a bad temper. (I didn’t.) Their “solution” was to frequently goad me into becoming angry and then tell me that I would be punished if I actually expressed any anger. As a result of this, I spent years relearning how to express any anger at all!

    I have played through all of the Dark Souls games and really enjoyed the challenges that they presented. But I would NEVER insist that someone else do anything that they know would negatively affect their mental health.

    Habt immer Einfühlungsvermögen für andere.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I like a lot of the indie scene for souls-likes, since they usually have a broader range of difficulties in every game. Hollow Knight is really good and relaxing! :)

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I don’t know if I’d call it relaxing, but I will say Hollow Knight is probably the most soulslike game I’ve seen in terms of the atmosphere as well as both depth and delivery of lore.

      2. ydant says:

        I love Hollow Knight, but its approach to boss battles is exactly the same as *Souls is being described.

        Frequently long treks (some are pretty bad, like the Hive and Traitor Lord) that might be made shorter with unlockable shortcuts. Eventually you get the thing to help, but that’s not totally free and it’s pretty late in the game. Hollow Knight is a beautiful game with great sound design, but based on what Shamus wrote about *Souls, probably not for him. It’s a shame, because I’m sure he’d be fascinated by the entire world having a single food item – that only 2 characters actually want to eat.

        Remnant from the Ashes might actually be the souls inspired game for Shamus. Procedurally assembled (but not generated, the set-pieces are static) levels, timing and sound-cues based bosses, and a fully safe (no enemies) checkpoint and short run-up for every boss. The run-up to the boss can take a few seconds for some levels, but it’s just an empty hall every time. Every boss is pretty pattern and sound-cue based, and you could master them for perfect fights. The biggest run-up is always the over-world levels and dungeon level 1 before the boss dungeon level 2 checkpoint. Enemies re-spawn if you bonfire, so if you die before the boss checkpoint you have to re-clear the top levels again.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I guess for me, none of the bosses in Hollow Knight really needed more than one death before I beat them, and they were all fairly well-telegraphed, even for a not-hardcore player like me. The game also has map-marker pins, so it was very easy for me to mark down a boss as “I’ll come back to this later”. I can’t remember about the backtracking; I thought it was only a few bosses like the bee-knight that had some serious backtracking, and some bosses even had save-benches right outside their rooms. :)

          1. ydant says:

            It’s certainly possible I’m pretty bad at that kind of game.

            I know my first run-through I had a pretty hard time of all of the bosses. On my second a year later, I did a lot better, but still took a few tries on most of them.

            But I’d say it works out well for me – I had more fun triumphing after a few attempts than I think I would have if I never had to work to beat a boss. So maybe being “bad” works out to my advantage. :)

  4. Blue Painted says:

    “All I ask in return is that the fans leave me alone about it.” … doing that right now :)

    Our child#2 seems to have the same sort of thing going on — I’ll try harder not to help aka “get in the way” and see if that helps, thanks for the hint!

    1. Amanda says:

      Something that might help is helping your child recognize when they’re entering a situation that might trigger their anger, and leave the situation before it escalates.

  5. mdqp says:

    I think I have had similar (although not quite the same, and certainly not as explosive) issues as a kid. I had a terrible temper, and a tendency (that still manifests at times) to get annoyed when I don’t do certain things perfectly (it wasn’t a general thing, it was only for a select few things I was interested in). My father too has quite the temper, and it made me want to change (I saw it caused him more frustration than anything else). I wouldn’t be able to tell you what I did, I just tried really hard not to get upset and letting things go, and it kind of worked.

    I think it left me with a lack of motivation, however. I didn’t care enough about a lot of things for a while (I used to have this drive that would eat at me before, instead). I think only in recent years I found a balance I am happy with, but it’s all very vague and hard to explain or define. Sometimes I still struggle with finding a motivation, and in certain cases I still get irrationally angry (although it’s very rare), but it’s never quite as bad as it was in the past.

    It made me think about it also because I did use to take ashtma medications as a kid (although I almost never need it anymore nowadays). I don’t want to make it sound like there is a correlation necessarily, but some of the old meds could cause such symptoms, I think (if taken over long periods of time or at higher dosages than prescribed), but I am not up-to-date on current ashtma treatments (and I don’t even know for what is it that you are taking medications nowadays, of course).

  6. Chris says:

    Shamus is the Dark Souls of convincing people to play Dark Souls.

    I don’t want to be one of those annoying, pushy Souls fans, but it’s always made me a bit sad that it isn’t for you because I would absolutely LOVE to read one of your long form analyses of it. Unfortunately, it sounds like even watching your kid play it might still be too much of a trigger. It’s really a shame, because I’m convinced you would have some interesting insights on the narrative.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I’d say he’s more the Kalameet of convincing people to play Dark Souls.

      1. tmtvl says:

        So the fans need to ask a blind giant to shoot Shamus when he flies by?

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          If by “shoot” you mean “invite” and if by “when he flies by” you mean “to play Dark Souls with him” and if by “a blind giant” you mean “John Carmack” then yes, I think that’s accurate.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Of course that’s what I meant. I don’t even know why you felt it necessary to post this.

    2. Mortuss says:

      that is why DS fans are so pushy, if someone doesn’t like the game, they just see it as another boss and so they try to attack it again and again and will never stop

    3. Kylroy says:

      Yeah, he probably would. If only there was some way for him to experience that narrative without feeling awful. Guess we’ll never know

  7. Geebs says:

    Bloodborne has a mechanic where you can recover health by attacking enemies; the correct thing to do in that game is to respond to a setback by going ape on everything around you.

    1. Geebs says:

      But yeah, more constructively:

      1) the Souls games are definitely engineered to give a huge adrenaline rush towards the later stages of boss fights. It’s driven by all of the frustration and effort of getting there, and the knowledge that the fight is only going to get harder towards the end. It’s the basis of much of the addictive quality of these games. It’s also responsible for a lot of the difficulty – can I keep cool and not screw this up? I don’t think it’s avoidable unless you’ve already beaten the game a few times; apart from getting summoned into someone else’s game where the stakes are lower.

      2) both beta agonists and steroids could certainly contribute to a tendency to Hulk out. There are some more modern alternatives available which a doctor might be able to recommend. It’s also worth reviewing inhaler technique to limit systemic absorption from swallowing inhaled medications; even people with lots of experience can get rusty with time.

  8. tmtvl says:

    I KNEW WERE WERE GOING TO FIGHT A BEAR

    Should probably be “I knew we were going to fight a bear”. Though I suppose proper English isn’t an adrenal gland’s forte.

    I know you say that you don’t want people to chime in with helpful suggestions, but have you read the informational booklet that comes with your asthma medicine? It may be completely unrelated, but if it is the cause you could bring it up with your physician.

    And yeah, for some people letting the pot boil is worse than just venting when they reach boiling point. I get that way when I mistype a bunch (which is why I don’t like smartphones. I need physical keys, dangit).

  9. Chris says:

    I have a similar problem that i cant deal with failure, I especially hate failing other people (not coming through on promises, or disappointing people who have faith in me). Problem is that i have a problem of putting things off. This means that someone puts in their time for me, I dont put in the amount of effort i should do, and as a result i produce garbage. And then i have to look them in the eye and be like “yeah this is what i made, i know its terrible, im sorry for wasting your time”. This also feeds itself. I am almost done with a report, I put off finishing it since im afraid people dislike the quality and will rip it apart, delay finishing it until just before the deadline, and then rush it to get it done in time. Which makes it way worse.

    I hated getting back marks on my tests, or go through the test and see what mistakes i made, as they made me feel terrible. There were times I would avoid looking up the results for weeks, just so i could live in ignorance. This again creates a problem where if things went wrong you have to explain to people why you waited so long. Or in videogames where i get to a difficult boss, i decide to put it off. And then never launch the game again as every time i think about playing it again, i remember i have to beat that difficult boss and i dread failing. I hate it, yet i keep doing it.

  10. Zaxares says:

    It might simply all come down to genetics, Shamus. Some people just seem to have hair-trigger tempers, or specific things that set them off. Mine is people touching me by surprise and without permission. Socially expected contact like handshakes or hugs where you know you’re expected to partake are fine, but things like my friend play punching my shoulder as a means of saying hello, even if it didn’t actually hurt, will get what they call “the death glare”, where apparently I look like I literally want to get a knife and stab them. (I should add that I’ve never actually acted on this. I just feel an incredible momentary surge of anger, maybe spite, at the culprit, but it usually passes quickly. Still, for a lot of people just seeing me with that expression is enough to make them never do it again.) I cannot figure out why this particular set of actions triggers this reaction. I was not physically bullied or assaulted as a child, and when I’m with my partner I’m VERY affectionate and touch-feely. With everything else in life, I am an extraordinarily mellow and calm person. I’ve never gotten into road-rage, I hardly ever swear, and none of my co-workers can ever remember me having raised my voice.

    1. Joshua says:

      I don’t get rage, but I do get extreme annoyance for touching me like that too, at least around the head or face.

      I guess my personal peeve is just getting my haircut, because stylists are in the habit of constantly trying to adjust your face or head even by a fraction of an inch. It doesn’t bother me when they ask “Could you look up please?” or something to that equivalent, but just grabbing my body and moving it around on their own brings instant irritation.

    2. Asdasd says:

      I don’t seem to anger easily, but the trade-off is that I have a permanently low-level sour mood. Consequently I try to avoid people because I know I’m not fun to be around :(

      But it does seem to let me get through these punishing experiences to get to the big emotional pay-off of success. Nobody plays Dota 2 for a few thousands hours without a tolerance for pain (or an addiction to the euphoria of winning).

      Stray thought: I really want it to be Kieron Gillen in that stock photo. It looks just like him!

  11. Dev Null says:

    I thought I remembered that you liked Warframe, at least a bit. Did it not drive you mad in exactly the same way? I find WF weird, because I do enjoy playing through the grindy bits (at least in small doses) which are pure power fantasy, but I find almost all of it’s 10,000 different game modes a bit like you describe DS; designed to be failed. Though in WF they’re generally so obscure that they’re not really even learnable; you just go to the wiki to find out what it is you’re even trying to accomplish. Care to take a stab at why the one worked for you (assuming I’m not wrong about that…) and the other didn’t?

    1. Hector says:

      I’m not sure I understand your post here.

      Warframe has its share of glitches and pile of rough edges, including in mission design, but the goals of any game mode are told explicitly. There’s almost never a way to fail except to die too much. And it has no bad frames, only mod setups that don’t work that great. It’s grindy, but the challenge is almost entirely opposite Dark Souls. DS is intended to be mechanically tight and frustrating until or unless you master that, whereas WF is primarily about finding efficient ways to progress. Player skill, while not irrelevant, is much less important than player knowledge, setup, and team coordination.

      1. Dev Null says:

        See, my experience with WF is almost exactly the opposite of that. I tried to kill a teralyst. It was entirely invulnerable to all damage. I experimented with different damage types, hitting different locations; not a scratch. Nothing even hinted to me that I had to collect a bunch of lures, charge them up by killing things on the other side of the map, switch to operator mode – which up til now has been a curiosity with no use whatsoever – work out that that damages it but barely, go level a faction I’ve never bothered with for a week so I can get a new widget, come back and peel off it’s shields, switch back to frame to shoot out its knees, drag the charged lures close but keep them safe, repeat this four times even though it looks exactly the same every time so it feels like I’m stuck in a loop that goes nowhere doing something wrong, and then… do something else that I haven’t even worked out yet because its invulnerable to all damage again (including operator this time) and I stopped caring enough to keep reading the wiki. Or they introduced a new Eidolon in Scarlet Spear that was immune to all damage while in the rift, with not even a hint of why you couldn’t hurt it; spent half an hour trying to work _that_ out on my own, because freezing things with Limbo is my usual way of experimenting with new stuff under controlled circumstances. Or that monster (Ropopalyst?) on Jupiter that you have to sprint 5 minutes just to get to, then fight for a minute or two on stupid sky platforms before you can even start experimenting, and in the middle of a frantic insta-death firefight you’re supposed to work out that you need to trick him into attacking the scenery and then ride him like a bull, like you’ve never been able to do with anything else in this game, ever.

        Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoy WF. And I like that they experiment with new mechanics. But they don’t telegraph or teach those new mechanics _at all_ most of the time. The way I’ve learned to play it is to stomp around destroying everything until I find anything the least bit difficult, then immediately look that thing up on the wiki because they aren’t going to give you even a hint of a clue as to how to solve this yourself. Trial and error isn’t even really a valid option half the time; you might be trying the right thing and just not have good enough gear yet.

  12. Ira says:

    I’m sorry, the thing that still baffles me is how the heck you keep running into Dark Souls evangelists.

    That’s the part I can’t process. Where are you going that you keep running into people telling you play Dark Souls? Who are you hanging out with that you have that problem?

    The closest thing I’ve ever had – not being irritated by other people going on about how great a game is, that was Half-Life and Portal for me; I mean being constantly told to get into something – was when people would recommend books or works of fan fiction to me, and my solution there ended up being as simple as putting a notice in my signature saying, “Please do not recommend things to me unless I specifically ask”, and that pretty much did the trick. Even then it was only an issue because I was spending time in online spaces with an awful lot of fan fiction, so it was a common interest.

