“A hunter is a hunter, even in a dream.”
Bloodborne is an RPG game set in a Gothic-Lovecraftian world that’s ravaged by a blood-borne disease, which turns human beings into beasts. You play as a hunter, as you slaughter beasts and uncover the secrets behind this disease.
Just as the other games in the Souls series, Bloodborne is notorious for being stupidly difficult. It’s definitely not for you if you’re looking for a casual experience, or if you have anger management issues. Seeing the words “You Died” flash on the screen multiple times is expected, even for the most seasoned players.
The game is also known for its unconventional, albeit confusing storytelling. There isn’t exactly a linear plot, as you gleam bits and pieces of the story by talking to the characters and examining artifacts and other details in the game.
From January until last month, I completed the game three times in a row. I got my Platinum trophy, and I even cleared out every single chalice dungeon. I played the hell out of it until there was absolutely nothing more to do in the game.
Yet, I still don’t quite understand the story. I tried watching some video essays about it, only to forget everything I thought I understood by the end of those videos.
And sometimes, I still question why I even liked playing the game in the first place.
But now, as I move forward to starting a different game, it got me reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned from playing Bloodborne. Because seven months of dying and respawning has inevitably impacted how I deal with my own life, at least in a few ways. So here are what I’ve learned:
1. Stop for a moment and think. You’ll keep dying unless you realize that your current ways of fighting isn’t working. Oftentimes, you need to pause — well, technically, that isn’t the right term, because the game doesn’t have a pause feature. Anyway, you need to force yourself to think: “What would this fight look like if it were easy? What is something obvious that I’m not seeing and doing?”. It’s a process that you keep coming back to, because once you think you’ve beaten a boss that’s impossibly difficult, you then meet another one that’s even worse.
2. You don’t have go through life alone. Bloodborne doesn’t hold your hand in your playthrough. Instead, it just plunges you into its world with very limited instructions on how it works, as it expects you to figure it out on your own. But that’s the thing. You can go through your troubles alone, but why do that when you can have the help of other people who are more experienced or qualified in dealing with such problems? There are plenty of great guides online that can make your Bloodborne experience a lot more enjoyable. And in life, you have friends, family members, and professionals that you can always count on, to show you that life is worth living.
3. Just be one percent better every day. Bloodborne isn’t a competitive game, and I guess that’s the beauty of it. Every time you play, you’re just competing with your own self-imposed limits of what you’re capable of. And as the road gets tougher, you just focus on being a little better than how you were the last time you played. When I first bought the game, I utterly regretted it, because it was just too damn hard. I eventually got through less than a quarter of the first room after a week and a half. But being where I am now, I could finish the entire room in just a little over half an hour. I didn’t get good by overwhelming myself with doing too much at a time — rather, it was the slow but sure boil of just doing one percent better than the last time.
4. Turn difficulties into your advantage. One thing I noticed in most of the boss fights in Bloodborne is that the best opportunities often lie in the bosses’ most debilitating and annoying attacks. You know it’s frustrating when a boss can kill you with only one hit, even when you’ve got a long health bar. But if you pay attention, there’s always a small window after those attacks, where the bosses are most vulnerable — whether it’s a moment of exhaustion, or them leaving their weak spots undefended. And I guess that’s how life is as well — you experience the best opportunities for growth in the hardest times, no matter how much you might dread having to go through them.
5. Not all battles are worth fighting. In Bloodborne, you’ll come across many types of optional enemies, some of which are just designed to be complete assholes. There are some enemies that are incredibly difficult to take down, yet offer very little rewards in doing so. Or sometimes, you’re just not well-equipped enough for the fight. The game teaches you this early on, by having you deal with a huge crowd of enemies — which can be easily overwhelming for novice players. The lesson is that sometimes, it’s better to just turn your back and walk away. That goes the same in life, whether that means severing ties with toxic people, or letting go of whatever extra responsibilities that you don’t enjoy. There are no bonus points in suffering. You don’t have to trouble yourself just because you can.
6. Most things aren’t as bad as you imagine. Needless to say, the world of Bloodborne is dark, drab, and nightmarish. It’s way too easy to feel overwhelmed by the whole journey — added by the fact that the path can be mazy and confusing. But if you just focus on the smallest thing you can do at the moment, everything becomes much less scary. Even trudging through the path doesn’t feel so bad once you remember that it’s ultimately just a closed loop — so you don’t have to overthink about which turn to take. Personally, having dealt with depression, life can sometimes feel like a horrible dream that I just can’t wait to wake up from. Whenever I feel this way, I would just focus on the next smallest thing I could do, one after another — whether that means getting up and making my bed, brushing my teeth, or going downstairs and making myself coffee. I have long put up a Hebrew saying on my work desk: “The world is a narrow bridge, but the important thing is to not be afraid.”
7. Laugh at yourself. If you’re not careful, playing Bloodborne can make you want to smash your controller into smithereens, or rip your shirt apart (just see the many rage videos on YouTube). But at the end of the day, remember that it’s just a game, and it’s not worth getting so worked up over. I’ve gotten frustrated with the game too — a lot — but in those times I’d try my best to remember to just have fun. In life, it’s worth learning to laugh a little, to take things less seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself, whenever you find yourself getting upset or angry at something trivial. You’d realize that so many of our stresses are often blown out of proportion.