At Elden Ring, the struggle feels real

In the last two years, the pandemic has brought us many works of art that have finally tried to capture the struggle of humanity. There was that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio that turns pink as he screams with all his lungs for people to look up at the comet rushing to Earth. He was so upset that he thought a little: Yes, we are divided, probably doomed. So what?

No medium has come so close to the perfect encapsulation of our situation as video games. In the beginning, when many of us were locked up and baking mediocre sourdough, we played Animal Crossing, which involves finding comfort in simple tasks like fishing and gardening while stuck on an island. This year we play Elden Ring, a relentlessly difficult game that gets harder the more you play it. This summarizes what it was like to live in a pandemic.

Elden Ring has a story that has something to do with the ring, but more important is its design: It’s an open-world game, which means you can do whatever you want. Players will ride a horse through a poisonous swamp, sprint through molten lava and cross a crumbling bridge surrounded by a tornado, fighting or avoiding enemies along the way.

No matter what you decide to do, you will probably die again and again, trying to do it, sometimes for hours. This is because even the slightest mistake of pressing a button will make you fall to death or open you up to attack. Even the most experienced gamers will die dozens of times in prison before reaching the boss – the main villain at the end of the game.

None of this makes Elden Ring sound like entertaining the crowd, but the video game – a collaboration between creative director Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones author George RR Martin – is set to become the bestseller of the year with 12 million copies. sold within a month of its release in February.

At some point in the game you encounter a dragon. You have the choice to fight or run. At first you will probably withdraw, and eventually, after gaining enough strength and the right weapon or magic spell, you will return to kill the vile fireman and enjoy your victory. A few minutes later, however, you will be ambushed and killed by something nasty, like a hawk clutching razors in its claws.

It’s hard to imagine Elden Ring succeeding in any other era. In the third year of the pandemic, as vaccination rates rose and hospitalizations fell in some areas, offices, schools and restaurants reopened. For many Americans, the dragon was killed. Yet in other parts of the world, a new variant of the coronavirus is causing a new wave, and in New York, cases are starting to rise again.

As some of us abandon our vigilance to have some semblance of a normal life, we prepare for that stupid bird around the corner that can still kill us. Our hard-learned lesson from the pandemic – to expect disappointment and more struggle – taught us well about the Elden Ring.

Where DiCaprio’s film Don’t Look Up was polarizing because it chose a country that criticized everyone for denying the apocalypse, the Elden Ring format – Choose Yourself – Adventure is more inclusive for a population that can’t I seem to agree with anything. There is nothing right or wrong in the Elden Ring.

To defeat the boss, you can carefully study his moves and plan an attack, or you can “dissolve” him with a cheap trick that does not require skill and guarantees victory. Either way, victory is victory. Such a flexible game can resonate with players around the world and unite them at a time when people are choosing the truth about the masks, photos and information they read online in general.

Players suffer mostly from the Elden Ring themselves, but there are parts so difficult, such as an overweight battle with a boss, that people will have to get help from others online. To deal with this, the game erects small statues in challenging areas that act as summoning posts to attract a cooperator. After the mission is over, the good Samaritan disappears.

Struggle has always been a central theme in the games of Mr. Miyazaki, who became famous for the modest success of the Dark Souls trilogy, the predecessors of the Elden Ring, but also the need for people to turn to each other.

Mr Miyazaki, who did not respond to requests for comment, said in interviews that he was inspired by personal experience many years ago when he drove up a snowy hill. A car in front of him crashed, he and one behind him, but then another car in the back rushed forward and began pushing the third car. Such help eventually drove everyone over the hill.

“We enter the other’s life for a minute and disappear and still make an impact,” said Keza MacDonald, video game editor for The Guardian and author of You Died, a book about Mr. Miyazaki’s games. “It’s not really one player against the game. That’s the whole community of players against the game. “

By the time I finished Elden Ring, with some help from friends and strangers online for about five weeks, I hadn’t left the game feeling more anxious or pessimistic. I finally made plans with friends I hadn’t seen in two years.

Many of us have survived the pandemic alone because restrictions and health risks make it difficult to travel and gather indoors. It was an impossible situation to navigate and the struggle continues, but we have been together for a long time. Why not turn to each other?

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