    I realise this probably comes off as another foolish but well-intentioned attempt to ‘solve’ the problem, and I don’t want to be obnoxious. I just don’t understand where the problem even comes from. Where is this army of people who like Dark Souls? I spend a lot of time in gaming forums, I like fantasy games and strategy games and big story-driven RPGs, and it’s been years since I heard anyone talking about a Souls game. Heck, if there’s a game recommendation that annoys me at the moment, it’s The Witcher, but that just… doesn’t seem to have come up. For a while it was Paradox games – I’m sorry, I just don’t find Crusader Kings II fun, I tried it and I didn’t like it – but people there were pretty understanding. But Dark Souls has simply never come up.

    So it’s not the personal or physiological aspect of the problem that confuses me – it’s the social one. Dark Souls isn’t even that popular! What is the social terrain here?

    1. silver Harloe says:

      The world seems to be full of people with a normal level of Dark Souls appreciation, until you express a negative opinion of it somewhere publicly. Then the superfans all find you.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      It comes up whenever Shamus writes about third-person action games. It doesn’t help that when those people show up they usually write entire essays about it, so their individual impact on Shamus’ mood is probably more than their numbers would indicate.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        The essays are why I wish the tech Shamus uses would have collapsible comments, like many more modern comments-sections on various sites. Also useful if an entire comment-sub-tree is one you don’t care about. :)

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Oooh, yeah. This’d be good. not just for avoiding extra-long discussions I’m not interested in, but stuff I’ve already read on the longer, more popular threads.
          The Ctrl+F function kind of works, but it’s not perfect.

    3. galacticplumber says:

      Let’s look at this statistically. Shamus is an internet personality focusing heavily on story importance, and when not that mastery of rhythm in combat like the arkham games. Also tertiary other things, but that’s not the point here.

      Both of those are things that would logically keep the attention of souls fans who stumble here at a rate higher than statistical average. The soulsborne community has massive lore, and mechanical flexing communities on every game. Even if not actively playing, all manner of people are still involved with this community content in some manner.

      Also also, with the amount of passion souls games engender in the fans, they’re statistically more likely to speak up when anything approaching relevance to their hobby comes up.

      1. Hector says:

        Speaking of the lore, DS, BB, and Sekiro are all fairly thin once you get past the obscurantism. For example, in DS1 there was at least some room for speculation, or wondering if lore bits were actual poetic or mythical. By DS3 it was pretty clear *everything* was intensely literal and often far less interesting.

        In BB, there’s at least a question over how far removed your character gets from the mundane world. But that’s about it.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          You mean to tell me a story whose primary conceit is interest through obscurity, and a unique method of delivery gets less power from that conceit the more details are present? Shocking.

          But no, seriously, there had to be closure eventually. A story CANNOT play at obscurity forever. It still had the desired effect of keeping the audience engrossed, and invested in learning more. That’s all you need.

          1. Hector says:

            I’m saying that the big revelations that should be cool twists are flat and bland, so once you lay things out the answers are less interesting than the questions. That’s not good for any story. If the resolution is less fun than the search, you need a better resolution.

            To give an example from Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker was a nonentity, just a name that had some effect on Luke that drove a conflict with Darth Vader. This is fine as far as it went but, Lucas realized he could use this in an interesting way. By using the “I-am-your-father” twist, he re-contextualized the story in a way that adds, rather than diminishes, the overall plot.

            1. galacticplumber says:

              And in a mystery story, where things are enticing to find for the purpose of learning about them on base, that appeal will cease once you’ve learned.

              At that point either you’ve been taken in by the atmosphere and/or interesting or you haven’t. Either way at that point you probably aren’t replaying again for the story you’ve already experienced, but to play some different build, or because you want to build a PVP character or something.

              Mystery stories are single use. That’s just how it works.

              1. Hector says:

                I disagree strongly. A good mystery can be enjoyed again and again if told well. The key is that the central story has to be good enough to succeed on its own, just as a great action scene can be enjoyed even after you know how the Hero will pummel the seemingly unstoppable Villains or whatever.

                1. Daimbert says:

                  At a minimum, a good mystery can be enjoyed at least twice: once with the surprise at the end when the resolution to the mystery is revealed, and once after that noticing all the clues that you missed watching it the first time that led to the surprise. Now, everyone’s mileage may vary on whether they like both of those things or not, but both are enjoyable experiences that depend on going through the mystery twice.

                  1. galacticplumber says:

                    A mystery worth being called that has the audience taking down notes actively, whether mental or physically, such that they constantly try pieces off each other as they experience the thing.

                    You may not get the right combinations before the reveal, but in a GOOD mystery you don’t MISS things outright. The only exception is a story that goes out of its way to pretend to not be a mystery convincingly.

                    1. Syal says:

                      I’m wondering if you’re including Persona in this, because Persona has thirty plus characters with walls and walls of dialogue and a couple of hints every one or two trips over the horizon.

                    2. galacticplumber says:

                      YES, yes I am. The story is well written, full of twists, has excellent character work, doesn’t come out and tell you all the answers, and actually asks for some deductive reasoning and self control.

                      Not often on either of those mind, but it’s rare for a game to truly do either. You haven’t completed the game properly unless you’ve turned over all the rocks.

        2. Redrock says:

          Bloodborne, lest people forget, actually had a pretty great meta-twist. You thought you were playing in a Gothic-horror Victorian-themed world, then BAM! – it’s actually Lovecraftian, complete with alien gods and weird experiments. It’s kinda lost on most new players now, because everyone writes about how Bloodborne is a Lovecraftian game. But the game itself quite intentionalyy hides it for a good long while, focusing on beasts and werevolwes and the like. The madness and spiders and tentacles come much later.

          Bloodborne and Sekiro were definitely a marked improvement in lore and storyttelling compared to Dark Souls, I think.

  13. Wangwang says:

    I like that bit about how you can’t trick your mind to do what you want, because I can’t either. I don’t know how other people do it, but generally my mind knows right away when I want to trick it. It will say: “Ah ah, none of that nonsense mister. A textbook is NOT a video game. You CANNOT level with it. Now go find a real video game or I will not let you understand a single word you read.”

  14. Gurgl says:

    I think Shamus is politely tiptoeing around the much simpler issue that the game would benefit hugely from a lower difficulty mode. Many people who say Dark Souls “isn’t that hard” are people who have been playing for a very long time, except almost anything becomes easy and trivial if you have been at it long enough.

    At the moment there is a huge demographic blind spot in the player base: all of those who would have started on an easier setting, and gradually ramped up the difficulty over time as they became more comfortable and proficient.

    The one big personal example I can think of is the original Guild Wars: a “hard mode” was introduced pretty late in the game’s life cycle and for most experienced PvE players it was absolutely trivial, even without overpowered gimmicky build. In fact, the “gimmicky” builds I ran were grotesquely underpowered, simply because I found them more fun to use (for those in the know: things like melee ritualist with frenzy, or pet-only ranger).

    And yet, had the “hard mode” been the only mode available, many users who called it trivial in the end would have hit an insurmontable wall instead, considered the fun/effort ratio of the upcoming dozens of hours, and justifiably given up early.

    ——

    For all we know this untapped audience is huge, because unlike other “hard” games Dark Souls isn’t some weird niche puzzle game: many people who don’t care about hard games are still on the market for a third-person aRPG with many undeniable legitimate qualities.

    Even better: statistically speaking it’s very likely some of these “start-on-easy” players would have eventually become better than the current holy cows of the community because of the much larger talent pool. I would even go as far as to say harder difficulty modes would eventually be introduced, considering how many people already find it trivial and perform these self-imposed challenges we see on YouTube.

    ——

    An easy mode would also benefit another demographic: the one who just wants to play through the game and move on. These people don’t care about NG+ except for their next playthrough two years from now. Again you never know, many people have favorite games that they play on hard, except there never would have been a second playthrough without an easy mode for their first run.

    ——

    Shamus has demonstrated how much time he can spend playing a game he’s into (like Fallout 4 or Skylines): so long as the first 50 hours aren’t such a turn-off, is it so hard to imagine him reaching the “trivial” stage of Dark Souls after hundreds of hours? Odds are he would be the one making these blindfolded 40-minute 100% speedrun videos.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Counterpoint: I’m one of the people who doesn’t have the reflexes to “become better” over time. I know all the tricks I need, to succeed at Enter The Gungeon, but I can’t physically execute them more than about 50% of the time, and that’s the level I progressed to – it used to be more like 10% of the time. I’m maxxed out. I literally just want to play the various souls-like games on an easier difficulty, so I can enjoy the world, characters, stories, art, etc. :)

      1. James Schend says:

        You’re not alone. I’d love to be able to do it, but I simply don’t have the nervous system to make it work with any reliability.

      2. Gurgl says:

        You’re exactly the kind of audience for whom I advocate for an easier mode, because you are (essentially) barred from playing Dark Souls for no reason, even though you would probably love it even if you don’t care about a hard challenge.

        If you’re on PC you can just use trainers (from GameCopyWorld for example), though be aware that the best cheats can be counter-intuitive:

        * A god-mode / one-hit-kill sounds extreme and does kill the fun, but you can turn it on and off at will.
        * An XP / stat boost is tamer and will give a proper mid-level challenge, but in turn you can’t just undo it when you feel you can do without.

        You should start with a god-mode that you enable only to get past legitimate brick walls, then use stat cheats if regular areas still feel too hard for comfort and you want a moderate long-term solution. Indeed that’s probably a reasonable approximation of what an official casual mode could be like.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I could do all that…but there’s other Souls-likes that have actual art-styles I could play, like Hollow Knight, Blasphemous, Salt and Sanctuary. If I’m desperate for a tortuous-horror setting like Dark Souls, I could mod Darkest Dungeon. Maybe I’m missing something, but Dark Souls and the like all seem to just be pseudo-realistic graphics, without any actual styling beyond that. /shrug

      3. Vinsomer says:

        This might sound like a hot take, and it might not sound true to anyone who hasn’t played or completed Dark Souls, but here I go:

        Other than Dark Souls 3, I don’t think the games require better reflexes or dexterity than most other action RPGs. If you can beat Zelda or Devil May Cry, then you have the technical ability to be able to beat Dark Souls.

        The game isn’t difficult because it requires incredible twitch skills. It’s difficult because it punishes mistakes, and because it requires things like patience, environmental and situational awareness, and, in the case of Shamus and people similar to him, the ability to accept and process repeated failures.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Thanks, maybe I’ll try them out some time!

          1. Vinsomer says:

            Honestly, they’re worth a punt given how old Dark Souls is. You can usually find it pretty cheap somewhere.

            However I would definitely recommend it with the caveat that the games really don’t give you much in the way of guidance, and that’s what makes it difficult more than anything else.

    2. Hector says:

      You see this often in Joseph Anderson’s reviews. He prizes mechanical mastery and he loves certain forms of combat setup, and he is very, very good at them. As such, he’s often complained somewhat improbably about difficulty curves that most people find *really* tough. But he’s complaining because he found them far too easy. I’ve gotten the impression that he basically has no frustration factor and will keep on mastering something that others might not find fun at all. He seems to only object to fake difficulty or bad implementation.

      1. Drathnoxis says:

        Watching his Hollow Knight: Godmaster review was just depressing. It took me like, 6 hours to beat the final boss of the main game, and he’s going through enormous gauntlets of every boss in the game with ridiculous challenges and complaining it’s too easy. I don’t get angry or frustrated or anything, I’m just plain not as good at video games as him and probably never would be, no matter how much I practiced. Being genetically inferior sucks :/

        1. Hector says:

          Hey, don’t even joke there. You are not inferior!

          Ts just a matter of patience, practice and loving what you do. But if a game doesn’t draw you in like that and arbitrary mechanical challenges aren’t your thing, well, there’s nothing wrong with you whatsoever. You are great!

          And also, I took one look at the White Palance and un-installed the game, so the joke’s on me.

          1. Dalisclock says:

            I made it through the White Palace, but it took hours and I had to leave and come back with the Hiveblood charm to do it. It was by far the most difficult part of the game for me due to it’s endurance test nature.

            I saw a playthrough of the Path of Pain and went “NOPE!”

            Same with the Godmaster content. 42 boss rush, ending with harder versions of the hardest bosses in the game? Also NOPE! I was content to watch someone else do it on youtube.

            1. Lino says:

              +1 on the White Palace. The only way I got through it is thanks to a walkthrough that showed all the shortcuts, and it STILL took an absurd amount of time!

              Seriously, who thought that was a good idea? I mean, I love the game to bits, but that part was very disappointing. The entire game was spent building this place up, and I was on the edge of my seat, expecting a scrumptious motherload of a lore dump, along with the most wicked enemy designs yet!

              Instead, all I got was a glorified clone of Super Meat Boy… So disappointing!

              Still, I loved my time with the game. I still haven’t played any of the DLCs. And I don’t think I’ll be playing thrm anytime soon.

              They came out long after I had finished the main game, and as you said, they add some devilishly difficult content. And I barely remember what the damn controls are!

              Still, I am so hyped for Silksong!!!

              1. Dalisclock says:

                Only 2 of the DLCs are new content, really. Grim Troupe adds some new boss fights and sorta a new questline to follow and Godmaster is pretty much a series of boss rushes with some new bosses but most of them are either the same bosses or harder versions of ones you already had to beat.

                The other two add new charms and a couple new dream boss fights.

                Silksong is going to be a rare launch purchase for me, unless by some (very unlikely) chance it ends up being awful.

