I Beat Bloodborne, And It Wasn’t That Hard (And I’m Not That Good A Gamer)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 1.206% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)
I Beat Bloodborne, And It Wasn’t That Hard (And I’m Not That Good A Gamer)

Sometimes, what you hate is the culture that grew around a thing, not the thing itself. For example: Bloodborne is a good videogame.

Bloodborne’s fans are often really full of themselves.

See, Bloodborne is hard. Infamously hard. And there’s no way to turn the difficulty down, so you either “Git gud” or you give up. And the people who’ve beaten Bloodborne (or any Dark Souls game) seem to take beating Bloodborne as a supreme achievement that exalts them above other players – anyone who can’t beat the game is a lower form of gamer, one who cannot cope, and thus not a True Gamer.

I beat it this week.

That’s why I know this is bullshit.

Now, this is not to say that Bloodborne doesn’t reward skill; it does. I’ve watched enough videos of people who’ve waltzed through insanely gruelling boss fights without taking a single hit to realize that Bloodborne is an intensely fair game at the core: if you study the enemy moves well enough to know what’s coming and master your own weapon of choice to know when to strike, you’ll win.

Or you could doof it out like I did.

As a real-life example: I was having severe problems beating a boss called Micolash, Host of the Nightmare. (If you like beating bosses with badass names, Bloodborne is full of them.) And Micolash spams a move called Call From Beyond that’s near-impossible to interrupt once it starts, is extremely difficult to dodge, and almost always one-shots me.

Now, I could Git Gud and learn to stick close to Micolash – pressuring him so he doesn’t take the opportunity to Call From Beyond, using fine technique to dodge his tentacle-arms in close-quarters combat.

Or I could do what I did do and fight until the Random Numbers God smiled upon me and Micolash chose not to use his insta-kill move on me, and I won.

Gud game.

Like I said: Bloodborne does reward skill, and someone who knew what they were doing would doubtlessly house Micolash, who’s considered one of the lower-difficulty bosses. But Bloodborne’s dirty little secret is this:

It rewards skill, but it also rewards dog-faced tenacity.

People talk about how hard Bloodborne is, but the fact is that aside from potentially losing some XP, there’s zero consequence to dying. I died probably forty times to The Blood-Starved Beast – my personal nemesis in this damn game – and after every death Bloodborne said, “Right, get back in there, off y’go.” Unlike genuinely Nintendo Hard games, where you got three lives and had to display massive skill to get rewarded with a fourth, Bloodborne’s parade of endless lives lets you Groundhog Day yourself to eventual victory.

It’s not without skill, of course. You have to learn how each boss wants you to defeat it. But I’d say any competent gamer can get through Bloodborne. It’s not hard, ultimately; it just requires a mindset that says “I’ll endure frustration endless times until I eventually break through.”

Which is a fine approach.

I just dislike it when that approach is held up as the only True Way to enjoy gaming.

Because it seems like a lot of the Dark Souls fans are not looking for fellow fans, per se, but instead are seeking some way to elevate themselves. Yeah, you got gud – but the fact that someone else walked away from the game doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that “They do not enjoy this challenge of failing repeatedly.”

And gaming should be fun.

Look, I mean, I ultimately share your approach of “treat every game like it’s a job,” or else I wouldn’t have finished Bloodborne (and I may play it through on New Game+ to see the DLC). But the delight of games is that there’s a hundred different ways to extract pleasure from them – whether that’s razzing your friends on Fortnight or killing a spare minute or two with a few rounds of Bejeweled or roleplaying through the almost challenge-free story of A Night In The Woods.

Trying to wrangle yourself into some superior position because you have fun honing skills and climbing competitive ladders undermines how wide and deep gaming is. There’s no true path here aside from “fun,” and trying to claim that only true gamers share your definition of “fun” is the exclusionary bullshit that a lot of people go to gaming to get away from.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting gud. I love watching speedruns of Bloodborne. I love reading the high-tier strategies. And I’m looking forward to screaming at the Orphan of Kos with the rest of you, then screaming in triumph because I GOT THERE. But in the end, you’re no better than my eight-year-old godson playing Pokemon Go imperfectly, because you’re both equally into it.

