Is the Dark Souls Community Going Stagnant?

Is the Dark Souls Community Going Stagnant?

The Dark Souls  community has been growing and evolving for the past six years. But is there still life left in us, or are we all going hollow? Is the flame finally fading?

What is Left to Inspire Us?

As much as we may groan and cringe at memes, they’re a good measure of how lively a community is. A game that inspires its players to create new content will have a lasting impact on them. It gives us something to talk about, and a reason to stick together even in the absence of the game itself. A ‘dead‘ series can still have an active community surrounding it even decades after it officially ended.

Artwork, derivative fiction, character builds, meta discussions, and yes, even memes; as long as a game continues to inspire its players, continues to give them new ideas that they want to share with other players, then there will continue to be a community. You could say that inspiration  is the lifeblood of a community, in fact.

When the inspiration fades, so too will the community. You can only sit around talking about the same old things for so long, after all.

What Have You Made Lately?

I myself am a fan of fanfiction. I don’t write it, and to be honest it tends to be terrible more often than not. But, it’s fun to see something old from a new perspective, and to figure out what other people like about it. This, in turn, gives me new reasons to like it (or, more realistically, new reasons to hate other people). Which gives me new ideas to talk about, which in turn may inspire other people to make, say, or do something new. And so the cycle continues.

Ideas are the currency of any community, and their constant circulation is what allows them to thrive. The value of an idea lies in its ability to give other people more ideas. Naturally, this means that old ideas are less valuable than new ones, both because they’ve already been thoroughly explored, and because everyone has already seen them and can’t get anything more out of it.

That second part about everyone having already seen an old idea has another side to it, as well: a community that only has old, experienced players and no new ones is as dead as a community that has no new ideas at all.

Do You Welcome New Players, or Chase Them Away?

In what may be the most appropriately ironic twist ever, the Dark Souls  playerbase and its elitist “Git Gud” attitude could be its own downfall. New ideas require new perspective, and there’s no better way to find a new perspective than from a person you’ve never met before. A fully elitist community is fully stagnant; a community with a constant influx of new players is constantly evolving.

That which the Dark Souls  community hates most – new, inexperienced players – is the very thing it needs  to survive.

That’s not to say the game should be casualized. Goodness no, I’d stop playing if the game itself were easier. Rather, it’s entirely possible for the series to remain as hardcore as it has ever been, but still have a kind and accepting community.

Some people might complain about scrubs and whiners, but in truth there’s a difference between inexperienced players and scrubs: An inexperienced player is bad at the game, but honestly enjoys it and wants to get better. A scrub is bad at the game, but claims that it’s because the game is bad instead of them.

Obviously, people who say the game is bad but still play it anyways  are only doing so for attention. They’ll go away if they aren’t getting any.

But the players who are asking for ways to beat a boss, or want help with an area, those are the people you want to keep. Sure, they aren’t doing anything right this instant, but they’re expressing a genuine interest to continue playing the game and recognize that they’re the ones who aren’t doing it right. Later on, they may return the favor and help someone else, or they might even join the fabled ranks of “Gud” players and become someone you actually enjoy talking Souls stuff with.

When is it Okay to be Wrong?

It’s perfectly natural for people to reject things we don’t like. That’s a normal, human reaction, and we’re all normal humans who do it. If someone has a negative reaction to something another player did, that’s just a thing that happens. Drinking Estus during PvP? Punish the heretic! Full summon gangs vs a lone red? Oh, the humanity! Invaders hiding in enemy squads? How dare those people play this game in ways I don’t like!

But, it’s that very ability to play in vastly different ways that gives a game such longevity. Two completely different people who would otherwise never meet can still find common ground in Dark Souls.  They can have wildly different experiences playing the same game, which then ties back to inspiration, perspectives, and the currency of ideas.

As vile as the idea may seem at first glance, sharing a room with people you disagree with goes a long way  towards broadening your own horizons. As long as they aren’t just making stuff up to annoy you, their perspective will be  a valid one that stems from their own experiences. One person may think that invaders who hide out in enemy groups are annoying and cowardly, but the other might do it because they’ve run into far too many summon squads to risk trusting you. Both players only want a fair fight, but have different approaches to getting one based on what they’ve had to deal with up to that point.

As long as you don’t reject their ideas outright, and take the time to honestly understand those ideas from their perspective, you will only ever learn to appreciate the game more. Or, sometimes, you might find that the game is less fair and balanced than you initially thought, or that you’ve been taking advantage of something you were never aware of.

