Dark Souls is the girl everyone has kissed but me

Dark souls? Dark souls. I love it. I hate it. What does it want from me?

I have not felt this way in years, not since I was a cock-steered teenager, with more hormones than brainspace. I could not read girls – I still can’t, I’m better maybe, although that’s largely irrelevant given the whole marriage bit – and I would get so frustrated, so angry, so terminally confused about them.

Did they want me? Did I want them? Everyone else said how wonderful they were, and I of course agreed, but I was operating on unfound territory. I didn’t know. I had never… yeah.

And now, Dark Souls, and you hear stories about it, hear about the combat and the vast, bizarre lore, hear folk rant and rave about how brilliant it is

(And you’d hear stories about her, how she’d kissed some guy, how she spent all day mooning over Chris in History class, you’d see her sitting on someone’s lap or laughing at their jokes)

And you think, I can’t see this, I can’t have this. I can’t work out what the game wants me to do, but I want to do it, and I do it over and over, until the movements are rote and perfect, fast hitting the point where rather than learning from my mistakes I just mitigate them with other ones

(I don’t know what she wants from me, what’s wrong with me, what’s so different and unfuckable about me, and I want her, of course, I rehearse conversations with her until they are rote and fixed and crystalline and useless in my head, I am so blindly, stupidly focused that I misread, ignore everything, everyone else)

I want to play the game, despite itself. It lures me in; there’s always something there, always something further, another door to reach, an enemy to defeat, an obstacle to bypass, all of it shrouded away and hidden behind walls of no information, I read FAQ after FAQ, I explore, I learn about parries and item drop and humanity and levelling strategies

(I read sex tips in men’s mags because that is what you do, you figure these ridiculous convoluted manoeuvres are part and parcel of the thing rather than just sticking it in and moving up and down which has remained perennially interesting to many of us since the dawn of time, I am trying to run before I can walk, I am setting my sights absurdly high and growing angry when everything misfires every weekend)

And in all this, I don’t know why I’m playing. I can barely identify the Fun; there’s the enjoyment of making a mark on the world, of opening a door or discovering a new area or taking up a new weapon, of making it easier to traverse, but that’s apparently it, and these moments of control are all too few and far between

(And I feel impotent, in that I lack potency, in that I have no feedback from my actions so I assume they are inconsequential, and that is utterly defeating – to be reactive, not active, to peer at a strange and beautiful and terrifying world and come away marked and scarred, your brain building broken roads through itself like scratches on a record)

But I return. I load up the game every day and I try and sometimes, maybe, sometimes I get a little further but it is mostly just exploring and learning what I cannot do – I cannot defeat this monster, I cannot go to this area, I cannot fight properly, I cannot have the souls I collected because I fell off a cliff on the way to recover them and forty-five minutes of my time has been lost because I pushed the wrong button

(I learn not what to do, or rather, I do it so often that I give up trying entirely, which is a sort of learning – I burn bridge after bridge just trying to get enough light to see)

And, right now, I’m not playing Dark Souls. I don’t want to, or rather, I am thinking about playing it all the time but I am trying to convince myself not to. I know how angry it makes me; I nearly destroyed a controller after one death, heard the plastic creak under my hands, and still I didn’t stop playing

(I retreat, I withdraw, I give up except in my heart, except in front of the mirror, except when I’m drunk, except when I stop shouting at myself long enough to be heard)

And you start to hate the way the game makes you feel, like it – and every other player, and the lore, and the rules, and the numbers – are mocking you by their very presence, like you are some hilarious joke to them, the simpleton who couldn’t understand Dark Souls. They make you furious

(And fuck ’em, right, who the fuck are they, who the fuck is she, how can she make you feel so wretched by just standing there, surely that’s somehow her fault too, this can’t just be your own toxic neuroses overloading and poisoning your head, fuck her)

Dark Souls is the girl everyone has kissed but me