I began college in the fall of 2013 after a three year hiatus following high school. I failed three quarters in a row and lost financial aid and thus lost my ability to go back. As much as I’d like to say the main reason was that I’m one of those super-genius types that can’t be bothered with school, that wasn’t the case. No, I failed because I couldn’t deal with the work and a new found stress at home. For most of those three quarters I felt overwhelmed and I inevitably gave up hope and stopped trying.
Shortly after that I got a job working at a McDonald’s downtown and started my first review blog, Poor Man’s Geek and found the Souls series. So for the…..two of you……who don’t know about the Dark Souls series, let me talk about them for a bit before getting into how they helped me get where I am today. Dark Souls is hard. Very hard. Hard to the point of inaccessibility to most. Even after getting a few hours into the game enemies in the starting area’s can still fuck you up if you get careless. Dark Souls is a game where you will die a lot, and if you’re like me, you’ll give up hope of beating it and move on at some point. It’s also one of the most positive and reassuring experiences i’ve ever played.
The stories lore, while vague and cryptic makes one part of it’s story pretty clear from the outset. You are Undead, and like all Undead you will go Hollow should you lose the will to continue on. While the games does talk about “prophecies” and “chosen undead” who will become kings, it’s also made clear that you are nothing special. You are just another Undead taking up the same fools errand so many have gone Hollow trying to achieve. And like so many, at first I didn’t achieve it. I got to the dual bosses Ornstein and Smough, decided I wasn’t going to beat them and quit. I wrote my review and was ready to not play the game again. As much fun as I had, I was ready to be done with it if I couldn’t get any farther. But something kept nagging at me. I had that same thought before, several times. In fact, that was my same reaction to almost every boss in the game. But I beat them all. So I eventually whent back to the game and, in time, defeated not only Ornstein and Smough, but both Dark Souls 1 and 2. And it was then that I understood what the game was really about, what it was really saying: life is hard, so keep at it.
I’m currently in my third quarter back to school, and there’s a saying my Math teacher likes to throw out to those who are having issues, be it with homework or a test or whatever. He often says “there’s value in the struggle”. He says this to reassure his students that are having to spend hours with the online homework repeating concepts that ever time they fail, the get one step closer to figuring out how to solve the problems. He says this to reassure his class that yes, you will struggle, but you can make it through if you keep going. He tells them this for the same reason Dark Souls throws hulking monstrosities at you.
There are plenty of hard games out there that have taught me nothing but Dark Souls is not about being hard. It’s about overcoming hardship. It’s difficulty and it’s lore is about that core concept. You may only ever be crawling you’re way to victory, but you’re still making progress. And using that lesson, i’ve risen my GPA from nearly a 0.0 to just over a 2.5. There are certainly other aspects to my new found school success, like having a real passion and knowing what I want to study to just hunkering down and getting the work done. But I don’t think I can honestly say I’d be here if it wasn’t for From Soft’s epic series. Had I not made the conscious choice to pick the controller back up and take to hart what the game was trying to teach I don’t know if I would have been willing to keep fighting for my degree. I may very well have gone Hollow working a dead end job at my downtown Mcdonald’s.