Have We Already Gone Hollow?

Is the Dark Souls  community still going strong?

Let me ask you this: how long has it been since you’ve seen a genuinely new idea? When was the last time you saw a new player stick around long enough to become a fixture of the community? Have you had a discussion without rehashing a tired old argument? Have you, Gwyn forbid, actually sympathized with a meme lately? Checked out any spicy new fan-made music, art, or stories? Seen any new YouTube channels spring up without dying off after only a few weeks? Do you have any subscriptions that update more than once a month?

So long as the community continues to find inspiration, our Age of Fire will keep burning on. Without it, we’re only hollows, living in a past that keeps slipping away until nothing is left.


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13 comments on “Is the Dark Souls Community Going Stagnant?”

  1. Avatar EldritchImagination says:

    Well aren’t you the article writer recently? Would make Emergence proud. wherever that glorious bastard is.

  2. Avatar EldritchImagination says:

    Frankly, I’ve all but completely abandoned the Dark Souls "community". I only really come here still for the non dark souls game news and discussions….and of course the off topic.

    Before, I’ve said my main problem was that I’ve gotten too used to them, am too familiar, but I think I’ve found a different answer. Thing is, the Souls games are kinda sh!t to me. Now this isn’t objective, of course, but I’ve realized that over time, after the high that the games gave me has worn away, what I liked about the games are gone, and are replaced with problems that make them more a chore to play. Like the kids of gaming past thought their games were great at the time, I too found great enjoyment from playing the souls games, but coming back to them, that feeling has completely changed with my experience with other games. I’ve found games that do what I liked about Souls games better, so playing Souls sometimes makes me wish I was playing those games instead. The only game that really holds appeal to me is Bloodborne, but I’ve played that game to death so much so that I know where everything and how to beat the bosses almost down pat, thus making it kind of boring to play for more than a half an hour or so.

    As to the point of the article, what I think is killing the Souls series community, if it is getting killed, is the game’s very design philosophy. It’s a game made to be "hardcore" by means of cryptic secrets, challenging gameplay (though that’s debatable), and retro game design elements, thus inevitably attracting the "hardcore" (aka elitist @$$hole) gamers who are as welcoming to newcomers as a wall made of chainsaws, plus being not so appealing to gamers who don’t want that kind of experience (either with the game or the community). Then it’s also made to be highly social, with many players relying on co-oping to progress, reading messages from other players, and discussing the story and secrets with others. Add to that the PvP features and laissez faire approach to player management and interaction, and you have an great place for toxicity and stagnation to breed.

    Also, I should note that when I say "hardcore" gamer, it is not to be confused with hardcore gamer. Hardcore gamers are simply gamers who are dedicated and deeply engaged with a certain video game Title, genre, and/or franchise. "Hardcore" gamers are…….well, imagine the typical elitist, "I’m better than you cause I’m a REAL gamer" type of gamer. That’s how I define them.

    This is a separate thing from my answer to the article, but also related to my perspective on the souls community and how they see the Souls games and Souls-likes:

    Another thing that I've learned from souls fans and watching their videos or reading their articles/posts is that they can have a subjective idea of what makes a souls game a true, good souls game, but in a way that goes beyond simple subjective opinion. Rather, it develops into a matter of, "this was the one true souls game and the other betrayed what made the souls game good", and such like that. perspectives that often use rhetorical evidence and personal belief and opinion to prove why [insert souls game here] was the best of the bunch, cause it did this and that this way. Statements like, "this had meaning", or "this ruined what made Souls games Souls games", or "this is what a souls game should be". Not always exactly worded like that, but the basic message was the same.

    This usually routes to the question, "what makes a souls game", or, "what defines the souls genre" for those who believe the souls games are a genre. Although many do hold to the idea that souls games have started a genre based on what makes a souls game, what actually makes a souls game can vary greatly from person to person, thus what makes me not care for the idea of a "souls genre" given how subjective it is. One good example was BobTheHollow, who in his articles stated that the game, The Surge, wasn't a Souls-like, but The Stanley Parable was, due it's story telling and plot development. I think it's fair to say that different people can find a very different meaning in Souls games, and what constitutes a "souls game".

    As much as I didn't like Dark Souls 2, and though I jokingly hated on it in the past, I wouldn't sincerely call it a bad Souls game, or not a real Souls game just because it didn't do what I wanted in a Souls game. This all leads to my belief that there is no one Souls game. Every person has their own idea of what makes Souls games what they are, and there's no one right answer.

