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Bloodborne was the product of From Software’s development team. Released in 2015, Bloodborne was the spiritual successor to the Souls series, headed by the enigmatic game director Hidetaka Miyazaki. Bloodborne sold over 2 million copies by the end of it’s marketing campaign in september 2015. While it was not a major hit, it sold more than Sony had expected. Bloodborne (like most of the souls series released by From Software) has a cult following. The story of Bloodborne is one that is quite complicated, when weighed up on the relative scale of what most game stories deliver. Not to say that one is better than the other, my goal in this analysis is only to illustrate how stories in video games have grown into something much greater than previous generations.

If you were to play a game in the 1980’s or early 90’s, the stories in games back then mostly revolved around saving princess from a castle, or some type of threat from a monster; Saving the world from some type of enemy threat, or even just no story at all. This can be seen in Donkey Kong (arcade), Super Mario Bros. Zelda, Galaga, Pacman, Dig Dug, etc. But games today have grown into something more massive, and stories that require a lot of effort on the part of the player to follow. Once we arrived to the mid-late 1990’s-early 2000’s we got games with much more juicy plots. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, etc. Games have steadily given the player more of a challenge to follow the plot. This only increases the immersiveness of the plot. The stakes are raised when the player finds themselves more closely relating to the story or the characters. The average playtime for more invested players has grown as well, since today the average AAA game is 40 hours or more.

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One of the giant monsters you encounter in Bloodborne

Bloodborne is a different animal altogether. This game appeals to a very particular type of audience, and the interesting part is that this game in many respects was a critical success. To be someone willing to play, and beat Bloodborne, along with learning and understanding the story, you need to be particularly obsessive. The gameplay in Bloodborne is not simple. It is quite challenging and intimidating for the uninitiated. I myself was stuck on the first battle in Bloodborne where you have to face a werewolf monster right as you are trying to exit a blood clinic. It took me several deaths and about 30 minutes just to learn how to equip my weapons. Once I did that I ended up repeating the first area more times than I’d want to admit, just trying to make some progress to the first optional boss; which once I reached there, I died several times. So as you can see, this game is not for the faint of heart, and it is also not for one who is not willing to put a decent chunk of time into learning the game. So Bloodborne is not for the “casual” gamer by any means. There is even a community of people around Dark Souls and Bloodborne who actively tease “casual gamers” who must “get good” in order to succeed in the game. And seeing as how Bloodborne and Dark Souls are some of the very few games around today in the modern game industry who go out of their way to actively make the player’s experience in the game extremely difficult, I can see why the community around these games are so protective of the series.

The story in Bloodborne is not easily discernible. You find clues as you progress in the game which can barely be made sense of most of the time. It takes several completions of the game to fully come to a sort of understanding of the story. This makes sense since there are three possible endings to the game. But even the endings are difficult to make sense of on your own. The fascinating thing about games such as these is that players are so willing to seek out the answers. Wether that means exploring every nook and cranny in the game to look for clues about the story, or having a discussion on an online forum about the game, analyzing and sharing clues.

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Exploring a dangerous and dark city

Once the clues of the story in Bloodborne finally come together, it becomes clear that a lot of great care and effort went into coming up with its story. But you also notice that a game like Bloodborne has an excellent balance between story and gameplay. You could go through Bloodborne and see all three endings without even knowing at all what the story is about. This game invites the player to seek out the answers on their own. Which is something that most forms of entertainment can be lacking in today. But this audience is growing larger and larger. In today’s media world, games, television, and film can more often ask the viewer to participate with it, and engage them. Shows like Game Of Thrones have an enormous amount of main characters. Each with their own story, their own motivation, and history that predates the books and tv show. All of this needs to be understood by the viewer in order to keep up with the show.

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Blood Vials used to heal the player in the game, which is also the source of a plague haunting this city

One other example of a modern film that asks the viewer to participate and seek answers is Ridley Scott’s film, Prometheus. Prometheus and Bloodborne are very similar to me. In Prometheus, the main character Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is on a journey to seek out alien beings that may be the creators of the human race, called “Engineers.” During her journey, she loses her husband, her crew, her ship, and almost her life several times. While she is losing things important to her, she never finds the answers she is looking for, she never finds out why the “Engineers” wanted to destroy the human race. A strong theme in Prometheus is to caution not investigating things that are out of your control, and for  curious people to “stay inside their sandbox.” The same theme can be found in Bloodborne. In Bloodborne you arrive to a city called Yharnam as a hunter, looking for the blood healing that is used there to cure your illness. The city of Yharnam has been using this blood healing method for quite sometime, this is to their own demise. The blood healing method they have used has turned their citizens into beasts. As you progress in the game, killing beasts and fighting “Great Ones,” you find that the tampering with blood healing and the seeking of knowledge of a higher plane of existence by the citizens of this world have led their downfall. The world of Bloodborne is dark and gothic, with an H.P Lovecraft type vibe. This perfectly fits the setting for such a monstrous and lofty endeavor of the people in the setting of this game. Having come in contact with the “Great Ones” long before the start of the game, the Pthumerians and people of Yharnam tried to ascend to their level. To transcend human life and to become, a monster? It is unclear what is so rad about being a monster in this game, but for some reason, they want that. Despite their efforts, the people in Bloodborne become corrupted, die, or become monsters. The character Micolash (who you may possibly consider the main antagonist of the game) in his effort to transcend, rips his entire school of menses into a nightmare, in order to commune with a great one. Leaving their bodies behind with great big strange cages on their heads. And when you meet Micolash, the character is completely demented. All of this in order to “transcend.” These are just a few examples in the game that I consider to be an interesting parallel to something like Prometheus. Both are cautionary tales of people messing with things far beyond their control, and paying the consequences for their lofty investigation. The same parallel could be drawn between Bloodborne and the Speilberg film “Jurassic Park” as well. Scientists on a remote island try to play god and reintroduce dinosaurs into the modern world. Not a great idea.

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Micolash the seeker of knowledge beyond his control

The fascinating thing about all of this is that I am talking about a video game. A piece of entertainment that people use for escapism. Our stories in video games have gotten so much more involved and complex. Today games have grown into something more. Something more philosophically, and intellectually challenging. While they can be used to escape and to forget about the real world. They can also teach us more about the real world. The morals, stories, and knowledge we gain from gaming can definitely be applied to and grow one’s view of life. A game like Bloodborne is solid evidence that we have made monumental leaps in the growing complexity of games today.

 

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