    3. Nimrandir says:

      I’ve been trying to come up with a way to say this that doesn’t sound aggressive, so forgive me if I failed on that front. I’m struggling to see how Shamus can write this:

      I’ve been careful to avoid advocating for changes to the game like, “We need pre-boss checkpoints!”, or save-on-demand, or an easy mode, or whatever. I know how frustrating it is when the unique game you love pivots to a more mainstream audience and leaves you out in the cold. I don’t want to be the guy shouting for Dark Souls to be made more like some other game. If they changed the game to suit me, then it would no longer suit all the die-hard fans. So I’m content to leave the game alone.

      All I ask in return is that the fans leave me alone about it.

      From here, you arrive at:

      I think Shamus is politely tiptoeing around the much simpler issue that the game would benefit hugely from a lower difficulty mode.

      Following this presumptuous thesis statement, you proceed to restate the same arguments on this topic we’ve been reading since Dark Souls first became a success. I fail to see how this time on the carousel will go differently than the last 8,675,309 times the Internet has had this debate. Maybe, just this once, we can leave it alone?

      1. Echo Tango says:

        If you’d like to avoid the argument, you could just ignore the thread; However, I’d say that trying to shut down debate puts you on the same side as the angry fans fighting for the status quo in these games.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          You are correct. Unfortunately, today’s post hit really close to home for me, and I made the mistake of commenting with my dander up.

          To keep on the safe side, I’m not planning to say anything else here except that I’m sorry for the tone of my comments today.

      2. Hector says:

        So, leave it alone.

        I gave up the series for similar reasons to Shamus: the frustration infuriated me. It wasn’t too difficult, but the emotional reaction destroyed any satisfaction I could ever receive for beating it.

    4. Vinsomer says:

      ”I think Shamus is politely tiptoeing around the much simpler issue that the game would benefit hugely from a lower difficulty mode.”

      I think, if anything, Shamus kind of exposes how much discussions on ‘easy mode’ are lacking. And it’s not a good thing to assume that people are making arguments that they aren’t actually making or to assume that popular, knowledgeable guy you follow is on your side in internet discussion no.756537 despite not actually saying anything directly in line with the argument he’s apparently tiptoeing around.

      It’s not really fair to put words into Shamus’ mouth, especially when that could drag him back into the mire of endless Dark Souls discussions. Someone who would candidly write a thousand words on something as personal and revealing as his struggles with rage and how that caused him to, at times unintentionally hurt his wife emotionally is not someone who would tiptoe around an argument they believe in.

      Because an ‘easy mode’ for Shamus might mean more checkpoints or instant restarts, whereas an easy mode for someone else may mean more health, and for someone else it might mean different enemy placements. The biggest problem with the ‘Should Dark Souls have an easy mode?’ debate, beyond people on both sides assuming or straight up inventing motives for the other side, is we’re not working from a consistent, universal definition of those terms. ‘Easy’ and ‘hard’ mean something different to everybody and this article from Shamus shows that ‘hard’ can even just mean ‘it’s hard to regulate my own emotions’ or ‘it’s hard to deal with what the game puts me through’.

      There isn’t a universal ‘easy mode’, Shamus himself has argued that difficulty manifests in several different ways (Mastery, Punishment, Strictness in his Arkham series) which is why there’s no end to the easy mode discussion, other than the obvious end of ‘Well, FromSoft decided to not put one in, so that’s that’.

      1. Gurgl says:

        I don’t want to sperg out on the topic for another ten-paragraph rant, but you took the time to write this so I’ll at least answer that one:

        Pouring your heart out for personal matters while also being careful about expressing sacrilegious videogame opinions is a pretty common trait of people deeply invested in their hobby; indeed Shamus himself says he won’t handle the topic not because he doesn’t have an opinion, not because he doesn’t have various ideas of how to do it, but because he doesn’t want to be that guy and can’t be bothered with the inevitable backlash.

        Controversial statement saying Dark Souls would be better with an easy mode, NES games don’t hold up to random Play Store trash, or Aliens Colonial Marines is unironically enjoyable, will bring a torrent of confrontational discussions eagerly calling you an idiot for reasons more emotional than rational. A heartfelt expression of personal distress will bring sympathy, understanding, and friendly conversations both towards you and between users.

        The contrast isn’t as incomprehensible as it looks.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          Perhaps the contrast isn’t wholly incomprehensible, after all this is the comment section of an article on a man detailing his occasional struggles with explosive rage at video games (I don’t mean to downplay what is a serious issue but that is ultimately what it is. I mean no offence, it’s just our caveman brains aren’t equipped to handle much of the modern world and videogames are no different: if they were then Andrew Wilson would be out of a job). It’s pretty obvious that humans are idiosyncratic and illogical and strange so yes, someone may be hesitant to speak on some things and eager to speak on others but it’s still pretty unfair to say what you think Shamus thinks because you don’t actually know the guy (the fact that he can write such a revealing article proves that there’s a lot we don’t know about him and the hard limits to parasocial relationships) and because it could lead into Shamus having to defend things he never said.

          And, in the rulebook of internet debate etiquette, relying on ‘this knowledgeable person would say this even if he hasn’t actually’ to win an argument is a foul ball.

          I think that, whether we end up in the never-ending discussion of Dark Souls and easy modes or not, or whether we discuss any number of heated topics we can at least refrain from putting words into people’s mouths, and saying that he might hold the opinion and just not be willing to say as much is not a justification for that either because he could easily think the inverse on any number of commonly-held positions.

      2. Kylroy says:

        So to summarize:

        Shamus *is* hinting that DS would be better if it was easier, but there’s been virtually no discussion of what specifically “easier” would mean.

  15. djingdjan says:

    I’ve been saying it for years but Twenty Sided is the dark souls of video game blogs.

  16. Len says:

    Here’s a suggestion: cheat. Use CheatEngine to create your own easy mode by giving yourself three times as much defense/hp/infinite healing or whatever. Now you’ve ‘modded’ the game to create an easy mode where every boss can be beaten on the first try.

    Sure, that’s not the authentic experience, but just play through the game a second time, turning down your cheats little by little, until you’re able to beat it without those crutches.

    1. Gurgl says:

      Yeah, there’s too much of an ego/smug thing around it now, years of “git gud fgt” are to blame. Many people who would benefit from using cheats or save-scumming don’t because they have this voice whispering in their ear constantly that making a frustrating game less frustrating is somehow sacrilegious.

      During my first serious playthrough of Dark Souls I eventually reached the point where I couldn’t handle the tedium anymore so I just used a trainer to breeze through the rest of the game, tick that mental box and call it a day. I’ve done nothing of the sort since, though it may be because Dark Souls 2 and 3 are much more fun in general so I could tolerate white-knuckling more.

      The series is so choke-full of genuine, legitimate qualities, that even a smooth playthrough is still extremely enjoyable. I’ll never get all of those people who insist that an easiest setting would somehow ruin it, as if difficulty was the one gimmick it relied on and the only thing it had going for it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    2. Ibb says:

      I will defend cheating in almost every singleplayer game (and frequently do so myself, to avoid frustration), but I feel like god mode in Dark Souls would take the heart out of it. It’s why I’ve never played Dark Souls. I know I’d resort to cheats and that that would ruin part of the experience. In particular, DS is one of the extremely rare games/series which uses its death system for worldbuilding. It’s why I have no qualms about cheating in most DS clones, because they don’t have that connection.

      Now if they added a “boss practice mode”, that could allow many people like Shamus and me to learn the game with minimal frustration, and without reducing the death system’s worldbuilding too much. Just a thought. I’m not really in the target audience for these games.

      1. Len says:

        No, a god mode would be bad. But when I looked into it, the CheatEngine tables for Dark Souls offer things like infinite item usage (including healing), and teleportation (mark a spot to teleport to, then teleport to that spot). Even if you don’t manipulate HP or damage reduction, this seems like it would make Dark Souls a massively mess frustrating experience.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          The tables also let you edit a character’s stats like strength/dex/etc directly. I get bored with characters easily and using CE to respec is what allowed me to actually finish Dark Souls instead if restarting endlessly.

          You can also use it to give yourself 99 RES, which makes the game easier but not absurdly so since RES is basically a dump stat otherwise for as little damage mitigation it gives without extreme investment.

      2. Kylroy says:

        “…I feel like god mode in Dark Souls would take the heart out of it. It’s why I’ve never played Dark Souls.”

        So the DS community’s “git gud” gatekeeping has successfully prevented you from trying the game. It doesn’t sound like you have no interest in these games, it sounds like you’re worried that you’d play the game “wrong”.

    3. Dtec says:

      I’m pretty sure (given the article he just wrote) he has no interest in training himself to play Dark Souls through multiple playthroughs with cheats iteratively dialed back. He wants to play legitimately or not at all.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        He also explicitly stated that he didn’t want suggestions on ways he could enjoy the game. Between this and the comment that turned his article into a chance to proselytize the easy-mode case again, I hope Issac is keeping an eye on the comments for Shamus, rather than his personal monitoring of them.

        1. Len says:

          That wasn’t the impression I got from the article. It seems to me that Shamus’s saying that because of a few frustration inducing features in the game (lack of pre-boss checkpoints, on-demand save, harsh penalties on death), he won’t be able to enjoy the game, and he doesn’t want to push for an easy mode to be added to the game because that won’t be fair to the fans.

          CE provides a way around that dilemma by removing the points of frustration that prevents him from enjoying the game. Some sort of emulator with a save-state function would fulfill this purpose as well (I’m not sure if one exists). It’s just a suggestion for if he ever changes his mind and wants to try it.

          I have not played Dark Souls, nor does it seem like the kind of game I would enjoy, but if I were to play it, I’d probably employ some similar strategy, because while I’ve never ever gotten angry at a video game, I’m very intolerant of games wasting my time.

          1. Len says:

            Edit: not sure why I can’t edit all of a sudden, but:

            If I had a magic pill that could inhibit my anger, then I could take it and practice the game until I had the experience and muscle memory to get through with minimal deaths. If that happened, then I’d probably play Dark Souls like I play Batman Arkham City: I’d Go through the game again and again, refining things and trying to get the perfect run where I don’t make any mistakes.

            But no matter how much fun I’d have with the game after mastering it, there’s no way to get from where I am now to where I need to be, except to go through the Valley of Absurd Temper Tantrums and into the Caves of Smashed Controllers and Busted Keyboard Drawers before coming out the other side.

            This is supposed to be that magic pill.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              I wanted to apologize for the tone of my reaction to your comment. I should have followed the advice above the text box and not posted angry. I’m sorry.

          2. Nimrandir says:

            Like I said in my earlier comment, pardon me if this comes off as rude; I’ve edited this in my head a dozen times to filter out as much as I can. For starters, I concede that Shamus did not directly say, “Please do not suggest a way I can enjoy Dark Souls.” On the other hand, how can you read the sentences:

            I know some people won’t be able to resist the urge to try to help . . .
            I understand that some people can’t resist the urge to try to help . . .
            After struggling with this for about 30-ish years, I’ve managed to work out a system that mostly works for me . . .
            So I’m content to leave the game alone.

            and infer a plea for help to enjoy the game? Moreover, your suggestion is obvious to the point of a Picard facepalm. Take a moment to consider that you just told a man in his forties, who has been playing games on PC for the entire duration of Internet ubiquity, to look for a way to modify a game. You know, like he described in his last YouTube video? Or like he’s said he enjoyed doing in Skyrim? Maybe look for a save-game editor like the one he referenced in his series on Borderlands? Toggling god-mode, like he might remember from his initial time with DOOM in the nineties, though, is right out. Your advice is either oblivious as to the background of its recipient or outright condescending, and I have no idea which reading is more charitable to you.

            At this point, I’m staying away from this comment thread, for both my own sake and Shamus’.

    4. Scampi says:

      Just wondering: Does Shamus even own a copy (for review purposes or whatever reason)?
      Once anyone arrives at the point where they have to buy a game specifically because people keep pestering them about playing it because it’s awesome for being extra hard and then immediately turns to cheats because they know it’s the most healthy way to play the game-why even bother trying to get that person to play the game? At that point you (not you specifically, the person trying to get someone else to play a game they do not own and have no interest in) become a very obnoxious unpaid ad or a shaming bully who gets people to do stuff they don’t enjoy just so you finally let them go.

    5. Dalisclock says:

      I got through 99% of Sekiro legit, but the final boss broke me after over a hundred tries and I ended up using a mod to take him down. Which ended up being both cathartic and unintentionally hilarious due to how one simple change(removing the cap on SE in battle) allowed me to essentially stunlock SSI pretty much death by spamming Shurikens at him. He’ll block every single one no matter how fast you throw them, but they’ll deal chip damage each time. So it ends up being “Shuriken, Shuriken…….DEATHBLOW”

      Which feels incredibly appropriately considering he pulls a damn glock (possibly quite literally) out of his ass.

      I don’t bad about it at all, either. I was relieved to finally be done with Sekiro

  17. Abnaxis says:

    I have had a similar problem my whole life, with of course very individualized differences–for me, the problem isn’t so much things that should be easy, it’s more specifically games that are highly “random.” Basically I turn into a rage monster any time I lose at Yahtzee. Bonus points for my issue, it always hits around groups of people so I can really make an ass of myself.

