Nurture Face Furniture
Nurture Face Furniture
I thought I’d like to document a dramatic moment in my gaming life. One which opened up my gaming tastes considerably, and also one which made me appreciate the true power of gaming, not just for escapism to fantastical worlds, but for its ability to make me appreciate actual events in our history. Not just marvel from a distance, but to truly “touch history” by actually taking part in some of the decisions made.
I’ve been besotted with Fantasy worlds and the adventures that can be had in them for many, many years. Initially delving into the books like Fantastic Voyage, or Hitchhikers Guide, then into films like Star Wars, Hawk the Slayer, Beastmaster and The Dark Crystal. With the advent of early consoles and the Vic-20 personal computer, I was able to mooch in these worlds digitally.
I’ve always been knee deep in my own creations, exploring action, lore and backstory with my characters, their races and classes, their roles amongst their peers, in defeating the cloying darkness that suffocates these wondrous lands.
I’ve spent many a good hour in PC role playing games, from the early Everquest, through Neverwinter, and into the more modern MMO’s. My goal was always simple, to adopt a character, play it with conviction and enjoy the interactions and heroic deeds that befell them.
This was my nectar.
This was my escape from reality.
However, my early childhood was soaked with action of a different kind, war films. Zulu. The Alamo. Battle of Britain. A bridge too far. Where the Eagles Dare. The Dambusters. To name but a few. I suppose I’d always enjoyed the thrill of historical action at least in cinematic form.
I’d expanded my fantasy based repetoire to include real time strategy (RTS) games that allowed me to command not only heroes, but armies of elven archers, dwarven warriors and be able to march the Ents to war. So, it was of no surprise that I began to exercise my RTS gaming towards World War II and the likes of Blitzkrieg or Company of Heroes.
Suddenly I was starting to get a feel for action on a different scale. I liked it. My quest for another Fantasy based world, with more interesting ‘made up’ lore, began to look a little shallow. When there was a whole back catalogue of actual history and engagments and national conflicts to draw from, and then you can experience the events, and take part in it.
Almost overnight, I wanted to dip into wargaming. Proper, hard assed, grognard gaming. I wanted my thrills to come from actual history, actual people who were actual heroes. Not imagined ones.
My interest in these things were borne from my love of adventure and extraordinary deeds performed by fantasy based characters, but with reality and historical accuracy behind it, it seemed to add a whole level more of gravitas to the pursuit.
Wargaming seems daunting to newcomers. There is so much to learn, the games are so abstract and almost impenetrable. The strategy employed in heavy duty operational wargaming is way beyond your average RTS, in terms of command and control. But. They are not out of reach. They only need a small set of guidelines to follow, before you start to see the bigger picture, and then these rather small chits/counters begin to take on imagined life and platoons/brigades and companies start to have hardy men, and heroes leading them into all sorts of horrific battles undreamt of in most Fantasy novels.
Now I consider myself an enthusiastic wargamer, not hardcore, just interested in exploring history and people that have gone by. To appreciate the real “lore” that has actually happened to real people.
The above image shows the real Eugene Sledge, inset into the actor portraying him in the HBO series “The Pacific“. Eugene, or Sledgehammer as he was known fought in some of the worst battles in World War II, if you want to appreciate the horror of war I thoroughly recommend his book With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa.
“Sledge” is one of the real heroes in the historical gaming I like to dabble in nowadays.
This is now part of my nectar.
This is now my escapsim to reality.
I am coming at this game, officially “Souls-averse”. Meaning that as much as I want to exude love for the Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls games, their mechanics are positively abrasive to my flippant adventurous nature. It seems, I’m all about the heroic super-powered nature of playing through console RPG’s. When any deliberate mechanism gets in the way of this vanity soaked adrenalin rush and spoils the heroic feel of it all, I begin to lose interest, fast.
The thing is, my inquisitive taste for something new ALWAYS wants to taste it. I can’t help myself. The FROM Software lot, who I seem to remember had a fondness for Mechs years ago, package a good hype. They create worlds and games within where I want to be. Beautifully crafted fantasy landscapes, castles and dungeons. Places I was borne to be.
They create a mythical cast of characters, with subtle storylines that you have to uncover, with no obvious signposts. They have shiny armour and medieval weapons of torture. And grotesques, stalking the shadows around you. Essentially an ideal canvas upon which to paint an epic heroic tale for a eager adventurer such as myself to play in.
Not only do they craft this world, but they also add mulitplayer nuances that are really unique and creative. With mechanisms to pull in helpers and even be invaded by wrong-doers, the ones to chastise strongly and get a whiff of the feel-good factor for your hero.
However, all is not well in this labyrinth of pain. This experience is set out to teach you a valuable lesson or two. To punish you badly for your casual mistakes. To coax you into rethinking your path and your strategy at every turn. This is no place for wanton heroics, and liberal use of the attack buttons on your controller. This is no potion chugging lounge where you can out-drink your damage, and carry on. This is a place of pain and torment. REAL torment.
Bloodborne takes the Souls Mythos and adds a touch of Van Helsing and Cthulhu. They’ve taken away your shield. They don’t want you to be slow and defensive, and all mechanics are geared towards you dominating the attack vector, swift and certain. A blunderbuss or pistol firearm replaces your defensive mechanism, for one of staggering, distracting and allowing a visceral attack to poke into the enemies shambling maw.
You are teased with the ability to be a Victorian Steampunk Vampire hunting pirate. In a gloriously (or gore-iously) realised nightmare.
But the participation in this world comes at a price. A heavy one.One which many, many players are only too happy to pay. I am one of those who resent to toll. My adventuring psyche is not built on “trial and error” based punishment.
So I struggle to make any headway. I clamour at the uphill struggle presented in the opening moments of the game. Where you have to accept death, to be borne again into a school of death and loss. Discovery doesn’t seem to be a moment of wonder, but more a tainted moment of terror. Every noise another instance of loss, and set-back. Every new turn of the corner is another surprise ambush, by something out of your experience.
Mechanics for obtaining obtuse game information online from kind souls, writing cryptic clues on notes presented in boiling skull piles and blood pools on the floor. Unearthing multiplayer aspects that require investment to setup, and (usually) promote grouping with utter anonymous strangers over more considerate friends just baffles me as a western action RPG player. Desperately hoping the non-negotiable difficulty curve can be overcome by co-operative intervention.
All of the above eats away at my Soul as I try to play. I try to enjoy the beatdowns. I try to fumble with the specific unforgiving controls. I simply try to feel heroic and to live up to a character that I build in this high definition world of fantasy based punishment.
However, I have enough online friends to ask for a perspective change. I need to bend my western RPG expectations over and onto their head. The goal here is to learn the lessons the game is designed to teach you. To accept the story as is, raw and beaten into you. Every single action you make is laced with consequence. Every step into new territory a threat. You are not the super hero you fantasize about automatically, but you can be, if you take tutelage from the games subtle mechanics.
Meanwhile, I take solace in the support of my peers, who seem to just “grok” the whole system from the first game in the series to this one. These titles are revered world-wide, and there is something to be learned from them. Something exquisite and well designed, without being overly obvious. Your emotions are being played with. Your skills are being tested. But it is also a lesson. In the future of gaming. No longer a simple button mashing ride of exhiliaration. Now, accomplishment means something.
I am in peril.