It’s almost forced to associate Souls games with poetry. But the way in which players read the Dark Souls and Bloodbornes, makes poetics an apt corollary..
I’ve come to realize FromSoftware’s lack of exposition actually creates a greater level of narrative interactivity than traditional storytelling in games and even film. To grasp the stories with any competency the games demand you read into their lore in the active way difficult poetry must be read to be understood.
The poetic aesthetic is From’s storytelling trademark: provocative obfuscation aka wtf does this mean.
The story in Dark Souls exists within and among the sweeping castle vistas, the direction statues pray, the lore ridden flavor text on items, the cackle following mysterious NPC dialogue, the combat encounters, and the mythos gilded architecture.
Cutscenes are rare and often only serve to send you further down a Berserkian rabbit hole. Character interactions bring little solace in the form of resolution, but they pique our interest.
The gameplay teaches us to read the subtle, hidden, and blatant tells of our enemies. Defeating opponents in Souls games comes down to gathering knowledge, observing to understand. The narrative expects as much, if not more.
Retreading the same spaces and collecting pieces of an inferred narrative recreates the experience of slogging through poetry. Rereading lines and single out specific words to find meaning. And when I say poetry I’m not talking about r.m. drake, but something closer to the challenging Epics like Homer’s Iliad or like Alec from RPS observed, Beowulf.
These poems are violent, inscrutable, action packed, and thematically rich in their text. They’re inexhaustible in meaning, in ways to be read. The inexhaustibility prompts a need in the reader to interpret. And good poetry cannot be read without interpretation.
It takes work to uncover how a poem works, what it’s saying and what it’s not. The act of reading poetry is an act of searching for a subjective truth. But it’s often in the work, in the creating theories and discovering something new in a line or stanza that we learn invaluable things.
In Souls games that work may not lead to the depths of classic poetry, but chances are that when you start explicating the payout will be more than a sweet new armor set.