    It’s gotten better for me the last few years, but I don’t really know why. I think maybe I’m better at avoiding triggers? Also I’ve been a lot more ruthless when I play–most games that have an “it’s you it them” aspect that used to make me really anxious, to the point I would just sit in my corner an build my score and discard any “make your opponents’ life difficult” cards. Lately I play a lot more cutthroat, which I think makes losses feel less like being helpless to the fickle hand of fate and more like losing to a competent opponent? I’m pretty sure the helpless feeling was the trigger?

  18. Lee says:

    Ok, this is going to sound like I’m trying to suggest a fix. I’m not, I’m just wondering if it’s something you’ve tried.

    You mentioned that Isaac doesn’t have this kind of reaction. Have you tried playing multiplayer with him? Or anyone else? I haven’t played a souls game since the second one, but my sons play a lot of them together with their friends. I wonder how your “hardware” reacts when the social aspect is there to (maybe) distract from the frustration.

    You did mention the “summon a friend” suggestion, but I know that in the standard game, that’s almost like asking an AI for help (and sometimes is exactly that). With some form of teamspeak/discord/whatever, you can actually communicate while playing, and it seems to improve the enjoyment of the games when I watch them.

    1. Gurgl says:

      The coop is still a mess of consumable items, restrictions and conditions, and that’s not even mentioning how the session ends as soon as one of the players coughs the wrong way. This is actually a great example of how much the series (and the community) is being held back by falling in love with its reputation, because this obsession that the game itself should be as unwelcoming as its in-universe setting is the reason why so many basic game mechanics are broken.

      Imagine a parallel universe, where the multiplayer in Dark Souls is a simple UI-driven afterthough: open friendlist, invite friend, done. I doubt anyone really thinks the community would complain about it and ask for it to be replaced by an elaborate system that requires in-game consumable items, tons of conditions without which it won’t work, lengthy guides to even make sense of any of it, and sometimes third-party patches to pull off.

      And yet it’s quite likely we won’t ever get a proper lobby: too many years of memes, too many “git gud fgt”, the community is fine with being a parody of itself and and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wants to get caught saying that anything in Dark Souls should be simplified, streamlined, or made less frustrating. All you’ll do is get people to answer with memes about casuals and dismiss the idea.

      And that’s where the whole problem lies, because your suggestion is actually a great suggestion: playing Dark Souls is coop is a very fun experience, and it does bring the difficulty down to a level where many people would find it comfortable.

      How comfortable? It was only my personal expectation of course, but to give you an idea, my girlfriend is a difficulty-hating casual who panicks easily, and yet I was pretty confident that we would have a great time together. Of course I immediately scratched that idea after checking out how the coop actually worked, because it quickly became apparent that our playthrough would be stalled constantly… by something as simple and elementary as teaming up. For fuck’s sake.

      Remaster the trilogy with a regular lobby or even splitscreen and I’ll gladly pay full price again.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Bearing in mind I never found a RL friend willing to play coop Dark Souls with me…

        Didn’t they add passwords to the DS2 onward (and add it to the DS1 rework) specifically so you could summon specific friends? What does that not enable from a “pre-made party” standpoint?

        What’s in place is sort of minimal effort for coop, but I much prefer that to a lot of single-player-only games (e.g. Skyrim) that don’t bother when I would kill to have coop in them at all.

        1. tmtvl says:

          In DS2 there is a ring you can buy that helps you find phantoms that choose the same option when equipping the ring as you do.
          That said, summoning NPC phantoms in DS2 also advances their stories so you can get certain items (summon Pate for Tall Emo Kid and he’ll give you his set in Earthen Tower, summon Lucatiel for at least 3 of Sinner, Flexile, Smelter, and Rotten, and she’ll give you her set in Aldia’s Keep). DSII is also a better game to start with since you can grind away enemies between you and the boss, you can buy healing gems, souls are plentiful, the blacksmith can repair the ring of soul protection, and resting at a bonfire repairs all your gear that is damaged but not broken.

      2. Mokap says:

        The consumable-using multiplayer is a way to balance the fact that summoning another player is incredibly overpowered – the same reason you dont get infinite Phoenix Downs in Final Fantasy, because the balance would be out of wack. Plus the fact that using the consumable then opens you up to be invaded by another player is another way to balance it.

        The later games make it easier to play with friends – DS3 and DS1 Remastered in particular allow you to set a password so a friend can summon you even if you’re at a different level than they are (your stats get adjusted to their level so you don’t just annihilate all the enemies in one hit), but the consumable use still remains, because it’s a balancing thing rather than just making it needlessly complicated.

        There are genuine issues with the multiplayer, particularly DS2’s absolutely bizarre soul memory system (but the rest of DS2 is just as broken) and the original DS1’s spotty connectivity. Twinking is another problem in all the games, but none of these issues stop you from just playing with a friend. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to use the multiplayer system as part of the artistic choice of a game overall, though – Journey would be a much different game (not for the better) if you could start it up and join a lobby and voice chat with your multiplayer partner.

  19. MadTinkerer says:

    My brother has the opposite problem, thanks to a tumor on his pituitary gland that had to be removed with a whole lot of surgery and radiation. In spite of the lack of the gland that tells all the other glands what to do, he can play pretty much any game and will beat me at pretty much any game with just a little practice. I’ve seen him make hundreds of other players ragequit all kinds of multiplayer games and he’s barely even trying. Unfortunately, because of his dozens of physical handicaps, most of which were originally caused by the tumor, all kinds of video games are the only thing he can really practice and get good at. (He has trouble using mouse keyboard for extended lengths of time, but gamepads are fine.)

    Incidentally, his physical handicaps also prevent him from going pro gamer or playing sports. If you saw him it would be obvious, but I realized from my description that it’s not obvious.

    Other than not being able to spin the video game practice into a job, the downside is that if he gets too excited about anything, his adrenaline will trigger just like in normal people. When this happens he’ll have about half an hour of feeling like he could beat Goku in an arm wrestling contest and then he has to take a nap for at least three hours and then he needs a day or two to recover to the point where he can do much of anything. He tries to stay as “zen” as he can, not just so he can keep playing, but so that he doesn’t exhaust himself. Sometimes it’s a problem for me when I’m angry about something and it seems like he’s not being sympathetic to my frustrations, but usually he’s just trying to avoid triggering his adrenaline.

  20. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    The funny thing Shamus is that the comparison with Spock holds even better. His whole deal is that he has immensely intense emotion and rage that bubble under the surface, but unlike you he has the advantage of a practice designed over thousands of years by super smart aliens to keep under control.
    I bet the first step in Kolinahr is to stay the fuck away from Dark Souls.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      A little-known fact about Star Trek is that Klingons and Vulcans used to be the same race – but, many thousands of years ago, there was a schism in their society.
      It centered around a ceremonial Rite of Passage called ‘Wuh mavaun t’ wuh Gu’gelik Souls*’: some Vulcans could master it and achieve even greater emotional balance, but others could not, and were filled with rage and frustration.

      These others became so angered by this Rite of Passage – and the smugness of those who had passed it – that they eventually left Vulcan and founded their own society, which became the Klingons.

      *Thanks, free online translator!

      1. Drathnoxis says:

        You mean Vulcans and Romulans, not Vulcans and Klingons.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          But Romulans aren’t angry all the time, so it doesn’t work.
          I’m guessing you didn’t feel that Vulcan phrase into an online translator…

          You’ve ruined the joke with your proper Trek Lore :-(

          1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

            I think Romulans channel their negative emotions through complex webs of intrigue, lies and deception.

  21. Abnaxis says:

    Since it’s on topic here…

    One of my favorite YouTubers has been doing a series of blind Dark Souls let’s play where every episode he plays until he hits a boss, then does an in-depth analysis on the character design of said boss.

    It’s funny, insightful, and pretty authentic to the Dark Souls experience with all the grinding and repetition shortened with the power of editing. From the way the creator talks, he doesn’t get a lot of views/likes/subscribers/YouTube cred for the series, so I thought I’d be a good follower and link it here, especially since in depth analyses of 10 year old games are pretty popular here…

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgXBK8VQ11v94uRTZARu6aqeCCCUxi1AC

    1. tmtvl says:

      Interesting, a Japanese YouTuber I watch (called RRRtoXXX) is currently doing a DS2 run, and he has done a DS1 run and he also edits down the bogged-down grindy parts. He doesn’t really do deep analyses, though, being more of a “general chat” guy.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I need to remember to check it once I’m back home as this sounds delightful.

    3. Abnaxis says:

      It just occurred to me that I should actually give the YouTubers name: TBSkyen

      His schtick is looking into character designs of a few popular games (mostly Blizzard stuff and LoL) but his “Boss Designs of Dark Souls” series is by far my favorite, even if it isn’t as popular

  22. Ingvar says:

    This is not a “you should try this” it is a “this seems to work for me”. With that said…

    I recognise this, and sometimes fall into it myself. At least for me, I find that as sensible as the anger seems in the moment, it actually interferes with my resolving of the problem that causes the anger and a couple of deep breaths, re-centering myself and going back with an ice-cold (instead of rage-hot) anger helps. If I can’t find calm, or at least ice-cold, it is better to step away.

    The techniques I use for going from rage-hot to ice-cold (or calm) are, erm, probably incredibly idiosyncratic and are mostly based in a mishmash of Asian and European martial traditions.

  23. They may not be posting in the comments section, but I’m sure there are people who have or will read this today and said to themselves… “Huh… that’s what that is! It’s not just me!”

    I have a younger son with some issues (not this particular one, but some that are similar) and he finds it very reassuring to hear he’s not the only one who experiences his issues.

    I don’t necessarily get to blinding rage, but one of my weird things is I can bang my head on the same computer problem for literally days. I know, because I’ve done it. But my threshold for physical problems is single-digit minutes. Some of it, I know, is that I’m much more likely to get myself into some sort of trouble I don’t know how to get out of in the physical world (breaking a part I don’t know to replace, stripping threads I don’t know how to access otherwise, etc.), which is frustrating and anxiety-inducing, but even so I’ll get upset beyond what is justified.

  24. Redrock says:

    I think that the run-back penalty in the original Dark Souls isn’t really as intentional as uberfans make it out to be, and can be considered a genuine flaw. What gives me that impression is the fact that in the latest From Software games, Dark Souls 3 and Sekiro, the penalty is much less steep than in their previous titles. Hell, Sekiro doesn’t have much in the way of penalties for death either way, since it’s not really an RPG in the way that Soulsborne games are, and the loss of resources is basically inconsequential.

    Dark Souls wasn’t perfect, is what I’m getting at. And Soulsborne games, by design, turn out to be a very different experience for different players simply because of how much easier or, more likely, harder you can make things for yourself depending on your build and equipment. I’m sure that the developers have some idea of an “optimal” boss encounter, death ration, etc, but who knows how many players experience that optimal difficulty level. The way I see it, Sekiro is proof that those games were never better off as stat-heavy RPGs. Which is why I always recommend it to people who’ve bounced off Souls games before, like I had been doing for ages before I played through Sekiro and then proceeded to finally enjoy Soulsborne titles. The original Dark Souls is quite possibly one of the worst introductions to this subgenre you can have.

    1. tmtvl says:

      The original (drink!) Dark Souls doesn’t even have 8-directional rolling, so yeah… the world is neat, but it’s not very fun to play. Granted, it’s not supposed to be fun, but that makes it a somewhat lackluster game (I like it, though not as much as DS2).

    2. Gurgl says:

      The original Dark Souls is quite possibly one of the worst introductions to this subgenre you can have.

      That has always been my impression too, though for a different reason.

      To me playing DS1 is akin to playing community levels in Portal: without the plot, voice-over and humor it feels really hollow and pointless. Now that I’m familiar with the Dark Souls trilogy (plus a few spin-offs / clones), I have the same kind of barebone experience with DS1: sure it’s mechanically the same, but it lacks anything that would encourage me to press forwards.

      DS1 feels like a proof-of-concept: you have everything that’s good about the series, from the tight combat to the interconnected level design… except in environments that are fucking boring, against enemies that are fucking boring: sewers, catacombs, grey stones, barren lands aplenty, where you fight piles of goo, rats, zombies and all manners of snot and slugde monsters… What am I, pest control?

      The good and interesting enemies and areas almost feel out of place, like they were created first with full focus and effort, before the studio ran out of time and money and hastily made the rest. Yes, the mechanical challenge is there and the interconnected world design too, but I really, really can’t bring myself to care because almost everywhere I go and everything I fight is leaving me numb with boredom and indifference.

      Dark Souls 2 is a full 180°, a neverending fireworks of beautiful locales, eerie fortresses and superb scenery, where you fight enemies that actually make it feel worth it. Less sewers, more castles. Less rats, more dark knights.

      I wonder how many people who have enjoyed 2 and 3 but gave up midway through 1 due to a degree of bland&drab exhaustion where they just couldn’t be bothered anymore.

      1. tmtvl says:

        I agree that DS2 is more fun, although Earthen Peak elevator should’ve gone down instead of up.

      2. Redrock says:

        I only beat Dark Souls after it came out on the Switch, which allowed to kinda pause it at any time with the Switch sleep function. It’s a real boon when playing potentially frustrating games, especially coupled with the fact that the Switch has the fastest boot time from sleep mode to playing the game of any current platform.

    3. Vinsomer says:

      If anything, it’s that almost every boss in Dark Souls 3 has some powered-up second phase or ‘gotcha attack’ that’s the reason why the corpse runs to boss rooms are shorter. Without a guide or a summon I think most bosses will kill you first time. Very few players will beat Pontiff Sulyvahn, Aldrich, the Two Princes or the Nameless King first time.

