Dark Souls isn't broken - You are.

Opinion: John Dean thinks gamers have gone soft - and the age of hand-holding needs to end

When something as frighteningly fresh as Dark Souls turns up, it's hard not to find yourself getting a little bit over-excited. It's strange, brutal, and utterly uncompromising - and it's without a doubt one of the best games you'll see released this year.

It isn't for everyone. We've all known that would be the case since it was first announced in February, but that doesn't make some of the post-launch feedback we've seen from hardcore gamers any less shocking, disappointing, and spectacularly misguided.

Conspiracy theorists aren't exactly new to the internet, but the kind who point their fingers at game reviewers are particularly confusing: In this case, there seems to be a wide number of people who genuinely believe that we're all part of some anti-western-gaming kabal, crying ourselves to sleep every night because not all games feature silent protagonists, spiky haircuts, and endless streams of incomprehensible numbers.

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Worse than that, there are also a number of people who presume reviewers have actively tried to cover up their lack of skill by scoring the game highly - suggesting that critical process for most people in the industry seems to revolve around shrugging our shoulders and pouting at mirrors.

Following on from these mind-bogglingly daft claims, one phrase seems to keep popping up: Dark Souls is broken. If you're one of the people who've come to this conclusion - we've got some bad news for you: we're afraid that you've been broken.

Thankfully - it's not your fault. The fact people are so quick to chuck the phrase 'broken design' around these days paints a stark picture of just how stagnant things have started to become. Design conventions exist for a reason, but there's a huge difference between willfully ignoring the best route available, and attempting to try something new.

Crushed under the weight of Metacritic expectations, videogames have spent much of the past 5 years in constant pursuit of polished perfection: Embrace tried-and-tested mechanics, smoothing off the edges, and merging ideas from different genres together to create some kind of uber-game.

Don't get us wrong - these games are awesome. Bioware's clinical approach to design creates incredible products like Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, and Bethesda's attention to detail is enough to make anyone with a bit of taste thoroughly weak at the knees.

This practice of polish undoubtedly creates amazing products - but that doesn't stop the process from being fundamentally quite boring.


In the same way that most of us spend the first chunk of our lives senselessly lusting after perfect hotties, too many hours in lifeless nightclubs eventually makes it clear how dull conventional beauty can often turn out to be. No matter how wonderful something is, when you're surrounded with too much of the same it starts to become just like wallpaper - a surrounding fuzz of background noise that stops being remarkable through sheer over-exposure.

Seeing some of the reactions to Dark Souls, it's clear that people have become far too attached to current trends - with conventionally normal rules of game design becoming like some kind of duvet: A layer of comfort that people naturally require in order to enjoy playing a game.

The same people who've likely moaned about the rise of casual gaming have fallen into an almost identical trap - happily sitting back as the steamroller of accessibility flattens out any real sense of character, and leaving us with products that are impossible to criticize, but difficult to feel truly passionate about.

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