Never give up

Feeling good about your work is not about being rewarded, it’s about progress

I’ve been playing Dark Souls a lot these past weeks. Gotta do something when you’re jobless, right? And beside patience, this game has taught me something very valuable, something that goes beyond videogames. This extends into my working life and my social life as well.

Dark Souls is purported to be a really hard, challenging game. For example the part of the game that’s called Sen’s Fortress. Let me recount to you how my first playthrough of Sen’s Fortress went…

I walk up from the safe place over a stone bridge through the open gate into the fortress. I trip over a pressure plate and take four arrows in the face while two snakeheaded demons with scimitars storm towards me. When I barely survive that, I arrive in this room:

While I’m trying not to get horribly sliced by the swinging axes and fall into the pit where a headless undying demon will smash me to a pulp, a snakeheaded demon is shooting lighting bolts at me from a ledge and another snakehead is waiting to attack me with his scimitar halfway the bridge. When I’ve made it across two bridges like this, and I have survived another full hit in the face from an arrow trap pressure plate, I arrive on a staircase that feels wrong somehow. I turn to look what that rumbling sound is and a giant cannonball thunders towards me and rolls me out over the staircase like a hunk of dough.

I understand why some people would call this game hard, and I must admit that I was a little overwhelmed after all that. But let me recount to you how my most recent visit to Sen’s Fortress went:

As I enter the fortress, I step up into the space where I know one seprent soldier can see me while the other can not. As he dashes to wards me, I step onto the pressure plate and the four arrows in his back dispatch him. I defeat the other one with a fireball to the face. I hum a song to help me time my path over the bridge with the swinging axes, and I defeat the other serpent men with fireballs as well. I check my message that warns people for the second pressure plate and then dodge it. The arrows don’t ever go off. I time my run up the stairs carefully to avoid being hit by any cannonballs. The mimic is defeated with more fireballs before it can even try to devour me and then I take the elevator up without letting any of the spikes in the shaft hurt me and I pull the lever that makes all the cannonballs stop rolling down the stairs.

The Fortress’s traps and enemies did not become any easier. They were simply consistent. I worked to get to know the (literal and metaphorical) pitfalls and how to avoid them. The game does not need to reward me with giant letters that say YOU WIN! across the screen. The smooth progress in the game is its own reward.

Friends, colleagues and family do not need to thank me or give me gifts for my hard work, they just need to show me that what I do has an impact, that there is progress or some kind of change. Change is its own reward.

Originally published at my website. You can comment here or there.

Sen's funhouse!

Yeah, Dark Souls is a game that rewards tenacity. You have to try things out, seek a way that works for you. And then it all comes together, and then it's glorious! In life, you don't get that many do-overs, but it is true that there is room for experimentation -- that is something that people sometimes forget.

So you've arrived in Anor Londo by now?