I like Dark Souls. As a lifelong gamer, I found its depth, storytelling, and gameplay to be a refreshing change of pace and I consider it one of my top games of the past decade. I would even go so far as to say I have been a little evangelical with my praises. My roommate Tyler has seen me stay up until 3am to get my hands on the Dark Souls 2 beta, but had never tried the game himself. After watching me play for so long, I finally convinced him to pick up the controller and try it for himself.
The Mentor Learns from the Pupil…
Before he even finds the first bonfire, he tries to kill the optional ogre in the tutorial for an hour, at least. Just when he is about to quit, I take up the mantle of mentor and offer some advice to help get him through. I don’t want to be a backseat gamer. I do give a magnanimous tip occasionally, but I also take a perverse pleasure in seeing his reaction to all the deadly twists, turns, and traps that cover Drangleic. With this small act, the fire is kindled. Soon after, the ogre was felled. That first endorphin burst rushed through his brain as he tasted sweet sweet victory. I soon begin to hear creative curses coming from the living room at all hours. I get a text at work about beating The Pursuer. It had gotten its hooks in him. I soon realize that I am enjoying watching him play almost as much as I was playing myself.
One night after being stuck in No Man’s Wharf for an entire evening – we’re talking a couple hours of playing – he finally gets it. He goes human. Using the knowledge gained in the crucible of pirates and death, he carefully makes his way to the boss, triggering traps and ambushes like a pro. He defeated the boss on his first try. He then goes through the entire Lost Bastille without dying, only to get killed by the boss. I enjoying seeing his confidence growing.
It’s also interesting seeing a different play style. As a first time Souls player, he is approaching it from a completely different place. I played Demons Souls, then DS1, then DS2. I was a veteran. I cared about the story, and knew the tricks of boss souls, stamina management. I also knew how to beat the system. How to become overpowered early. That stuff doesn’t bother him. He is running a quality build because he wants to explore all the different weapons and fighting styles.
I sought to devour the game. To rush through and soak as much in as I could so I could start breaking it down and be a part of the conversation. I wanted to know what The Rotten’s ties to Pharros were, and is the land Lordran or not. I’ve watched him slowly learn the mechanics through trial and error (and with a bit of help).
He plays with a surprising carefulness. He never runs unless he needs to in battle, always walking. Slowly panning the camera to make sure he checks every nook and cranny. Completely clearing an area of enemies before picking up an item or opening a chest. Rather than complain about it, he loves the respawn counter of the enemies. “The one thing about Dark Souls is you learn every corner of this damn place.” He even got to Drangleic Castle with only 2 of the lords souls, something I didn’t even know was possible until my NG+.
He’s not complaining about the world not being interconnected, or what meta-level PVP should be capped at. Sometimes in sharing something you love, you appreciate it even more than before. A fresh perspective, even on something as unambiguously terrible as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, can offer new insights in the right eyes.
Whether he goes and plays the other Souls games or delves beyond the gameplay into the lore, it doesn’t matter. There is so much to gain by sharing and mentoring others in the things you love. Whether you (re)discover something you know intimately, or just get to spend quality time with the people who matter to you. That is what matters. Hanging out late nights with my friend Hippie who showed me Firefly in college. Bonding with my parents after getting them hooked on Breaking Bad. Remember to share the Nerd Love.