Want To Learn How To Make It In The Video Game Industry? Play 'Dark Souls'
Despite more and more big titles being (alpha) released by the minute, it's becoming ridiculously hard to break into the video games industry -- and even those who manage to get a foot into the door are still liable to get it crunched off. It's no wonder, then, that their fledgling communities are always looking out for role models to tell them how to get to the next level.
Perhaps surprisingly, one of those shining beacons of hope and positivity is the guy who has created the most frustratingly grim and grimly frustrating game designers of all times: FromSoftware's Hidetaka Miyazaki. After spending his 20s working dead-end jobs, Miyazaki only realized he wanted to make video games when he was blown away by playing Ico. He learned to become a lowly coder at the old age of 29 (one year before low-level employees in the games industry are shot in the head and turned into glue) at From Software. Then, through persistent vision and a bit of luck, he rose through the ranks to become its president thanks to the popularity of his games about getting beaten to death by giants wielding cooking pots.
It's easy to see why his story is so appealing it gets brought up constantly. Miyazaki's is exactly the kind of "it's never too late to chase your dreams" underdog tale that winds up in aspirational Facebooks posts together with the fact that Mark Twain only published his first novel at 41 and Albert Einstein was a patent clerk before he became famous for splitting the time atom. But when it comes to learning from the greats, how Miyazaki wound up making video games is nowhere near as valuable a life lesson as just booting up one of his games and letting it turn you into a bloody smear over and over again.
Of all the video game auteurs, Miyazaki is unrivaled when it comes to minimizing the ludonarrative dissonance in his games. (There's a reason you don't feel like a frustrated loser in the grim, unforgiving world of Dark Souls like you would dying a hundred times before beating your first goomba in Super Mario Bros.). By his own account, this is because the director makes his video game stories to fit the mechanics, not the other way around. Remember, this is a guy who built the entire world of Bloodborne to be an unpredictable gothic nightmare about people ruining their lives in the search for immortality because he realized Dark Souls would be more fun if you weren't allowed to hide behind a shield.
As an (unintended?) consequence of this focus on training players how to navigate his games, Miyazaki has also been training an entire generation of gamers in what he thinks are the secrets to success. Venturing out in his ridiculously hostile worlds will quickly teach you how to navigate high-pressure environments. Paying attention to the message scrawled onto the ground by other players will teach you the value of a like-minded community-- while plunging to death off a cliff because one told you there'd be treasure will teach you to trust your instincts first. And if you didn't know the value of planning for success but preparing for failure, that lesson will literally get hammered to you in no time by an endless procession of overpowered gatekeeping bosses -- who just happened to be modeled on actual video game bigwigs.
Even his entire canon together in some way mirrors the continuing challenges people face trying to make it in the video game or any other highly competitive industry. The early Souls series has you play nobody meat puppets who need to learn how to best pick their battles with their specific skill sets and not let adversity hollow out their humanity, while later games like Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice lets you take up the mantles of established professionals, managing momentum to hit that sweet spot between playing it too safe and thinking you can't lose.
But most importantly, if Miyazaki('s games) want to teach you anything, it's that these lessons will increase your chances of experiencing that coveted "sense of accomplishment by overcoming tremendous odds." Even when things become hard. Even when they become so hard, the world feels like an endless succession of getting curb stomped by the Pthumerian Descendant. Without these lessons, you'll never get far in Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro. And if Role Model Hidetaka Miyazaki is to believed, neither will you in the life.
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Top Image: FromSoftware.