Video Games

Video Games: Why do people love the games that hurt them?

For much of this week, I spent hours screaming every curse word in the book — and a few not yet written into it — while playing “Bloodborne.”

The game is the latest sadistic entry in a series of titles released by Japanese developer From Software, which similarly tormented us with “Demon Souls” and both “Dark Souls” titles.

Bart Giamatti, the Major League Baseball commissioner who oversaw Pete Rose’s “voluntary” banishment from the game, once said that baseball “is designed to break your heart.” That quote, which I gleaned from repeatedly watching Ken Burns’ “Baseball,” popped into my head the first time I angrily reset my PlayStation 4 after 20 minutes with “Bloodborne.”

This game is designed to break our hearts.

The strange part about it is that I seem to be the only one upset by this. I watched in bewilderment as the public gaming community as I know it rose in nearly unanimous praise of “Bloodborne.”

As of Thursday, the game’s aggregate Metacritic score was 93 — making it the third-highest rated PS4 game ever. Naughty Dog golden boy Neil Druckmann, creator of the second-highest rated PS4 title “The Last of Us,” tweeted his progress every day. Professional gamers, journalists, sci-fi novelists and other members from the fringes of geek society followed suit.


The game has virtually no storyline. It does not teach players how to play, and they can’t see a list of the controls from the beginning. What plot points and tips it does offer must be earned through savage, soul-crushing progress through a debilitating first level that demands more skill and patience than virtually any full game to come before it.

It isn’t a masterpiece in art, either. It has a fun, macabre Victorian theme and some creepy creatures, but the overall graphics quality is not top-tier.

“Bloodborne” is also extremely elitist. It is clearly designed only for the top 1% of video game players. And yet, I imagine it will sell millions of copies. This almost certainly means that thousands of people — myself included — will spend $65 on a game that we won’t be able to pass the first level in — at least with any sanity left.

That’s exactly why “Bloodborne” was so well-received and generated such hype. This snobby “I’m not for everyone” development attitude appeals to the immense arrogance of serious gamers. No one else may be able to beat it, but I am the master. I will finish it or die trying.

It appeals to a group I have always affectionately referred to as the omnipotent nerds. We all have a little omnipotent nerd in us — it’s that one subject that you know so much about that you sometimes belittle others for having a “wrong” opinion about it.

I have a lot of nerd omnipotence in me. I think all of us who write about games all week feel like experts in the field. We’re all pretty elitist about games, hence the high average rating of an elitist game like “Bloodborne.”

But then there are those who are true omnipotent nerds. These people are barely functional in social situations. They rarely speak coherently about anything outside their nerd spheres. Once one of those spheres is brought up, usually by them, the clock starts on when they will make everyone uncomfortable by going off on a friend who disagrees.

True omnipotent nerds usually have no knowledge of their condition. I am thinking about four guys I know who inspired this theory; not one of them will self-identify when reading this. I’ve seen them meet for the first time in a bar or at a party and inevitably crash for at least 30 minutes once the battle lines are drawn.

This type of all-knowing gamer worships “Bloodborne” and the Souls games as if they were offspring. They discovered the super hidden back stab move. They beat it first.

It’s this compulsion that fuels the love of “Bloodborne.”

Personally, I don’t enjoy playing a game designed only to kill me over and over. That’s not fun, and games should be fun.

But for many, fun is irrelevant. The fun comes later.

First, the furious anger must ooze out of every pore of their bodies. Then, the a-ha moment of finding a boss’ weak point. It’s only after the execution of several hours of trial and error that the fun comes. Now that they have beaten the unbeatable, they can finally enjoy the self-satisfaction filling their brains. The game isn’t actually fun for them, either. The fun part is looking at a dead, pixelated monster.

I am not saying that games should just roll over and die for me. On the contrary, many of today’s mainstream games are far too easy. Finishing a major game used to be something to tell your friends, and now it’s assumed that you would beat any game if you just spent the time playing it.

I think the From Software games are a huge knee-jerk reaction to this trend. These games took a U-turn from modern simplicity and drove right off a cliff.

I don’t get it, but maybe I’m just not very good at video games anymore.