      That, and the game being less interconnected between levels means bonfire placement doesn’t have to take into account how to access multiple areas.

  25. Lazlo says:

    There’s a sort of symmetry here. You can’t win an argument with Dark Souls fans, because if they fail to convince you that they’re right, they’ll just start over and try again. Because they’re the sort of people who love to face a challenge (like convincing you that Dark Souls is the best game ever), even if it means attempting to do so and failing over and over again. Because if they weren’t that sort of person, they wouldn’t be a Dark Souls fan in the first place.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yes! I had the same thought. Well said.
      So, the question now is, what kind of challenge is a Dark Souls fan totally uninterested in?

      1. ivan says:

        Probly someone like me, who really, really wants to try Dark Souls out, but can’t be bothered getting around to installing it, and configuring the attendant mods that are required to make it playable (apparently). Ie: DSfix et. al. That’s just an annoying hassle to me, that Steam who sold me the game should have the responsibility of handling for me, far as I’m concerned.

        1. Mokap says:

          You don’t need DSfix anymore, since the Remaster came out and fixed those bugs/made it 60fps, and that’s now the only available version to purchase on Steam. Similarly, DS2 has a Scholar of the First Sin edition which fixes the bugs and makes it 60fps, although Steam does still let you purchase the original on that one (I’m not sure why they’re so inconsistent with this). DS3 is a perfectly fine port without any mods/special editions.

          1. tmtvl says:

            SotFS is harder than plain DS2. Is DSR just original DS in HD+60FPS+netcode? If so, maybe that’s why. Also maybe they feel like DS1 is too bad a port to still sell.

            1. Soysauce says:

              Also maybe they feel like DS1 is too bad a port to still sell.

              I doubt it. Blizzard did the same with the remasters of Starcraft and Warcraft 3, it feels like it’s just (somehow) accepted practice around remasters these days.

  26. Sleepyfoo says:

    there’s a small minority of SoulsBorneo fans that can’t take no for an answer and think that every “no” means “try again but use a different argument”.

    This is basically the skill and mentality that Dark Souls trains and requires to succeed at. “I got wrecked by that guy, let’s try again like this“. “I did not succeed at convincing this person of X, lets try this argument instead.”

    That can be a very useful life skill, but Dark Souls definitely does not teach the wisdom of when to just let some things slide. It does sometimes succeed in teaching the wisdom of “maybe I should try again later when I’m more prepared” but not giving up forever.

  27. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

    If you want to read (or watch) about a real life Captain America, my go to is Audie Murphy. Steve Rogers without the serum, but still Captain frigging America. It says something when they make a movie about your life and cut out stuff that happened because audiences would not believe it.

  28. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

    Ok, now I have read the whole article.

    No advice from me, just this, good on you man.

    Seriously, you have taken long and introspective looks at both your physical and mental health and make great efforts to improve both.

    Bravo!

    Many people are not so introspective and meta-cognitive.

    1. Adam Faulconbridge says:

      This. This x100.

  29. C.J.Geringer says:

    Since you liked that Bloodborne breakdown and like atmospheric stuff, VaatiVidya´s youtube playlists on lore might be interesting for you, since there are good stories there.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Souls lore videos? EpicNameBro’s your guy.

      1. C.J.Geringer says:

        I think Vaaati´s Narration is above, love his voice.

  30. Joshua says:

    Good on you for the self-diagnosis for what’s pushing your buttons. It reminds me of the most annoying interview question ever: “What’s your biggest weakness?”. While it’s supposed to show how you possess self-awareness, it turns interviewing into more of a game than anything else trying to figure out what you can say that’s honest* and yet not automatically eliminating.

    *And the honesty is relative here. A lot of advice on how to answer the question is phrasing it in a way that shows how you’re aware of your flaw and working on it, but if it’s a flaw that you are successfully overcoming, is it really your *biggest* weakness?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      When interviewers ask me dumb questions like that, I usually shoot back with “Personally, or professionally?” and that gets them to back off.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      “What’s your biggest weakness?”

      “I’m brutally honest and can’t stand idiotic questions.”

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        “I require food and shelter to survive, and therefore must perform services in exchange for currency.”

        1. Syal says:

          “Elephants.”

    3. Lino says:

      On the subject of stupid interview questions:

      “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

      I mean, show me one single person who got that answer right in 2015!

  31. Mattias42 says:

    I had a horrible temper problem as a kid. It also runs in both sides of my family by quite a lot. There’s still some holes in the walls, and broken childhood consoles laying about, and crap like that as little reminders. This article… kinda touched a nerve with me, I must admit.

    (Though my younger brother was worse in that regard. I screamed and cursed at stuff and myself, slamming tables and the ground, he’d… well, kick the walls and break stuff, or punch other people. He’s gotten much better post puberty, though.)

    Something that helped for me was actually hitting my limit. Going into such pure, burning rage that I genuinely considered if the shit teasing me was worth kicking until he broke. I don’t recall his name. Don’t care, to be honest. But I do recall that burning sense of my mind being filled with fire, except this tiny bit in the very core that went ice-cold instead.

    Standing there in a shitty, run-down gym locker room. Shaking with anger. This tiny kid having prodded me for days. The thought: ‘I am not legally an adult. If I break this shits kneecaps and break a chair over his skull until he’ll never walk again, it will not even be on my record in eight years. I could break him. Maybe outright kill him. Is it worth it?’

    And… it just wasn’t to that cold state my mind was in. I’ve always been precasius, and even then I recognized that he was a little, unimportant shit doing tiny shit things to make himself feel better, even if I didn’t have the words for it back then. So I clenched my fist, stomped out… ignoring the little shit taunting behind me to not be a coward in a tiny voice, while the rest of the people in the dressing room where all so, so very quiet.

    But I often look back at that moment, because it was like… my anger just kinda went ‘poof’ after that. Like my body got a taste of what a real lift & death, fight or flight situation was, and it let my mind… zero in if you will, on what’s real threats, and what’s just petty bullshit it can ignore. Like those systems of mine needed calibration, and that little shit bully in his own stupid way gave me that.

    I’ve been much calmer and even in my temperament since that day, and though it wasn’t a very nice day, I… do think it might be in the top ten most important days of my life. I simply would have had a very different path, had I not had that one moment of…

    Well, tranquil fury, to be blunt.

    I know, I know… it’s one of those fiction staples nobody believes actually exists. [Insert Anime Joke here], even. But for me, it happened, and it was… well, life changing. But you can’t really talk about that sort of stuff in real life without… well, sounding like a bloodthirsty psycho, so I’ve never really shared it before.

    Now… I doubt it would be very healthy or cheap to just… find a cabin and fan the flames by thinking about politics or something over a weekend, but I still felt like telling my story in-case it helps somebody else.

    I donno, sky diving or bungee jumping, maybe? Get that surge of adrenaline intentionally in a safe-ish way? About the only idea I could see being a more civilized way of getting that same ‘system reboot’ I got as a kid, at least.

    If it matters, I still get flashes of anger, but they just feel so… small and petty now when I know how angry I could ACTUALLY be. So stuff like deep breaths, counting to ten, and so on actually work now for me, despite not having done so when I was a kid.

    Sorry for the wall of text. Again, I’ve really never told this before, and I’m not sure if its replicable in any meaningful way… but it’s something I’ve thought a lot on for nearly twenty years now, and it felt nice getting to share it for once.

  32. Hal says:

    It seems relevant to share a story here. I don’t tell this story very often; it’s more than a little embarrassing, but I think it worthwhile to share in this context.

    About 15 years ago, I was playing a game on my Gamecube. It was a fun and light-hearted game, but I was at a very frustrating boss battle that was driving me up the wall. After failing horribly, again, I got so upset that I threw the controller on the ground. It immediately bounced back, slamming into my face and splitting my upper lip wide open.

    Once I cleaned up all the blood, I realized I would not be able to avoid stitches. I had to call my parents to take me to the hospital. I had to explain how it happened multiple times: To my parents, to the nurses and staff at the hospital. It was mortifying.

    But it also taught me a very valuable lesson about video games, frustration, and resolving those issues. I play these games for fun and entertainment. When that frustration just builds and builds to that kind of breaking point . . . I’m not having fun anymore. So I have to walk away from the game. That’s hard. But I realized that the disappointment of having to walk away from a game was far worse than letting that kind of rage eat me up inside.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      It didn’t result in physical harm, but I had a similar experience in middle school. An unlucky random encounter got my character killed in sight of the final boss of the NES Dragon Warrior. The nice, flat surface of the front-load design made too tempting a target for my juvenile rage, and I slammed my fist down on it with enough force that my forearm destroyed the cartridge port’s cover. My blood still boiling, I jerked the controller free of the system, dragging the console over the edge of my desk so that it dangled by the RF cable.

      I was the only one in the house at the time (my mom and sister were out shopping, and I think my dad was mowing the lawn), but there was no way the damage wasn’t going to be noticed. I more or less collapsed into a sobbing heap.

      1. Syal says:

        I still get those. Broke my mouse just the other day after a losing streak in Chess; only registers every third click now, so no more mouse-based videogames until the new one arrives. Really need to invest in something that’s not fragile and also not hard enough to break my hand, because hitting stuff really does help.

        Worst injuries I’ve given myself were punching a piling at a dock, which injured my knuckle and prevented me from bending my finger for a few days, and the time I punched a rearview mirror and cut my finger on the glass, which is a bad way to find out you don’t own any bandages.

  33. Christopher says:

    I think this is all very reasonable. Didn’t realize quite how serious your anger outbursts could be, but I’m glad you’ve worked out a system to minimize it.

  34. Karma The Alligator says:

    Have to say, I’m surprised you got through Fallen Order. From what I saw (never played it myself, but seen the beginning few hours a couple of times), it seems just as frustrating as Dark Souls (maybe even more so at times). Was it the difficulty modes in Fallen Order?

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I’m hoping that this is a sort of prelude for a Fallen Order retrospective, like “The Bro Shooter” before Spec Ops.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      IIRC Fallen Order respawns you at the boss fight (the backtracking to boss has always been one of Shamus’ issues) and as you’ve mentioned does have multiple difficulty settings (even going so far as to have different setting explicity affect different mechanics). It also, though I’m not sure how much that is a factor, doesn’t have the bleak and oppressive atmosphere (or for that matter rampant fans) of Dark Souls.

  35. ccesarano says:

    I don’t really have any useful comment regarding your situation. I think, actually, it’s very wise of you to know your limits and to stay away from a game that you know will have an impact on you. It’s interesting, because I had finally begun playing Bloodborne and found myself having a surprising good time with it, relating its design more closely to Resident Evil 4 than anything else. It also felt far, far more forgiving than other From games, and to that end I’d been curious about how you’d respond but hesitant to bring it up (since I knew I wouldn’t be the first person to do so).

    But this post clarifies a lot of why you avoid these games, and given that I’ve in part been relying on a co-op partner when I can to help with those bosses, it wouldn’t solve what it is you’re aiming for.

    However, even though his problem is different, I think you’d enjoy PostMesmeric’s Gaming with OCD video. In it, he describes how OCD impacts him and uses Downwell as a particular example of how it can cause gaming to become a harmful experience for him. It was a fascinating video that helped me better understand a condition that’s become a flippant term to describe someone’s desire to remain organized in a certain fashion, but doesn’t capture the obsession or compulsion that goes with the actual disorder. Even if his response is different from yours, I think it’s parallel in that certain games just cannot be experienced due to the self harm that would accompany it (or potential harm to those you love).

    Thank you for discussing this, even if it’s not something you like to bring up. Hopefully it will help make it easier to avoid these sorts of conversations.

  36. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Maybe you can harness your rage for financial gain? John West might be hiring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVS1UfCfxlU

  37. CJK says:

    Thanks for talking about this, Shamus. It’s the kind of thing that’s quite embarrassing to even mention, let alone break down in detail for an audience.

    I totally recognise the “meltdown” state you describe – video games don’t tend to provoke it in me, but other mundane things will. Most problematically for functioning in a society, I will occasionally react that way to simply having having my chain of thought interrupted, which looks to anyone on the receiving end like I just went from 0-100 in 2 seconds flat for no visible reason at all.

  38. Dreadjaws says:

    I have the same problem and I’m not under medication. Though I do eat a lot of sugar, so that may play a role. But yeah, I’m constantly getting frustrated at mundane issues to the point where I end up breaking stuff. It was a bit embarrasing having to call the service guys to come fix my modem after I smashed it too much out of frustration every time it failed. And yes, nested problems are usually the cause. But when I’m trying to solve a problem with, say, a shipment, and the user support isn’t helpful, then the website/app turns out broken and then the damn internet stops working I feel like there’s a fighting game-like rage meter that keeps filling up until I reach a point where I just lose it.

    Of course, sometimes what drives me over the top is something entirely unrelated yet still mildly infuriating, like stubbing a toe, getting my earphones cables caught into a doorknob or my dogs suddenly barking at the air for no discernible reason. I’ve broken more than a few things this way after “hulking out”.

    And yes, people trying to help me in those situations only makes it all worse, particularly because their idea of helping is asking if I tried some obvious thing. Really the only thing that gets me to calm down instantly is finding out that at some point one of the nested issues was my fault. Maybe I’m super furious at a game for leaving me stuck (“Why isn’t this working? Is this a fucking bug? Am I going to have to start the whole thing again because this PIECE OF SHIT refuses to work?”) and then I find out I forgot to equip a relevant item. That right there calms me down almost immediately, as I realize the world wasn’t working against me, I was just an absolute idiot. Unfortunately, this is rare. Most of the time these problems are all frustratingly out of my reach even if they are truthfully mundane.