  3. Avatar Wolfenstein says:

    Absolutely, TSMP. You’ve described it perfectly. Community was the glue that tied the magic of Souls together, really. Want more out of the lore? Go to the lore buffs. Want more from PvP? Check out the PvP tier list with all the memes and image macros you can wish for. Want to see speedruns or challenge runs? Pick your streamer.

    Yet everyone is so tired of Dks3 now, and you can feel this collective motion of routine to just keep playing some Dks3 due to the sense of community that Souls history has inserted on you, characterized by that idea of just sitting with others by the bonfire to warm up. That’s so gone. I’m not sure if Dks3 sped this up or something, but it lost it’s community way too fast.

  4. ckmishn says:

    If Bloodborne ever got a PS4 Pro patch (and, given it was published by Sony it really should have), then I might go back and get the last 2 or 3 bosses in the final Chalice dungeon and get my Platinum.

    Also, if the DLC for DS3 is cheap enough at the Halloween Steam sale I might pick it up. For the most part though, I’m done until maybe there’s a Bloodborne 2. I don’t think, even if there was a DS4, that I’d pick it up on launch (and certainly if I did it would have to launch on PC at the same time like DS3 did), though once it had a cheap enough sale price I might.

  5. Avatar announakis says:

    I actually believe that Bloodborne was the downfall of DkS3 and triggered an accelerated burnout in the community:
    Bloodborne was daring and ambitious, brilliantly renewing the franchise while keeping the core elements.
    Dark souls 3 came what? not even a year after BB and turned out to be a "best of" Dark souls with a flare of BB added to it. DkS3 is a fan service game and paradoxically is the one game that pushed fans away the fastest. I mean it is a brilliant game (with flaws but great game nonetheless) but lacks this new flare that normally comes with a new Souls game…this vibe was totally stolen by BB.
    Just look at the cutscenes in BB…now look at the cutscenes in DkS3…this sums it up. There is no "soul" in Dark Souls 3 and the community felt it.

  6. Achtpuntzes says:

    well,

    my opinion is: play the game or dont play the game and move on

  7. Bonaduce80 says:

    I dreamt a couple of nights ago From announced Demons’ Souls 2. I don’t even think a sequel is necessary, but the atmosphere recreated would be great to be seen again. When I watch streamers playing Dark Souls occasionally it is always engaging, even if just for a few hours and knowing exactly where everything is. Dark Souls 3 though? It feels like a chore watching it being played. I haven’t bought it yet (getting through a massive PS3/4 backlog at the moment with very limited free time), but I know just from seeing it I won’t enjoy it at the same level.

    Is the Souls community dead/dying? I wouldn’t go so far, but a good chunk of it will have moved on to new things that picked up interesting ideas from the series. There was a time 3 years ago no other game than a Souls game would catch my interest. Now I look at games I check out and get excited about them. And that is fine too. Growing out of loving something doesn’t make your experience any less valuable. Old Final Fantasy players can probably relate to that.

    All of this having been said, I am very much looking forward to new announcements of From’s new games. Dark Souls is in my eyes well spent, its flame now consumed: but no one can take away from you the bolts on the back when facing first the Taurus Demon, the toxic darts in Blightown upper area or that blasted giant skeleton around the corner on the Tomb of Giants run to Nito. Those are horrible and treasured memories the community can cling (ring?) to.

  8. lordherpie says:

    I think i’ve enjoyed Dark Souls in a different way. I mainly went solo trough the series except for the occasional invasion or rage-summon to kill a boss. My feeling of community came from watching videos, and visiting forums where I was looking for answers on the story. when it comes to the gameplay and secrets ive not read much and have found many ways of cheesing and strategies in my own. when I would find something I would share it with some RL friends and usually would find out that it was not new to them cuz it had been shared before XD (with the exception of DS1 soul-farming behind that door in the forest with the untargetable invisibile enemies, which I found out before it was listed on most websites… my finest moment).

    Revisiting Dark Souls is still interesting for me since I don’t know all there is to find yet.(At least not for Ds1 and 3, since ive played part 2 and the SotFS variant to death… yes.. I am that rare player that is really into Ds2 so I know what its like to play a souls game with hardly any community left :p.

    I suspect I will revisit all 3 games a couple of times before it really gets old. (although I hope Ds1 will be remade to not have me experience 10 FPS Blight town again… that is annoying). and if I’m still hungry for souls…. ive only finshed BB and DeS once… much to discover yet.
    and when I do replay m, ill be on the forums again, scavenging for story information, and seeing if my newfound secret was already know by the community (which has been the case for every secret I discovered since DS1 XD).

