Let’s summarize the previous 4 entries in this week’s #WeeklyRanked. Super Mario World gave birth to my love of video games as well as teaching me that they’re meant to be beaten, A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past taught me that games could be more complex and non-linear, BioShock showed me how a perfectly crafted game can keep you emotionally immersed, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 taught me that deep deep down I’m actually a complete piece of shit. There’s many other games along the way that I have loved and I have fond memories playing with my friends and family. I remember sneaking into the basement when my parents went to bed to play Super Smash Bros Melee with my little brother (and getting caught almost every single time). I remember teaching my sisters how to play Super Mario Sunshine. Hell, I still remember when my dad bought Madden 93 for our SNES when I was really young and I used “Fake Field Goal – Run” over and over because “Dad, it’s under the Special Teams section. That means it’s my secret plays.” God he must have been so patient, because every game was close, and I won like half of them.

But this next game, this is the one that changed me not only as a gamer, but as a human being:

Numbuh 1: Dark Souls

This is it. This is the game that pushed me from casual to serious gamer. Let me set the scene for you: it’s the summer of 2014. I’m working an internship in some middle of nowhere town in the southeast. And when I say middle of nowhere, I mean there’s like maybe 5000 people that live in this town, the nearest movie theater is over an hour away, and the nearest city with over 100,000 people is over two hours away. There is literally nothing to do outside except eat, sleep, and work. As is the norm for any summer, there’s also no new games out worth playing. So about 3 weeks into my internship, I’d gotten sick of both Call of Duty: Ghosts and FIFA 14 and decided to look for something new. Lucky for me, the one of the free Games with Gold for June 2014 was Dark Souls. I’d heard about this game before, that it’s been labeled as “one of the hardest video games of all time”, but I wasn’t worried. I actually welcomed the challenge. Most games I’d played up to this point weren’t really that hard, just long. So I ordered a pizza, grabbed some snacks from the grocery, and started one of the hardest journeys in my life.

There are times in my first playthrough of Dark Souls when I really didn’t know if I would ever finish the game, and I hadn’t felt that feeling since I was 7 in my aunt’s basement when I lost to the final boss of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the 3rd time and had to start all over again. This game is absolutely brutal. It’s not by any means a perfect game; the camera fucks you over alot, the hitboxes are a bit messed up, and there’s this horrible mechanic where if your swing your sword in a narrow alley you hit the wall 90% of the time. But when the game isn’t unintentionally fucking you, it’s absolutely intentionally fucking you. The Capra Demon. Blighttown. Sen’s Fortress. The archers from Anor Londo. Ornstein and Smough. Blighttown. Bed of Chaos (which is actually so bad that the studio head apologized to players). Every time you think you’re getting better at the game, From Software introduces a new trick or ramps up the difficulty exponentially. You may be thinking to yourself “why in the world would anyone want to play this type of game?” And I’ll be honest, I asked myself this question over and over again over the 3 months it took me to finally beat it. But you simply cannot match the adrenaline rush you get for finally beating a boss or an area in Dark Souls, at least not in gaming. Everything else released around that time either had difficulty settings that you could adjust to your preference, or were just naturally easy. There’s no way to cheat or cheese your way through Dark Souls; you either learn and master the mechanics or you don’t beat the game.

And to be honest, that’s really how life is. Not to be the cheesy vanilla prototypical gaming blogger that relates everything to the real world, but fuck it, this is a series about me and you can’t really cheat life. You’re gonna be faced with some huge barriers in your way, maybe even some demons, and you’re gonna be left with a choice: do I give up or do I strap in, take the hits, and figure it out? I may not have realized it at the time, but this game came at a critical point in my life where I had to let go of my pride, toughen up, and grind my way to a job offer post-college. And while Dark Souls didn’t do this directly, it helped build a sense of grit that I have carried to this day. So don’t be afraid to take on a difficult challenges, in life or in video games. In the end, you’ll come out stronger on the other side. And that’s THE MOTHAAA FUCKEN TEAAAAA.