In the past seven years, I have completed roughly 34 games. While this may appear to be a large number, it equals out to roughly five games a year – an embarrassing track record for an aspiring game journalist such as myself. My backlog alone numbers around 103 games – not mentioning any new games that may release or catch my attention. So, in the spirit of challenging years and pushing the limits of my own masochism, I’ve decided to sacrifice myself upon the hill of the sunken cost fallacy. This year, the year of our lord 2021, I’m going to complete 12 games in 12 months. While also working full-time and doing full-time school, and taking care of two full-time cats.
So, dearest reader, I entreat thee to join me on this journey, to delve ever-deeper into the heart of the sunk cost fallacy and play those Steam sale games, those free Epic games, those forgotten completely legal repacks laying around in forgotten directories. Join me on this journey back into the backlog.
An Ode to Dark Souls
Fortunately, I’ve already completed a game. The ever-elusive, legendarily difficult Dark Souls has escaped my grasp no longer, finally freed from my backlog and placed lovingly into the diminutive “completed” section of my Steam library. After trying and failing no less than five times to complete it since its release, I finally strapped myself into one of those Clockwork Orange eye machines and forced myself to finish it, and oh, oh how I see now, how my eyes lovingly grace the truth, how my heart yearns tenderly for Miyazaki’s cold embrace, how I long for the cruel death screen to blister my eye-holes once more. Oh, am I now a true believer! I don’t know if it’s Stockholm Syndrome or genuine, heartfelt passion but I’ve found myself completely and utterly enraptured by Dark Souls for the first time in my life.
There were two moments, two viciously cruel moments that truly cemented my love for Dark Souls. Because this is an article and you are reading it, I will now relate those two moments to you.
In one of the early game areas, the Undead Parish, there’s an enemy called a Balder Knight. They’re not particularly difficult enemies, but for an inexperienced player, they can pose quite an issue due to their amount of health and their tendency to brutally wombo-combo witless players. They gave me no shortage of trouble, primarily due to one’s fiendish placement on the path to a fiendishly difficult boss.
After finally cleaning my hands of the area, I found myself wandering back through a couple of hours later with a much better weapon (the wonderful Great Scythe) and many more souls under my belt. I was able to annihilate them in a single blow, able to cleave through all three of them with a solitary swipe from my scythe, banishing their bodies to ash and dust. While this progression path is common in many RPGs, the difficulty of that path in Dark Souls is so notoriously difficult and so relentlessly long that the power curve felt so much more tangible.
Dark Souls, as is oft said, is a hard game. But it’s also one that can become incredibly easy once you learn its tricks; you only have to be ambushed in a blind corner once before you start holding your shield up around every bend. The game is unfair and cruel, absolutely, but it’s consistently unfair. The game has its own ruleset: a wickedly difficult ruleset but a ruleset it abides by nonetheless, one that accounts for both skill and level progress.
Earlier, I mentioned a second moment where I felt myself truly resonate with the game. That moment came much, much later, during the second boss of the game’s only DLC. Artorias of the Abyss, the DLC’s namesake. He is, even among Souls bosses, notoriously difficult. I found myself banging my head against a wall with him, over and over, dying to his inhumanly brutal combos again and again. I refused to use a summon for the fight, whether out of masochism or some desire to give him a fair fight is beyond me.
But then, it clicked. I took off all my armor, left all protections behind, equipping only an enchanted shield on my back and the legendary Great Scythe. There was no barrier between myself and my opponent, no saving grace from the game in the form of armor or spells. It was just me and the abyss. It was at this point I reached a synthesis with the game, a melding of man and medium.
The controller was nothing less than an extension of the self, the mechanics of the as innately familiar as any of my own instincts or senses. My dodges were perfect, my attacks and healing timed just well enough for me to keep a deadly rhythm. Somehow, I felt as though I was acting through both pure instinct and pure focus, something no game or media has made me feel before. It was truly cathartic, seeing Artorias’s abyss-corrupted body melt away into ash and goop, a symbol of my own skill and accomplishment. There was no cheesing, no cheapness, just an evolution of skill and a gradual mastery of the game before me.
The feeling was completely and utterly unmatched, something even Doom Eternal’s nightmare difficulty couldn’t make me feel. I doubt any other game will leave me so utterly satisfied with my own accomplishment. This month, I learned that Dark Souls is, as Special Agent Dale Cooper would put it, a damn fine game. (Have I convinced you to try it? You can buy Dark Souls: Remastered on Steam.)
A Quick Aside
As an additional yearly challenge, I’ve also decided to achieve 100% completion on my recently purchased PC copy of Red Dead Redemption 2. After completing it on PS4 after release, I found myself unable to stop thinking about it, so here we are. Each month I’ll give a status update on my completion efforts. Man, I love that game. This month I attempted and succeeded to save up 400 dollars before the early mission where you buy a new horse with Hosea, just to see what he’d say if you bought the most expensive horse. Well, it wasn’t really worth the 15 hours of effort, but hey, try it for yourself. At least I have a nice horse now.
A Quick Conclusion
Well, onto the next month then. Hopefully, all my articles can keep up the melodrama. As for February’s game, well, I couldn’t quite decide. I’m not quite ready to subject myself to Dark Souls 2 yet, so after briefly flirting with a revisit to GTA V and being generally very indecisive, I did what any rational human would due and assigned each of my backlog’s games a numerical value and used a random number generator to pick one. That game (after strenuously re-sorting my backlog) turned out to be Dragon Age: Origins. Just in time for Dragon Age 4. Hopefully.
So, reader, our time comes to a close. I invite each and every one of you to join this journey with me, to crack open your dusty Steam library and complete 12 games in 12 months. Feel free to follow along and comment on your progress down below. There’s also a subreddit dedicated to this type of thing called r/12in12. You can also return to this article to find future articles in this series below. So onwards we go, dear reader, onwards into the land of Dragons and Ages and probably some Origins. Until next time.