    And that is the thing; the crux. It only really happens for these small, banal issues and not with large problems. Whenever my motorcycle’s wheel explodes and leaves me stranded in the middle of the highway, way too far from both my house or any place with a mechanic, and with rain clouds fast approaching I just tend to groan. Whenever I have financial problems that force me to sink myself deep into debt with loans I just sigh. Whenever my job tends to remove benefits or become tiresome I’ll defuse with humor to other coworkers, but move on. Oh, but God forbid that a game puts an unskippable cutscene right before a boss that demands you to use a technique that only works half the time because the developers couldn’t be bothered to tighten the controls and FUCK THEM ALL TO HELL!!!

  39. Lino says:

    I really envy your ability to talk in such a light and entertaining manner about something so personal, which affects your life on such a level.

    I will refrain from giving you any advice or my armchair theorising. The only advice that matters is by people who are actually close to you IRL.

    So, here’s to hoping these two articles are enough to mollify that loud minority of fans who still can’t take a hint :)

  40. DTor214 says:

    Thank you for sharing, Shamus. In my experience, it’s not easy to talk about being overcome by emotion, especially if you see yourself as a very rational person and you usually present yourself that way to others. I have a rage problem, too, that’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. One thing that helps me keep it in check is avoiding the situations that tend to set me off, especially when it comes to games. I just wish I would’ve figure that out at a younger age.

    Not every game is for everybody. Neither is every movie, nor every book, nor every piece of media, nor every human experience. I think every person should strive to know themselves well enough to avoid choosing things that make them miserable. I really like Dark Souls and I think you’re doing the right thing.

  41. Raygereio says:

    And there’s usually a run-back penalty, and sometimes that penalty can be steep.

    Yup, true. And personally I loath that as well. People can come up with whatever nonsense they want to defend checkpoints. It’s still just sucks when a game forces you to repeat things.
    I jurry rigged a proper save system into Dark Souls and never looked back.

  42. Nimrandir says:

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this. On an Internet perpetually unable to find a balance between “Oh man, isn’t life just perfect!!” and “I’m going to vomit everything wrong with me out for the world to see,” I appreciate how you have been open about yourself while also introspective. Hopefully those of us (myself included) who have shared our own struggles with anger issues have been an encouragement to you.

    Based on how a couple of the comment threads have tended, I’m probably bowing out at this stage in the interest of not posting angry, but I wanted to say my piece on this: thank you.

  43. Warclam says:

    I have a bit of this, though it’s slow enough that my instinct to give up and stop trying usually saves me (though that can cause its own problems). I’ve never been bold enough to try Dark Souls, but I found that Breath of the Wild, of all things, manages to piss me off in a similar way.

    I’m not good at the combat and I don’t like just loading up on armour, but BotW’s checkpoint system is… weird. It’s apparently purely geography-based, not time, so if I die after fighting 8 spawn groups that happen to be close together, it’s all wiped away.

    The worst was one time I was fighting a giant stone monster that happened to be standing on a checkpoint. If I died, then its health would reset, but my weapons would still have damage on them. I don’t know who thought that was OK in a game where you can run out of weapons and be forced to slink away in shame.

  44. Scampi says:

    Like I said in my previous post on the topic, there’s a small minority of SoulsBorneo fans that can’t take no for an answer and think that every “no” means “try again but use a different argument”.

    omg Shamus, YOU have become their next boss fight…

  45. Alex Broadhead says:

    Shamus, I’d be interested to know what your relationship with nethack was like, then? It seems to me like the worst possible game in terms of heavy investment spoiled by minor failure leading to complete restart. I’ve had a very unhealthy relationship with it (and Slash’EM) at times.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Well, failure in Nethack is usually less of a failure of mastering the rhythm and timing of combat, it’s more of a cerebral challenge. So maybe dying in Nethack gives him less of an adrenal spike and more of a “oh, I should’ve zapped that wand of lightning at the minotaur.”

  46. evileeyore says:

    Hey Shamus, have you ever tried using a punching bag when you start getting HULK SMASH? That’s what got me through my teenage and young adult years, when I was a walking powder keg.

    Granted, physical exercise never increased my rage (or maybe it did and I didn’t notice), but smashing fists against a bag allowed me the throw my aggression into the bag, and then return to whatever I was doing with less battle rage simmering away.

    1. Syal says:

      In my opinion, BOB is even better than a punching bag.

      1. Cbob says:

        Again: not a good anger management strategy. You’re actively conditioning yourself to want to hit things when angry.

    2. Cbob says:

      That’s actually not a good strategy. You’re venting your anger “elsewhere”, but you’re also training a Pavlovian response to want to punch stuff even more when you’re angry. You’re taking that basic animal impulse of anger = violence, and applying a formal Skinner box structure to it that solidifies and reinforces it instead of diffusing or retraining it.

      Taking up a martial art can help in other ways. For me, learning how to hit effectively also removed any ability for me to tell myself “I didn’t mean to hit that hard” or similar excuses. If I wanted to hit someone without wanting to injure, I’d have to consciously/deliberately pull my punches, and if I have the presence of mind to do that, I have the presence of mind to not punch at all.

      But you really don’t want to “train angry” if you want to train healthy everyday responses. And you especially don’t want to just straight-up vent in ways that explicitly model the exact behaviors you’re trying to avoid or train out.

  47. Gautsu says:

    Sorry to hear about the issue Shamus. Just out of curiosity, is it just Soulsborne games that engender this, or all soulslike? Additionally, any other genres or game types? I see this with my brother in any type of competitive game that he isn’t good at. He’ll gleefully farm newbs all day in Hunt, but let him get beaten in Smite and he turns into a rage machine, to the point where I think he really needs blood pressure medication

  48. MarsLineman says:

    Thanks for sharing this Shamus. A very interesting, entertaining (I KNEW WE WERE GOING TO FIGHT A BEAR– lol!), and insightful read.

    I truly wish I could share more about this at this time. But I believe there is likely a biomechanical explanation for your rage (and I believe your insights regarding food triggers are likely accurate). When the time comes that I am able to openly share my research etc, I will send you some info that might be relevant and perhaps helpful. In the meantime you seem to have a good grasp of the situation, and good intuition about triggers/ patterns. Best of luck, and I hope we can discuss this again in the future

  49. Scerro says:

    My personal approach is to direct the focus to what I need to improve.

    Use the downtime going back to the boss time as reflection time. Since I’m not a very verbal person either, it’s the time to distill “what went wrong” into a single or a couple short sentences as to what I need to focus on. Maybe it’ll be something as simple as “Dodge the arrows this time”.

    It may also include a “hey my personal state isn’t up to this right now,” time to go do something else and come back to this later.

    In short, I blame myself 90% of the time because I know that if I start legitimately blaming the game, then I’m wrong. Other people can do it, then so can I. It’s like in programming, when something doesn’t work right you know it’s not magical code that is somehow screwing up. It’s something YOU aren’t understanding, the computer is doing literally exactly what it’s told. I take the same principle to games.

    Of course, I don’t even play Dark Souls. My games are social, so ehh. But dealing with other people is somewhat the same principle. That also might be why my reaction is to form what went wrong into a few short sentences – to help others hopefully also discuss if that was the same problem.

    I’m not saying this is what you should be doing, just giving you yet another perspective?

  50. Selenol says:

    Hey Shamus,
    Thanks for sharing this stuff. I am a huge Soulsborne fan, but I can absolutely understand that these games just don’t click with some people. It is unfortunate that you can’t get into them, since I think they’re pretty damn great, but from what you’ve said, you have tried plenty of times, and they just aren’t your thing, which is alright. Everyone is different, and I’m sorry that people keep bothering you about this so much.
    If you think bloodborne sounds cool, have you considered watching an LP of it to see all the cool stuff the game has to offer anyways?

  51. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Yeah, we all have games that just don’t work for us.

    In my case it’s roguelikes. Now I consider myself a fairly persistent gamer, I’ve played through all the Dark Souls games and several other soulslikes and personally I believe I got through them through stubbornness alone. My approach to MMOs is “oh, I can only do this once a day and it’s gonna take me almost three years to grind this stuff? Well, here’s 1/1000th of the job done!”. You’d think roguelikes would be a good fit for me… but I tend to fire them up, have a good time dying for several hours but usually seeing some clear progress as I figure the basic concept out, think to myself “okay, gonna come back to this tomorrow and eventually gonna get good with it” and then never turn the game on again and after two or three years accept that I’m not gonna play it and uninstall.

    Just the way your rage spikes prevent you from playing soulslikes I’m experiencing this weird lack of motivation to return to roguelikes. Which is odd because when I close the game I’m perfectly stoked to come back to it.

  52. Marcus Watkiss Veal says:

    Man I know the fans are obnoxious but this seemingly is really getting under your skin Shamus. I don’t have much else to say except I hope people stop bothering you about Soulsborne.

  53. Philadelphus says:

    …Yeah, so I can really sympathize with Billy Beane. Without trying to sound boastful, I’m apparently pretty smart, or so people have never tired of informing me all my life. This natural aptitude allowed me to pretty much cruise though most of school and not develop a lot of persistence, and while I’m normally pretty calm, making mistakes or failing at things I “should” be good at is still massively, irrationally, upsetting to me. (In my case, in less outwardly-visible ways, more depressive.) Unfortunately my brain’s mostly decided what I “should” be good at without me getting much say, and it overlaps pretty heavily with my interest in astronomy and physics.

    So of course I’m doing a PhD in the area, which—three years in—has felt like a pretty much uninterrupted series of failures, even if I can look back and objectively see all the problems I’ve overcome and solutions I’ve devised along the way. Perhaps that’s one reason I enjoy video games so much: for whatever reason, they don’t trigger that “I must be good at this” reaction, so I can actually fail and try again and not get upset at myself for not being perfect first time, all the time. (I mean, I can still get annoyed at repeated failure, but it’s normal-people annoyed, and not soul-crushing despair for not being a perfect person.)

    Taking up painting out of the blue two years ago was also helpful, because I was able to get in before my brain and give myself permission to fail by virtue of never having had any formal art training (so there was no reason I “should” be good at it). Because of that I discovered that (acrylic) painting is actually incredibly tolerant of mistakes and changes of mind, and pretty much all my paintings have multiple parts where I’ve gone back and re-worked or re-done them; I’ve never really lost the motivation to keep working on them until I’m satisfied.

    Anyway, off to go get myself almost certainly killed a few times in amusing ways in Noita!

    1. Decius says:

      I am certain that there is a serious failure in the school system when students pass all of their classes without challenge.

      I think that schools should absolutely push everyone to a moderate degree- prodigies should be given more advanced material at an increased rate, such that they are having some trouble keeping up with it.

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        To be fair, I have my doubts, that it’ll solely responsibility of the school system alone. I have a suspicion, that it could be in large part being a result of genetics as well. May be some other factors as well.

        1. Urban Dictionary says:

          Sure, but its a common problem. Smart kids don’t have to develop good study habits etc, because they have never needed them, which means by the time they need them, they have bad habits.

          You perform like you practice-if you don’t practice you don’t perform.

          I don’t even think these kids need a challenge-it’d be nice for them to have one, it’d help, but what they need is to be forced to develop good habits instead. Your students should have some homework, and they should be encouraged in class as to productive ways to study and self-direct.

      2. Vinsomer says:

        Without going too far towards the politics rule, I think it’s just a reality of how schools are. When there’s 20 to 30 pupils per class, and multiple classes per year, you don’t have the ability to focus on challenging your top students to the exclusion of everything else. If you spend too many resources and too much time on your top 10% of students, then you neglect the other 90% and they suffer because of it.

        Most schools have either extracurriculars or advanced classes, or in some cases even skipping grades entirely. And there’s a lot of mileage between ‘high achiever’ and ‘prodigy’. A straight-A student is a high achiever. Mozart is a prodigy.

        I would also say the stereotype of high-achievers passing without effort isn’t true. Msot high achievers get good grades precisely because of the effort they put in, not the lack thereof. Ironically, they’re like skilful Dark Souls players: they put in the effort to meet the challenge and that’s why they make it look easy.

        Back to the school system: if there is any failure, it’s a lack of funding which causes large class sizes, staff burnout, poor equipment and facilities, and a whole other host of problems facing schools today, but this is pretty close to politics.

    2. DeadlyDark says:

      Man, I can relate to that so much (it’s math instead of physics). And yeah, games (even Dark Souls) don’t do such thing for me either. Though, in recent years I developed a bad habit of always putting the hardest difficulty in games. But I realized now, that it doesn’t worth it, at least in some games.

      Tbh, the only thing that somewhat smoothed such negative thoughts for me, in recent years, was a DREAM technique (detect, reward, evade, amend, magnify) and the realization that it’s my own job to support this kind of mental discipline. Can’t say that it works perfectly, but it’s easier living now.

      1. Urban Dictionary says:

        That’s it really. It’s a psychological problem, and it can be worked on and improved on. I don’t hold much truck with just noticing these things and living with it. “Guess I’m just unreasonably angry and I’ll scare and upset other people sometimes”-quitter talk. Mama might have raised a neurotic, anxious mess, but she didn’t raise no bitch. The first step is always some sort of mindfulness, learning the patterns, identifying them, and devising coping mechanisms that allow you to change your behaviour, and long term, your response, including direct emotional response, to stimuli.

