“You died”

©2023 michael raven

Another anniversary of my birth is around the corner, or behind the last. I’m allowed to be vague about the day, am I not? Besides… wisdom.

I have felt for a number of years that the exact age I am is a dull bit of trivia, and I refuse to get hung about it except when it suits me to pretend the old man. Something more than fifty, something less than fifty-five.

This weekend, I should have worked again, but have reached the burnout stage where I needed some time to myself. The sudden precipitation sealed the need and, after digging out, I was even less compelled to pull myself up to a desk and look at numbers. Besides, I felt I needed a birthday present to myself.

So, instead, I decided “to hell with it” and, although I am an avowed horseshit player of souls-likes games by FromSoft (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc.), I am still drawn to the atmospheres they create — so I decided I needed to try out Elden Ring finally so I could satisfy my curiosity and stop wondering if it was true that it is a souls-like for people who are no good at souls-likes.

And… surprisingly… it is just the kind of game I like to play that hearkens back to the RPGs I grew up around. No hand-holding, no little icons popping to distract you from the game with promises of collectables. No quest journal. No kill ten rats quests. No fetch or escort quests that I have encountered so far. No warning that you are under-leveled for an area; you find out quickly if you are and you might be able to run away. Or die trying. Exploration and observation is rewarded instead of a disappointment (loot can be found instead of just being junk to take up your inventory slots). It is unforgiving, but fairly so.

Compared to other recent RPGs, it can be tough as nails and an exercise in frustration. In fact, I had to walk away for a while because of a near success with the first real boss after multiple attempts resulting in my death. But I couldn’t say it was unfair. I just was too impatient to pay attention to what was around me and, when I went in with a fresh mind, I noticed something that lead me to another something and I discovered that I shouldn’t have been so pigheaded with my approach.

See, current games pretend to be open world, but are still games that train you to think like the game is a corridor that everything should be A, then B, then C. Instead, I was offered A, then X, and then C. There was a viable alternative to the corridor as presented. I quit following the sparkly lights leading me by the nose and found a different way to play, which rarely is allowed in most games of any type.

And that’s when I realized that the frustration with some of the game’s mechanics were my own doing.

The last game that I played that could be tough as nails, rewarded exploration and really allowed more freedom than the standard games out there was Guild Wars 2. Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk were close, but really succumbed to the expected forgiving gameplay and icon-barf of mainstream RPGs. While I am never thrilled with losing progress in a game, I can see why hardcore players turn their nose up at quicksaves without penalty or world reset.

So, if you see the game’s influences in some of my writing, now you know why. I’m interested in this idea that the world of the game doesn’t hate or love you, it frankly doesn’t care about you as a player at all. You are just more grist in the mill as far as Elden Ring is designed. Don’t trespass. Don’t start fights you can’t win. It is okay to run. You don’t have to be a mass-murderer of everything in your path and, indeed, you might make more problems for yourself if you do. But — you are given the freedom to find that out for yourself.

Fun. I can’t wait to escape my work tribulations later tonight in the same way as I avoided them for most of the weekend.

13 thoughts on ““You died”

  1. May you have an happy anniversary, and a nice play time.

    I only like the atmosphere of soulgames, for my part, and the art direction… still not have any patience to investigate them… 🤷🏽‍♀️ maybe someday lol

    Take care

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, will drop it on my wish list… 😊 I do have them all , from demons soul to the trilogy, and bloodborne, and Nioh. Must say the poetry and story telling is always a great drawn in.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My only real complaint about Morrowind was the whole painfully slow “running” speed that got wonky when you tried to fix using console commands. That, and crimes you didn’t know you committed 😀

      Stupid chickens (or was that Oblivion?).

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yup. I don’t game anymore, as my son is 3 and I am 34. And with the exceptions of TES3 and FO1/2, the memories are better than realities. If I were to play Skyrim again I would shrug, complain about lack of character depth and flatness of motivations, unbold moral quandaries and tepid social commentary… but probably laugh at cool glitches from ragdoll physics.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I played throughout the time my children were babes and toddlers while they were napping. Short sessions, absolutely, but I needed an escape that wasn’t booze while I was learning how to be a sober alcoholic.

              I still fire up Skyrim on occasion and basically use it as a hunting and monster murder simulator, ignoring all quests and refusing the mantle of being Dragonborn. Every once in a while I find something unexpected in my exploration, however rare finding something new has become.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a perfect way to spend your time. Elden Ring’s rules sound like advice that can be applied everywhere. Happy birthday (whenever it is). Mine is the same month but a bit later.

    Liked by 1 person

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