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?
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