        It makes everyone around you feel safer and happier (and making them put up with you being unreasonably angry is unfair in the extreme and hurts their mental health), and it helps you in the long run. I haven’t gotten rid of most of my anger yet, but just the tiny fraction I’ve let go has taken such a weight off of me, and realising I am coping with things better, and feeling an improvement, is something I’m really proud of. Its work but its worth it.

  54. stratigo says:

    Like several other commentators have noted, this is almost word for word my issue with Dark souls, gaming, and technical issues. Like, if I were a blogger to post about this and as good at blogging as you, I’d post literally the same thing (well minus the wife part, being not married)

  55. Soysauce says:

    If you still want to see what it’s all about without playing it, I’d recommend Kay’s Let’s Play of dark souls 1. It’s a blind first playthrough of Dark Souls 1. She starts out at rock bottom of gameplay literacy, having played games when she was a kid but being unfamiliar with modern games, navigating a virtual 3D space and even using a controller. However she is a very calm, patient, methodical and observant player, which as it turns out is a perfect fit for the game and leads to a very interesting experience.

    It can be a bit of a rough watch at the start because of a very clear inexperience with editing and, for the first few episodes, control of the camera (although personally I find it charming). She is very calm and has a soothing voice, which might be right up your alley. I’ve recommended it to a few friends of mine that, for various reasons, found themselves to be in your situation with regards to the game/series and all of them had a good time watching it and getting the chance to see the world of DS1 through the eyes of a new and blind player.

    1. V says:

      Aw, I watched Kay’s Let’s Plays a while back (funnily enough, I think I found them through the comments on another Dark Souls related article on this site), but she just stopped 13 episodes into Dark Souls 3 and there’s been no sign of activity since.

  56. Alpakka says:

    Some people have proposed modding Dark Souls to e.g. be able to teleport back to the boss immediately to try again, or otherwise remove the penalties that cause frustration. I wonder if that would make it playable for Shamus.

    Would it be possible to modify Dark Souls to fit the playpattern with mods? I’m curious to know if it is something he has considered, I don’t think it has been mentioned in any articles. It might not fit his playstyle either, considering the “don’t want to just scrape by” style he mentioned. But it would make it possible to cut through the part preventing from working on the problem, by e.g. immediately teleporting back to the problem instead.

    Although I’m sure that then all the rabid fanboys would be claiming that he hasn’t “really” played the game, so I don’t know if that would count as a win anyway… At this point it’s very probable that Dark Souls is ruled out completely because of all the previous frustration and all the fanboys telling Shamus to play it anyway (causing more frustration…).

    So I guess this is a more general philosophical question for Shamus, about whether modding a game to fit his style is suitable to his playstyle at all. Or is the “don’t want to just scrape by” style preventing use of mods too?

    It is quite clear from this and all the previous articles that there is no way Shamus will be able to play Dark Souls in its present form, and I completely understand that. I finished Dark Souls but it was on the very borderline of being playable because of the frustration, I was very close to having tooth marks on my controller even with all the Youtube Let’s Plays, strategy guides, walkthroughs etc. that I could find. At least in Dark Souls II it was possible to eventually (after a very very long time) to grind down all the enemies on the way to the boss… Still, the runway back to a boss was one of the worst parts of the game for me too.

    I was quite happy to just barely be able to defeat a boss, even with summons, but that is in no way an automatic pass either. I got totally stuck at the gargoyles when I was trying DS1 with mouse and keyboard, even with summons. The summons also have a very limited resource, and I was not able to farm the resouce required to try the summon again in any reasonable time. I quit the game, but eventually I tried it again after I bought a gamepad, and was able to barely scrape by with occasional summons.

    Also with summons, you need humanity, which might trigger an invasion, which then kills you and wastes that rare resource you spent a lot of time grinding to get the summon (at least near the beginning)… I would not wish that experience on my worst enemy. Still, for some reason I kept playing. Stockholm syndrome maybe? Maybe I should have modded the game myself, but I guess there was some stubborn piece of pride fighting with the frustration…

    Sorry if my English is not perfect here, it’s not my first language and I feel like I might have missed some nuances in this post.

    1. Museli says:

      “Some people have proposed modding Dark Souls to e.g. be able to teleport back to the boss immediately to try again, or otherwise remove the penalties that cause frustration.”

      The thing that made Dark Souls ‘click’ for me was watching a let’s play in which someone died to a boss, then just sprinted past all of the enemies between them and the boss door, getting back into the boss fight in less than a minute. Realizing that you don’t need to fight enemies just because they’re in the way blew my mind a little bit.

      1. Urban Dictionary says:

        Yeah, once you start doing boss runs it becomes a) easier and b) getting back to what killed you rarely takes longer than your average level of hotline miami.

        First time in the space, getting items, exploring, killing enemies, lighting fires-practice. Running to the boss room because you know where the enemies all stand, without taking a hit because you can time a roll to dodge the one swing they might make as you passed, and getting through the fog door having fought nothing-Mastery.

        You coooould kill every enemy till they don’t respawn in DS2. Or you could learn their placement-which you have to to kill them anyway, and jog past them. Your rolls are super generous, loaded with i-frames (just make sure to get the stat for that in no. 2) and rolling away from most trash is trivial if you don’t intend to fight them. No teleport is needed, because most players are literally already just running to the boss room like that. That’s also how to progress through a level-if I die I do not fight everything I fought to get to where I died, I sprint around most of them, fight only were I have to and get my retrieval-you are rewarded with knowledge for progress-not dead enemies-the enemies are coming back, so you should consider whether you NEED to fight them-weigh your decisions, both have risks,and pick the smart option-which is nearly always disengage. Once you realise this, you will go much faster. Buy some homeward bones, then you can bank big soul scores instead of risking them.

        And yeah, you’ll be super frustrated on kb+m especially in the first one, its a poor port that controls badly.

        1. Dalisclock says:

          I ended up Depopulating certain areas in DS2 just because it was so difficult to KIte them(The Iron Keep was terrible about this, because most of the walkways are narrow), partially due to grinding them for levels and partially due to kiting being very difficult in some areas. But when you end up trying to run to a boss 20+ time and you eventually cause them to not respawn from klling them, yeah, some depopulation is gonna happen.

          THen again, I had the most trouble with DS2 out of any of the Soulsborne games, or at least the feeling of unfair difficulty. It’s the one FROM game I will not play again.

        2. The Puzzler says:

          If it takes a whole minute to get back to the boss, and you have to do it two or three times before you kill the boss, that sounds unbearably frustrating.

          Bring back Quicksave!

  57. Duoae says:

    Wow, add my name to the list of people with a flash temper. I don’t get any lingering effects other than feeling shit with myself for getting angry. I think I’ve had one migraine in my life and i don’t tend to get headaches.

    My issue tends to be linked or unlinked escalating problems that are (from my perspective) ridiculous or unsolvable. E.g. i got angry the other day because I’m having time management issues due to prioritising spending more time with my SO and on my new job – I can’t do things I was able to b recently… but that wasn’t really making ne angry, it was just a background feeling in the back of my head. What was making me angry was that the taxi service my work forced me to get had screwed up for the third day in a row and I’d had to sort it out because the employees of the service appear to be incompetent… but that wasn’t making me really angry, people can make mistakes – it was just unlucky it had happened to me so frequently. What was really making me angry was that I’d just assembled a PC, thinking that B450 would get Zen 3 support because despite AMD delaying the boards for a year they could have mentioned this at any point in time over the last year so i could have made a better purchasing decision…. But this wasn’t really making me angry because i understand that AMD can’t provide unlimited support across all generations. What was really making me angry was that my SO had decided to cook another dessert again, despite the fact that she doesn’t really know how to cook. So she just ended up throwing away a huge bowl of food instead of making a smaller portion in order to try the recipe out and ignoring all advice i tried to give her regarding getting recipes from good sources… but that wasn’t really annoying me because my SO is really trying to make treats for me because she feels guilty that i do all the cooking so it’s really sweet that she tries so hard. What really was making me angry was the fact that the current global situation has meant that all the projects in work are delayed and we have very little to do, to the point where i feel useless… But that wasn’t really frustrating me because i know this situation is mostly out of everyone’s control. What was really annoying me was the next door neighbour’s cat that has been meowing for the last few days because they started locking out it out on the balcony for several hours a day no good reason other than i presume they don’t really want a pet and it’s been driving all the neighbourhood crazy… but that’s not what was really making me angry because i can’t blame a cat for crying any more than i can hate a child for crying and i can understand that it can be tiring when you have a demanding pet… What was making me angry was the fact that my SO had decreed that she wanted to take care of the clothes washing so i had let her but now that i wanted a particular jumper for work the next day it hadn’t been washed because she insists on washing coloured clothes separately… but i wasn’t really angry at that because she had washed everything else and she wants that duty… we just don’t have enough clothes to wash between us to have a full liad of each type of washing… but that wasn’t the final straw. The final straw was that my SO could see me getting angry and immediately thought it was because of her and so we were getting into an argument about it despite me saying i wasn’t angry at her and, like Heather, she’s gentle and quite sensitive about anger and raised voices and I’m beginning to lose the ability to coherently and calmly explain the situation (despite the fact that she’s not believing me) and THAT is finally what makes me angry.

    I went to bed, put headphones on and fell asleep to a series… anything to take my brain off of all these unrelated thoughts that were combining, tornado-like, into a storm.

    On a side note – i do yoga, meditation, a good amount if sport and have had counselling. The only thing that’s helped has been age.

    1. Shamus says:

      That was quite a ride. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Urban Dictionary says:

      You very clearly put a lot of thought into understanding what’s going through your mind, and what the real causes are.

      This was a really valuable comment.

  58. Clive Howlitzer says:

    This isn’t entirely the same as I love the Dark Souls games but I also find them to be a rather ‘special’ kind of fun. They are overly stressful for me even though I think they are amazing and I do love playing them. However, I need to be in a special kind of mood to subject myself to them. I will have fun but…not really in the traditional sense.

  59. Groo says:

    Shamus, Just going to keep it simple and no advise because well, first off you asked and second no matter how much people want to help there isn’t any they at the very, very best can only not make it worse.

    Just wanted to say. Same, I get it and I wish I could play that game too but sure as shooting avoid it.

    People have NO idea why I sometimes need to “run an errand” at work. Generally I spend the time in my car screaming everything I really want to say and my errand is done when I can be rational with people again. There’s nothing to do about it until it’s done, it’s the sad truth so I also just walk away / avoid the things I know starts it rolling.

  60. paercebal says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    We all have our particular problems, and to be fair, I didn’t expect this specific one to affect you. Also, as someone who is rarely angered, I had never looked up on that subject. Your story enriched my perspective on it.

    Thanks,

    (It doesn’t change the fact I would not play Dark Souls any more than you do, for similar reasons, despite enjoying some game critics’ video on the subject: I would like to like Dark Souls style games… but I don’t… My loss?)

  61. Grimwear says:

    The only game that I’ve ever come close to actually raging out on was Subnautica. I don’t know what it was about that game but it just set me on edge. I loved the atmosphere and exploring but as soon as I tried to progress the story I nearly uninstalled. First I knew I needed to find the undersea base, couldn’t find it. None of the maps that exist on wikis were helpful but I finally found it and could progress. Next got to the lava area, needed to get some rare resource down there which required me to use my mech. So I drive my giant submarine down there, get into my mech, drop down. But o wait my mech couldn’t survive at that depth and exploded. It could survive in SOME of the lava area depth but not all. Convenient. Got respawned back at the surface with nothing. I then had to build a new mech and manually take it all the way back down to get back to my submarine (it is the slowest vehicle). Once I got there luckily I found the portal to take you back to the top and beat the game no problem but if I had failed at any point getting back there I would have uninstalled, flipped the game off and wandered off into the sunset.

    Die hundreds of times to bosses in Dark Souls? No problem. Nearly losing everything in Subnautica? Insatiable rage.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Funnily enough, one of the few games that’s ever really got me close to raging was Knights of the Old Republic; not because of the game itself, but because, for whatever reason, it was incredibly buggy and crash-prone on my computer. Like, crashing every few minutes. Except in the underwater section on Manaan. There it was more like every 10 seconds. I learned to play with liberal mashing of the quick save key to make any progress at all.

      I was really determined to experience it though, so I got through one playthrough, returned the disc to the friend who’d loaned it to me, and washed my hands of the affair. I’m sure it’s a good game, but it will be forever tinted in memory by the constant frustration and rage I experienced while playing it.

      (I’ve no idea why it was so crashy, I’d gotten KotOR II a few years earlier and played through it multiple times on the same computer with nary a single crash.)

  62. MaxEd says:

    Interesting. I will also never play Dark Souls, for nearly the same reason: I get frustrated by failure pretty quickly, especially when I have to repeat the same content over and over. Repetition is a huge frustration-trigger for me, which is why I like programming (where if you fail, you often have to redo things in a *completely* different way), but don’t like learning doing things by hand, because usually you get a lot of failures until you “get it right”, and all attempts look pretty much the same as the last one, but maybe your hand moves a little more correctly.

    However, I very rarely get that anger. I think I’m a slow burner in that sense: it takes quite a bit for my fuse to light up, and I usually can catch myself before it happens and just quit doing what’s causing me frustration.

