I Am Not Ready #1
In celebration of Jess Jenkins’ upcoming chapbook, Prepare to Die, I’m playing through Dark Souls and writing about my deaths for the month of September and maybe beyond.
The first thing I notice how tiny my character’s head is—is there an option to build a man without such a small head in comparison to the general ripped-ness of his body? I am very much the opposite, and I would like my character to be more like myself. I wonder, small head or not, if they are as afraid of dying as I am.
I think I will be a hunter. I like bows in video games. They are quiet and require more skill than guns or magic that hones in on a target. I like the extraordinarily unrealistic speed at which bow-wielding characters in video games can switch to their swords. The bow-hands disappear and are replaced by sword-hands.
I have a found the solution to my character’s small-head problem by making him “Top-heavy.” I am, for only a brief moment, tempted by the “Tiny Head” option. That’s a small fucking head.
The “Receding” hair option looks most like myself but fuck that, I’m going “Wild.” Wild and silver—one thing I will never be and another that I absolutely will. I’ll go bald before I go silver.
I name my character Lafayette after the protagonist from a failed novel. I do believe I am ready to die now.
One of my least favorite things in games is the tutorial: how best to instruct gamers how to play the game. This game does an okay job. There are messages on the floor that tell me to press R1 to attack, hold circle to sprint, as though that’s something that needs any training whatsoever.
I make a bonfire and then walk through a big set of doors and then I die for the first time.
There is an Asylum Demon there towering two stories and with a hammer big as my top-heavy hunter. Only in my second life do I realize that upon his entrance, a door opens on the opposite side of the room. I survive the second time around. I am learning from my dying.
These messages have turned out to be more than tutorials—they seem to be left there by other players who have traversed these places long before me. I see inscriptions that read, “Sorrow ahead.” Or, “Good luck.” When I see one that says, “I did it!” I know to turn back and double-check that I saved the game.
In trying to learn how to shoot my newly-acquired bow, I am killed.
In trying to learn how to shoot my nearly-acquired bow, I realize that I have no arrows for it. Every time I tried to fire, my character shakes his head, as if he can’t understand why he feels compelled to reach for something that does not exist. That he can’t believe the audacity of it. It makes me wonder if video game avatars are meant to be partially self-aware of the fact that they exist within a video game. That their world is bound by different constructs than ours, different constants. That they fall differently than humans do. That if I die I will not reawaken at my last bonfire.
I don’t remember when my last bonfire was. I was probably a kid. I don’t want to go all the way back there, even it if means I could keep living. The game has taught me that it’s very difficult to make your way back to where you died in the same shape that you were the first time around. I like my life. I don’t think I could pull this off a second time.
Turns out I need to equip the arrows before I could use them effectively. Makes sense.
I kill the skeletons but am then forced to battle a knight. It doesn’t go great.
I try to kill the Asylum Demon from above like the message suggested. I must have hit the wrong button.
“Humanity” is an important element within the game. It is a consumable item that can be found in chests or on the corpses of things like rats. Every time I die, my character loses his humanity and becomes “hollow.” Gaunt, zombielike face—essentially, the very things I spend my time killing. In order to stop being hollow, I have to consume one Humanity. Apparently one can play through the entire game while hollow, although I’m not sure that’s quite my style. I like being among the living. I like the face of the character I made, not his dehydrated counterpart. But Humanity is expensive: it is rare and there is much dying. I was prepared but perhaps not completely so.