Although there is nothing truly horrific about most video games, I’ve known that there is a kind of fear lingering in most of them. Of course there is the clear connection between video games and fear in games like Fatal Frame or Silent Hill or pretty much anything survival horror (a sadly very dead genre of video game), but I feel there is more hidden fear in other video games that we play.
Apparently, once, Lovecraft said that “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”; and is more unknown than death? Knowing that our lives are insignificant and that our every action has no meaning because one day we will die and we will be forgotten. In video games we can avoid this, our actions are very meaningful and shape the way the world we’re the hero to.
Take a Final Fantasy game, for example. It doesn’t really matters which because in them you act the part of the hero, the main character, and in those games you shape the world to a better place by affecting the people around you. You save the world, you get give others a piece of your mind and everything is alright again.
It’s not just alright, you have left your mark in that world, even if these but scripted events in the coding of the game. They make you feel great about yourself, like you matter. And we both know that video games are rarely about small things and daily events. There are visual novels and dating sims, but even there you make some impact in others’ lives. Your existence isn’t meaningless and you have nothing to fear, these characters will always remember you. They’ll celebrate your heroic actions each time you finish the game. You’ll win an award, marry the princess, or something along those lines, but you’re never fearful of death.
However, there is a reason why Dark Souls is on the featured picture of this post (aside from crows being an omen of death). Dark Souls is a game about death and how meaningless your actions are. No matter how much I love this game, I cannot deny that each and every time I think about it reminds me about how fragile I really am and how my actions bare no meaning in the grand scheme of the Universe.
Each time I go to a bonfire, I am only avoiding it a little longer, so I can fulfil my life’s objectives. But what is the meaning of such objectives overall? None. No matter how many times I go back to the bonfires, no matter how many times I kill the bosses and surpass myself (and believe me, it feels great to do that), nobody will be there to celebrate me. Nobody will remember me and in the end, nothing will have changed because change is only a passing thing.
Of course, there are many ways to look at death in Dark Souls, the game is surrounded by it from start to end, but the best way to explain this feeling is by looking at the Hollows.
Hollowing is process in which an Undead loses his or her humanity and becomes a mindless zombie. It’s the loss of free will and of your memory that leads you to attack others that are not Hollowed yet. All Undead will, eventually, Hollow. All Undead will lose their memories, their will, everyone will die.
To an Undead Hollowing is similar to a human death. You lose everything you hold dear, slowly and surely and most of the Undeads you come across become Hallows. I know, spoilers, but it is the sad truth. The friends you made and the people you helped will forget you because of the Darksign; which is the curse of the Undead in this universe.
In an ironic twist of fate, this is the series who gave us one of those characters that has become so popular in the community that I have seen people just nod in agreement to his name when asked if they know him and anyone who knows a PS3 owner has heard his name.
Solaire of Astora.
The one kind soul that just wants nothing more than to help you.
I do not think any ill of Solaire, even when he speaks of the sun so passionately probably something that would sound more creepy if I did not know that they are being poetic with their English or maybe it’s because I simply knew he was a kind man going into the game.
The truth is, that in the game about forgetting, you end up remember someone so greatly that Solaire is referenced even in Bloodborne.
In the end it is a lesson. For more that we are forgotten, there is always a trace of us, somewhere and, hopefully, someday, someone will find us again. And on that day, our fears that we seek to avoid by playing heroes and heroines will be put to rest.