  9. Avatar ElvesRule says:

    Sadly, haven’t played in weeks, and in the last 7 months I’ve hardly played at all. I told my non gaming friends, who have heard my whining and triumphs in Souls going back to 2010, and they are shocked that I no longer play. Shocked and pleased.

    I’m pretty much done. :-/ But, if they had a remastered Demon’s and Dark Souls 1 for PS4, for sure I would come scurrying back.

    Btw, announakis, you make a really great point about the affect that BB had on DS3. I had a whole different attitude and set of expectations for Souls after BB.

  10. Avatar ElvesRule says:

    Sadly, haven’t played in weeks, and in the last 7 months I’ve hardly played at all. I told my non gaming friends, who have heard my whining and triumphs in Souls going back to 2010, and they are shocked that I no longer play. Shocked and pleased.

    I’m pretty much done. :-/ But, if they had a remastered Demon’s and Dark Souls 1 for PS4, for sure I would come scurrying back.

    Btw, announakis, you make a really great point about the affect that BB had on DS3. I had a whole different attitude and set of expectations for Souls after BB.

  11. Jet1337 says:

    DS3 was the first DS game I played. Never played BB because I don’t give a shit for exclusive games anymore. I’ll wait until it’s playable on an emulator.

    Anyway, I played the DS series backwards and ultimately DS2 felt like the outcast. I hated that game so much. DS1 had more quality. Whoever did the sound effects and player animations in DS2 needs to be exiled from this planet.

  12. Avatar Nahztek-Shadowpath says:

    Nice article. And many good points in the replies.
    But for me personally, Announakis nailed it.

    It also doesn’t help that I’m more or less burnt out on gaming in general.

  13. Avatar Lich180 says:

    Yeah, there just haven’t been many outstanding games lately. I mean, there’s the hits, but the stuff the Souls community seems to graduate toward is a… Dying breed, I guess.

    I think a lot of the mainstream, AAA gaming companies are pretty much set in their "yearly release of a graphic update of a 6 year old game, and we added loot boxes to grab more cash" ways, while indie or smaller AAA devs can still to outside the box a little more, and make quality games.

    Soulsborne games killed a lot of combat systems for me, while the story and world building pushed my likes further from mainstream. I think the last big AAA game I bought was… Dark Souls 3, actually. Everything else has been indie or small dev groups.

    Also, I’m glad Dark Souls is done with now. It gives From somewhere to leap off of in a new direction. Just hope to hear from them soon.

  14. Avatar qeter says:

    http://steamcharts.com/cmp/236430,335300,374320,211420#All” rel=”nofollow
    if you look at the numbers there are a couple of interesting trends or take-aways.

    * dark souls 2 collectively has more players than dark souls one but they are both pretty close and are experiencing a slow decline in player-base.
    * dark souls 3 started out with 65% more players than 2 did but by the second month of its release it had two thousand less than dark souls 2 had in its second month.
    * dark souls 3s larger more spaced out dlc had a large spike effect in comparison to dark souls 2s faster releases that helped stabilize the player base.
    * its hard to tell what the effect of the scholar of the first sin edition had on total player count.
    * dark souls 3 seems to be experiencing a faster decline than one or two but still maintains about 66% the total dark souls player base.
    * dark souls 3s decline does not seem to effect the players of the previous games.

    i conclude that the souls series and its brethren continue to grow in total popularity and would anticipate the next release to have a 160,000 initial player base. however it is not clear how long the next release will maintain these players.

  15. Bonaduce80 says:

    One thing I forgot to mention and I just realized by firing up a new character in Demon’s Souls is how *fun* and satisfying the gameplay can be in its simplicity. I am a PvE player and taking up a Faith build with a halberd is a new experience for me. I finished The Last of Us and needed something uncomplicated to play (bear with me on this one).

    Soulsborne are considered some of the hardest games out there, but observation, memory and anticipation make even average players like myself feel pretty good about their skills. And the system allows for plenty of variation too with different builds, weapons, styles… Overall, a experienced player may have already seen all of this, but after how many hours?

    Regarding lack of new innovative games, I felt that way when I first played Demon’s Souls. These days I can appreciate other games for other things, and got over a bit of gaming burnout through these games. Maybe the next From game will be a new experience; maybe it will be stagnant. But for what they have achieved (make me appreciate games as a whole after falling out with them) I can only show appreciation.


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