If gaming this year was about One Thing, then it was probably about dying. This makes a lot of sense, both because games are almost always about dying in some way, and because millions of people died of a largely avoidable disease in the past few years, so maybe that’s on people’s minds. Seems plausible, right? That being said, it sure did seem like a lot of people making games were trying to think of what it meant.
Death Can Be Beaten
Of course Elden Ring got picked as the game of the year by a bunch of people. It finally took Dark Souls, smashed a lot of Zelda into it, and made it playable by everyone who had the hardware to run it. More people seemed to get into this one than any previous From Software game I’ve been around for, and that’s cool. It doesn’t need any awards, because it already won the most important one in gaming (dollar dollar bills, y’all).
From’s whole Souls series (and a lot of their other work) has often built into it the idea that the player can’t actually die; they just aren’t allowed to. Sure, I die in the game all the damn time, but I just spawn again.
I’ll always love how From makes being immortal feel depressing as hell. A lot of this is how the world resets for each of my death-failures, just making the futlity of life (a constant source of depression) a bullet point of the mechanics. I can’t die, but maybe I want to, sometimes.
If I can have complaints about Elden Ring, it’s that it is maybe too big, too expansive. Maybe it lets us all feel a little too powerful. Maybe the power fantasy of videogames is a bit too much. That might not be a problem, as this game seemed easier for me to finish than a lot of the previous entries. Then again, that might be a damning problem given the themes of futlity and such.
My own inablitly to actually die in game is contrasted with a land that feels like it is dying constantly, if not already dead. I get to decide what to do with that place. Do I let it keep dying? Do I try to get the heck out of there? Do I just embrace death and push it to finality in the hope that something new comes after? This might be the ultimate power fantasy, letting me decide if I even want death to exist, let alone affect me.
Elden Ring was the 2022 best game about not letting me die.