    My girlfriend, on the other hand, have endless patience for repetition of tasks, but gets from 0 to 100 in a second if frustrated by other people or computer systems.

  63. Decius says:

    So, on the subject of useless advice:
    You absolutely can run a double-blind study on yourself.
    To test sugar, find two similar sugary and sugar-free candies, and have a trusted person who likes being helpful package them identically and keep a secret record of which ones are which. Gather your data in the blind condition, before you know if the candy you’ve been eating for the last week is sugary or not, and record all of your angry outbursts and feelings.

    The thing is you’ll have trouble noticing small effect sizes, which is okay because you really only care about noticeable effects anyway.

    1. Shamus says:

      I think to get the most out of this study, I should eat as much of the test candy as possible, in order to make the differences pronounced.

      I like this plan!

      :)

      1. Vinsomer says:

        Slightly related, but fighting game youtuber Core-A Gaming has a video which showed that consuming sugary foods actually improves performance when playing video games, especially games which require conscious effort and thought.

  64. Wiseman says:

    That’s Shamus’s secret. He’s always angry.

  65. Urban Dictionary says:

    I understand that temprament problem, I have a similar one, and it combined with my depressive tendencies, made me miserable the first time I played Souls. And I still get annoyed at them sometimes, but I’ve actually gotten better at it. Dark Souls was one of the things that helped with that.

    I think its a bit unreasonable to not want some help or a summon there-you want to master it, and a great way to master it is the reduced difficulty an assist gives. You’re not wrong though-DS bosses are not built to be beat on the first try, and if you do-you’re actually missing out, likely on part of the bosses moveset, and of the experience overcoming them. So this frustration is inherent to the game. Summons might take out a lot of the challenge, but I regard it as a practice run in all honesty. The real challenge will be soloing it when I come back on NG+. But whatever-I don’t think your argument is rational or a good one for why you won’t take action to make things less frustrating: I think you’re right this game will frustrate you to some extent no matter what.

    Thing is, I eventually worked around that frustration. It gave me a lot more perspective on not accomplishing what I set out to do, because I learned to see it all as progress. I used to get swearing, yelling mad at the games, and now I do less-I started alt-f4ing if it pissed me off to much-but eventually, I started alt-f4ing and then booting it right back up. Because fuck this boss, I had just worked out what went wrong last time and was going to do better this time.

    I too get frustrated at obstacles like that, it drives me mental. I was beaten for all my childhood, and one thing that stuck with me was my mum forgetting her keys or purse and having me look for them, and the fear if I didn’t find the possession she lost before she got mad at me. Now if I hit an obstacle like that, I get a tension headache and a violent anxiety attack.

    I just had one today-Instagram was frustrating while I was trying to publish a video on time, and I was frustrated-and it was worse because my frustration does not help, I can’t use it to speed things up. When I hit a wall like that, it is the worst. I cannot get rid of that feeling without intoxicants or sleep. The best I could do was accomplish the things I’d set out to do and sleep it off-but I did it, and nothing stopped me in the end.

    What I liked about Dark Souls, was learning to lose better, that I could see the progress, and it was tough and unforgiving, but that I could make progress-it was all up to me. Once I learned a little how to play and got going, these things were things I could master-things like boss door dashes, I’d pride myself on no-hits before the boss. Most of my fights with the bosses aren’t mastery, but considering what they did to me before, beating them at all means I mastered hanging on through the skin of my teeth and not giving up.

    You don’t have to like dark souls, you don’t have to play it, I sort of hope that you don’t because I’m sick of this sort of discussion. A lot of it is routed in mythologising and catastrophising the game’s difficulty, and pretending the game is massively different from others. It’s a fruitless discussion, and you are not going to explain anything worth knowing about Dark Souls to someone who won’t engage with it, and someone who won’t engage with it really have no meaningful insights into the game. I have no horse in this race, if you don’t want to play it, suit yourself, suits me just fine.

    But I think resigning yourself to being like this is sad and not good. You can always be a little bit better, and the lesson I take from your Moneyball story is-dude was let down hard and never got the chance to overcome those demons and still struggles. The best he can manage is avoidance, which he breaks, instead of coping-and he does have to cope because it’s part of his job, his life, his passion. It must suck to dedicate your life to a sport, and then not be able to watch your team because you lose it under those stakes. It’s not something you have to live with, and it’s something you can improve on. At some point, you will be better off humbling yourself, and accepting victory and defeat with grace. In changing your goal, your winstate.

    My winstate is not “I beat the game” or “I beat you”. I am not competing with you or the game, you are irrelevant. My competition or the game, it’s just my punching bag. I am competing with myself to do better, and have a better attitude-and I have a solid history of wins under my belt there. I started a combat sport before quarantine, and I am a cripple, so I get my ass kicked regularly, get beaten and bruised. I will not outfight someone who’s got two working legs and has 15 years experience on me. But I will perform better than I last did-I’ll take my hits like a man, with less flinching than last time, I’ll hold my head higher, and I will fight until exhaustion-hoping the spot where I can’t continue is just a little better than last time. If I’m not having fun, I should adjust my attitude or stop playing.

    Some of the best gaming experiences I’ve had involved losing a game, or fighting through to the bitter end and managing a comeback, and I would not have them if I didn’t work to consciously improve my attitude. My current goal is to improve my chill further, as other people can still throw me off, dealing with toxic, bitter, or trash talking players tends to take out my enjoyment and opens the path to anger, frustration, or giving up on it, and I ideally want to become impervious to that. I wanna be the adopted son of The Dude and that hockey player who’s like “why you haff to be mad?”

  66. The Big Brzezinski says:

    I recall playing World of Warcraft back at launch. My friends insisted we play on a pvp server for reason I understand on an intellectual level. So we rolled on Gorefiend/Alliance (because everyone loves Warcraft for it’s humans, right?) and I made a druid to heal. I borked my spec a bit to have my stealth maxed out, but I got the important heal powers. You see, I do not like unstructured pvp. People who do claim it’s like a war. I see it, and experience it, as a gankfest that occurs without any regard for your intentions or consent. From my perspective, I’m out alone trying to relax and perhaps farm some leather, and some jackass decides it’s now my responsibility to entertain him for a few minutes, like he was some 3-year-old blood relative. What I want is to continue farming leather. No result from this engagement will give me this. Even if I avoid the fight, or by some miracle slay him, he’s not going to go away. The only thing I can do is concede the field to him, sneak back to town, and fly to another of the only four or so appropriate level areas to farm leather instead, and HOPE it doesn’t happen again before too long. I am utterly oppressed without recourse before his desire to pick a fight. We played other games, and they also insisted we try pvp servers, and the same phenomenon happened each time. I once fought off some stealthing sith guy several times in SWtOR, even getting the drop on him as he “snuck” through a door. I finally left because he wouldn’t let me level grind in peace.

    It was only after they stopped playing that I could focus on pve content and discovered the joy of tanking. I do not believe what pvp players say about the challenge provided by player opponents. I have met other players. By and large, they are idiots. In pvp, they rely on prebaked metas, super reductive cheese strategies, and surprise against opportune targets to for kills. They usually lack the game knowledge and skills practice to win an even matchup. [i]Developer[/i] opponents are far more interesting to fight. Multiply that by also having to work [i]with[/i] a team of the aforesaid idiot players, and you’ve got a very interesting challenge for me. The caveman part of my brain doesn’t care about overcoming some young idiot to impress a mate. It wants to go hunt a mammoth instead. I want to grab the dragon by the horns with a derisive sneer on my face and drag it and its adds kicking and raging over the dps’ nuking area incineration. Loot it nice too, but mostly because it reminds me of the fight I had.

    If you want something from a game, and that game does not offer it, it is a bad game for you. The fact that what it does offer is appreciable, even respectable, does not counter the fact that it is not desirable. I respect a Bugatti. I might even like driving one. I never want to own one, even if it was free.

  67. Adrian Lopez says:

    I know you mentioned how you don’t like talking about this because people try to help and I can respect that sentiment, but I have to mention something that wouldn’t require you to add another hobby to your list. Try eating mostly meat. Like red meat. A lot of people have talked about mood changes when adopting an animal based diet. https://meatrx.com/?s=anger
    You don’t have to change anything in your day to day, just what you eat which everyone has to eat. So yeah, just buy more beef and eat that primarily. It helped me with my depression just by fueling my body properly. Caveman medicine! Sounds crazy and it is but, hey, it’s a solution for a lot of people.

    1. pseudonym says:

      It does sound a bit crazy. If you take into account our anatomy it does not look like we are made for meat heavy diet: https://www.vivahealth.org.uk/wheat-eaters-or-meat-eaters/length-digestive-tract.
      Governmental nutrition instutions do not recommemd eating lots of red meat.
      Also with the food industry so focused on producing as much as possible, I am not so sure if there are any hormone residues in meat that cause inbalance. But this is just speculating.

      But if it works for you, I am happy for you.

  68. Glacious says:

    “I love videogames a lot.”

    This was a really well written article Shamus. After the well-illustrated explanations and the other posts linked throughout, the paragraph third from the end, beginning with the sentence quoted above, is one of the most moving things I have read on the internet in quite some time. Thank you.

  69. Sebastien Vivas-Gelinas says:

    Incredibly insightful column. Thank you for sharing this. I play Dota 2 a ludicrous amount, it’s one of my favorite all time games, but its also the only activity that transforms me into rage destroying monster. it’s an almost out of body experience when I watch myself say and do things that I never do in any other situation. Your piece gave me a lot to think about, triggers, management etc.. Thank you.

  70. C.J.Geringer says:

    Dear Samus,

    At the risk of being annoyinf, please elt me recommend the you tube playist “Demon´s souls In-Depth”:

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_ftpUY_ldBTanZ1LLEfGNqI68h5VfOxU

    Thsi is IMO the best longform anallysis of demon souls, and I think you would find it really interesting in itself, without having to have played the game.

  71. Chris Rasmus says:

    I’m sure you understand that if you didn’t want people like me posting “help”, you shouldn’t be posting your problems. :D

    With that out of the way…

    You say:
    This anger continues to grow for as long as I’m prevented from working on the problem I care about.

    But then you say:
    It’s not always clear what will cause rage and what won’t, but I know from experience that you can’t change it by “thinking about it differently”.

    Possible Solution:
    Learn when and when NOT to care about a problem. Possible gross oversimplification: learn to prioritize?

    Example…you say:
    Counting to ten would have the opposite of the suggested effect. I realize it works for some people, but for me it would just extend the delay between failure and the point where I could resume working on the problem. It literally intensifies the anger. It’s effectively making the run-back longer.

    Perfect example of learning when NOT to care would be something to work towards. I’m not arguing in support or against “counting to ten”. I’m simply pointing out that if you didn’t CARE about the problem (i.e., being prevented from immediately addressing what you perceive is the “problem”), then you wouldn’t be having melt-downs. Care about how much time you’re wasting that could better be spent doing XYZ, but don’t Care about the fact that the game is preventing you from working on your overwhelming desire to win/master it…right this second.

    Things like this also seem to me to be how “normal” people develop patience. They recognize that no matter what they do, “progress” is going to take time. Then they mentally shift caring about progress to somewhere else.

    People blowing up in different situations is simply more examples of their caring about some things more than others. You don’t care about winning/mastering domestic arguments, or about winning/mastering driving on the freeway.

    Learning when to NOT care seems to be a good starting point?

    1. DivFord says:

      Isn’t that essentially what he’s doing?

      If you accept Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun, or any number of other theories on why people play games, we enjoy games because we gradually master them. If the only way to not get angry at Dark Souls is to not care about mastering it, it ceases to be fun, in which case why would you play it?

  72. Elethiomel says:

    I get irrationally adrenaline-rush angry when I detect that I am being manipulated, especially by corporate entities. This gets worst with telemarketers, where there’s a bureaucratic labyrinth to navigate to get them to stop calling me. I’m a little angry right now just thinking about it.

    I am scared that I will some day emotionally or physically hurt a retail worker forced by their corporate overlords to try to sell me on insurances, plans, club memberships, and all the other crap that corporations like to inflict on their customers. I do all the shopping that I possibly can online, or in local shops not affiliated with large franchises.

  73. Timothy Coish says:

    Sort of fascinating to hear that from Shamus. It’s extra weird, because when I was younger I actually had this physical reaction like full body itching/energy. It’s really weird, I remember this came about when I played Crash 2 a lot, especially when I tried to beat the time trial modes, which necessitates lots of trial and error. After a while I would stop actually trying, but I kept replaying over and over again, and I think it’s because when you speedrun a level that takes 1:30, then the game ends up wasting your time quite a bit over and over again. So I sort of had the same thing as Shamus, but it was a full on energy flush or something.

    Like imagine that some electrical spikes were shot into your legs and you needed to kick them in some spasm. Basically that but whole body. Like my whole body got all this energy and I JUST NEED TO GET THIS ****ING ENERGY OUT OF MY ****ING BODY. That type of energy.

    Even weirder, while I still occasionally get this effect with various things in life, I almost never get this with video games. I think it’s because that now, as I’m turning almost 30, I just don’t care if a video game wastes my time, I use that as an excuse to stop playing. So when I played Demon Souls for the first time in 2015 or so, I died a bunch, then got past the very first boss just to prove to myself that I could do it, then I died again and never played a single time after. Never had a desire either.

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