The only difference is, he’s not trying to convince you there’s some moral benefit in catching this Caterpie.

He just loves the shit out of it.

8 Comments

  1. John Wiswell
    Feb 9, 2019

    Way to go, Ferrett! I was similarly surprised to learn that Dark Souls wasn’t unfair and cruel so much as it was scrupulously rules-driven. It and Bloodborne stoked a desire in me for more games where all the enemies operate by the same rules you do.

    Did you get chills from any part of the ambience or plot? Learning “Make Contact” got me.

    • The Ferrett
      Feb 12, 2019

      I actually need to write an essay on how what’s happening here is, effectively, a new narrative style, which is what gives me chills. I don’t think there’s ever been a media in which the story COULD have been stuffed into tiny cracks, left optional for you to pick up, and that’s exciting as fuck.

  2. Imrix
    Feb 10, 2019

    I think the best way I saw the Dark Souls/Bloodborne mindset described was by someone pointing out that most of them are very much looking for fellow fans – but, crucially, they’re looking for fellow fans in the sense of people who enjoy the games for what they are.

    The kind of extremely rules-driven, difficult but scrupulously fair combat system that FromSoft games offer is actually still pretty thin on the ground, even today with many games trying to imitate the SoulsBorne formula. Back when it first came out it was incredibly niche, and therefore very valuable to the sort of people to whom that niche appeals.

    The flipside of that is that among people to whom the formula does not appeal, there’s often an expectation that the game should cater to them. You can trace this back to fighting games with terms like ‘scrub’, a term for a player who decries certain tactics as ‘cheap’ and therefore expects them to be banned from the game, rather than fully experiencing the game by learning how to deal with them.

    That’s where ‘git gud’ comes from. It’s a rote response to complaints that come from a place of not wanting to understand the game, and therefore serves to forestall long, fruitless arguments with every Tom, Dick and Harry who want the games to be something they’re not, and THEREFORE keeps community feedback on the games focused on what they’re supposed to be. That’s important, remember, because the kind of experience they offer is rare.

    In essence, it’s gatekeeping. But gatekeeping isn’t an axiomatically bad thing; every good community has to have SOME rules to maintain a coherent identity, and in practice it doesn’t necessarily make for an elitist mindset – we’re talking about a community that churns out essays on how to beat bosses, and will will pore through video replays to advise people who are bad at the game but want to get better. Because that’s the key point, “want to get better.” The snappy lingo is “git gud,” but the RULE is more, “BE WILLING to git gud.”

    Mind, this is informed largely by discussions from about two years ago now, so the conversation may have shifted since.

    • The Ferrett
      Feb 12, 2019

      I mean, you raise some good points, but the “Git Gud” – as seen from an outsider’s perspective – is used just as often to imply that you’re not gud enough for this game, and we are.

      I agree that the game is hard, and needs to be so – that’s part of the experience. But too often being willing to endure that experience is perceived as an exalted state rather than the preference it actually is.

  3. Doug S.
    Feb 11, 2019

    This reminds me of my experience playing Battletoads on the NES: I just kept trying and trying until I learned how to get through each section, and years after I first played the game, I finally beat it. (5 lives, no warps.)

  4. Mark Dijkstra
    Feb 12, 2019

    Oh man, Bloodborne, that game is a delight! Fully agree on the attitude of the Git Gud crowd, I probably would have tried Dark Souls earlier if there wasn’t so much talk of insane difficulty when it first came out.
    For Bloodborne I wouldn’t recommend waiting until NG+ for trying the DLCs. They’re pretty punishing, so I’d sooner start a new game with a new weapon and do the DLC that way. It’s honestly really worth it, probably the best DLC I ever played.
    Any chance you’ll try Dark Souls 3 next? It’s a bit slower than BloodBorne and has a lot to like (more weapons, great bosses and more expansive multiplayer).

    • The Ferrett
      Feb 12, 2019

      I probably won’t play Dark Souls 3 because what I really liked about Bloodborne was the very tempo-based combat, and from what I’ve seen Dark Souls 3 doesn’t have that. Plus, I don’t generally like multiplayer, so that’s not a draw for me.

      I’m at level 125 and going through the Chalice Dungeons, so I might be okay on the DLC. Might.

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