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Elden Ring… reinforced my love for gaming and restored my faith and confidence in my own abilities.

The Elden Ring original artwork featuring three grand golden rings which overlap each other to form a rune symbol

Let me explain.

I played Dark Souls 2 nearly a decade ago now. I hated it. I hated it to the point of developing a visceral disgust over the 24 hours that I put into it. I gave it a good ‘ol fashion college try, I really did.

After I shoved it in the darkest part of my steam library to collect dust, any time a variation of “FromSoft”, “Souls-like”, or any other iteration/reference to the franchise and its developer was uttered, I rolled my eyes and scoffed to myself. The supporters of FromSoft… didn’t have the best reputation, at least from an outside perspective – the imagery coming to mind was always a poor-postured, rage-baiting, troglodyte or “not-like-other-girls” pick-me e-gamerz spouting the typical phrases:

“Oh, you play (The Sims/Animal Crossing/Minecraft/literally anything someone would play for their own personal enjoyment)?… well, then YoU’Re NoT A rEaL GaMeRrRr!!!”

and maybe even

“I’m a BeTtEr gAmEr than you, I’ve beaten (insert obscure and moderately concerning random boss name here) on CELESTIAL GOD MODE with my EARLOBES tied behind my ANKLES on a 120p Commodore Edition Blackberry RIM 957 while my mother told me she didn’t love me! BEAT THAT! Only then can you call yourself a REaL GaMeR!! REEEEEE!!”*

Of course, this is a parachute-size handmade quilt of a blanket statement and I know that the absolute worst of any group tends also to be the most loud and proud…but we can all admit that we’ve been on the receiving end of, or at least witnessed, a “real gamer”’s vehement and relentless whizzing contest… with themselves. Between the game itself and *some* of the community surrounding it, the experience *seriously* put me off of the entire franchi- no, the entire CONCEPT of souls-like games.

Until June 13th…2022.

I was DESPERATE, I tell you. I had played all of the newest AAA games I had cared to give my fleeting attention span. I slurped up the few indie games that had piqued my interest in ANY way more hastily than I have ever consumed a bowl of ramen noodles (FAST. *good sOOp*). My usual perpetrators were all *well* into the quintuple digits of playtime, causing my brain cell to begin the dreaded process of rejecting things that bring me dopamine; to the point of booting up a game only to leave the main menu open while I watch (insert streaming service) on the other monitor for 8 hours instead because BOOOORINGGGG. So I switched to YouTube.

And there it was.

A creator named VaatiVidya uploaded a video called “Revealing the Glorious World of Elden Ring.”. It sat as the first recommended video on my discovery page at the height of popularity for every toxic build created to deal with a “Milanea” or something… I kept seeing reaction clips of her flit across my Twitter feed. I got immediately exasperated. Why is this game at the top of every game recommendation list? All over my social media feeds? Permeating my Twitch explore page? I mean, COME ON!


But….for some reason….

I clicked.

I watched the first 5 minutes of the video. I grit my teeth harder and harder as the red line slowly crept across my screen.


It looks…really good.

I bit the bullet and bought the game. I knew that I’d know if I wanted to keep playing after the first hour; if not, I could always send it packing back to Valve like a child force-feeding a $5 bill to a particularly uppity vending machine.

But, as I opened the tall, carved doors to Limgrave and was enveloped by a permeating, brilliant, warm glow of golden light which radiated from a specimen most closely described as (and trivialized down to) a tree…

My jaw low-5’d my clavicle. I knew at that very moment that this game, this experience… it would change me and all I thought I understood about video games.

As of the writing of this review, I have 547 hours played in Elden Ring. I have just beat the game for the first time (Ranni geng ‘till my life gets returned to sender) and am about to start polishing off my collection of Legendary thingamabobs before I even begin to think about New Game+. You can go and check my achievements. I have nothing to hide and no shame about my intense and thorough enjoyment of this game. FromSoft games are rightfully notorious for being incredibly difficult for the sake of putting every enjoyer of their games on an even playing field with each other – and for good reasons. I honestly thought that such a challenging game could never simultaneously be so fun and so gratifying, but boooooy… was I in for an absolute treat.

As someone with too much experience playing EA and Blizzard games, the idea that developers could actually listen to their player bases did not exist to me; so imagine my surprise when I saw players reasonably complaining/asking for something to be fixed only for the Devs to… FIX IT??!!??! My soul left my body the third time I saw it happen, and… I started to really like it over here. I’m not going back to companies with chronic “They’re gunna buy it anyways.”-itis. No way. The sheer dedication to the game as an art form ALONE! The artistry, imagery, and graphics grabbed me first – honestly, how beautiful and detailed this game is will never get old. Yet, the story, gameplay, ambiance, and sound design have kept me hooked on this world, even in my sleep. When I play a game, I want to FEEL the love, effort, and meticulous detail poured in by every team member. Elden Ring is unmatched in every regard of meticulousness – surprise, surprise, what happens when you play your game before you release it. No pre-alpha. No fixing the game for two years after its “release”. Just a considerably dense and fully complete game, fully bug-tested and ready to be played. It is gorgeous. Each character design. Every voice line. The spiraling landscape upon which FromSoft built this world for my dopa-tonin deprived pixel-feet to go forth and conquer all of my self-doubt, anxiety, and impostor syndrome showed me the most important thing:

With just a little effort, I have the same achievements as everyone else who finished the game. The same skill. The same drive. The same perseverance and then some.

I know now, without a doubt, that when I put in a little effort over time…

I can do anything and everything that there is to be done.

I am a human being.

Just like everyone else.

And I can do anything I put my mind to.

As we live our lives, it is easy to compare ourselves to others and feel stuck, stagnant…inferior. It is easy to forget these little affirmations and capabilities that we used to hear as children so often; when we grow into adults and look around, they seem to have disappeared. The monotony of our typical surroundings and habitual routines fill their space and, after a while, make us believe that what we have done is all we can do. Sometimes we forget to make goals and see how far outside our comfort zones we can stride. I fall victim to comfort sometimes, too. Even the best of us can get stuck in a rut without realizing it is the particular reason we feel so stale sometimes. We forget to try new things.

The source of my whiplash, though, comes from how this game has made me think and feel about myself. I never in a million years would have thought I could pick up a Souls game and crush every boss there is to overcome. Don’t get me wrong, it is NOT easy, but I somehow rose to the challenge. Every. Single. Time. I got mad, then discouraged, then sad, then I took a moment to refresh my perspective every time I felt like I was hitting a wall. Then my skill level rose. I heard the Zelda Achievement Get noise ringing in my ears. I could feel my understanding expand, my reaction time getting quicker, and my counter-moves getting more intelligent, more informed – like learning how to dance or ride a bike. I understand now.

I understand what “Git Gud” means. And I did it.

And now I can’t get enough.

I’m ready for more adventures with FromSoft.

I’m ready for the DLC.

*Very close depiction of actual conversations I have had the misfortune of sustaining. Please, I beg you heed me fellow gamer: Don’t judge a gamer by the type of game they enjoy. Judge them by the integrity of their character first and the knowledge of their chosen contrivance second. If you can play it, it’s a game. If you’re erudite in it, then you’re a gamer.

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