School has never really been my thing. Concepts like “Homework” and “Studying” have traditionally been lost on me. So really it should come as no surprise that I was the smart but lazy shithead who put zero effort into any of his schoolwork and graduated high school with a mediocre GPA, a shining example of wasted potential. Unfortunately for me, it’s not quite as easy to effortlessly glide through a university, and after an utterly disastrous freshmen year (both academically and psychologically) at USC I decided that school was officially stupid and pointless and decided to quit forever.
For me, the problem was simple: If I wasn’t interested in or naturally good at a subject then I couldn’t be bothered to give two shits about the class. By that criteria, the only classes I ever excelled in post-elementary school were History classes (interested in) and English classes (naturally good at). That was it, and everything else got tossed on the back burner, to the land of carelessly missed homework assignments, late projects, and C averages. Honestly I was surprised that I even got accepted into South Carolina, given how spectacularly lackluster my high school career was. Not that it mattered. My attitude towards the curriculum there was no different then my apathetic approach to high school, and I was filtered out quickly enough.
And yet here I am some three years later, attending some shitty little community college in Raleigh, taking classes like Anthropology and Biology and all this other shit I don’t care about, and not just excelling, but enjoying every minute of it. That’s a far cry from the lazy high school punk who never lifted a finger for any assignment that wasn’t an essay. What the hell happened?
Enter Dark Souls, the maniacally hard video game that I picked up at the beginning of last semester and that somehow taught me to embrace the challenge of a tough class. But seriously.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Dark Souls is an action-RPG released back in October of 2011 known for having a beautifully immersive world, intense gameplay, and pants-shitting levels of difficulty. Especially the difficulty. In fact, Dark Souls is so stupidly hard that the game is unanimously heralded as one of the toughest games ever made, if not the toughest game ever made.
And yet it is the maddening difficulty that makes Dark Souls arguably the greatest game I have ever played. Unlike other games with long drawn out tutorials and hand holding designed to ease you into the world, Dark Souls dumps the player into an incredibly hostile environment with scant more than a fleeting explanation of the game’s controls, and then forces you to learn how to play the game by brutally murdering you over and over and over again. This is the sort of game where, on your first playthrough, you can easily spend hours or even days just trying to beat one boss. Sure it’s brutal, obnoxious, and frustrating as fuck, but on the flip side there isn’t much out there that tops the feeling of finally achieving victory over a grueling Dark Souls boss after countless failures. That tremendous sense of personal satisfaction is one of the main reasons why Dark Souls is so great- something rarely found in video games these days.
I had an anthropology class last semester with a professor who was pretty much your stereotypical asshole college professor. His lectures were mundane and boring, he never held reviews or told us what would be on his exams, he took off a disproportionate amount of points for grammatical errors in our essays and short answer questions, and he blamed Wikipedia for all of the evil in the world. Completely unsurprisingly, out of the 30 or so people that started out in the class, only 7 of us remained on final exam day.
I fucking hated that class. I bitched endlessly about how stupidly hard my professor was, how there was too much crap to memorize and how I couldn’t care less about the Kung Bushman of the Kalahari Desert. But unlike old Paul, who would have simply said “Screw this jazz” and taken a D in the class, I actually found myself taking notes during those stupid lectures and then actually using those notes to study before the test. Unheard of for me, but then again my anthropology exams had become more than simply another annoying test. No, they had become a boss battle, and my way of grinding up for the inevitable fight was the studying and preparation that I had grown so accustomed to avoiding. Strangest of all, I found myself actually relishing the opportunity to overcome those anthropology tests, which was far from the sense of dread that usually accompanied test taking for me.
And really it’s all because of fucking Dark Souls, the game that somehow trained me to embrace my masochistic side and take pleasure in overcoming the seemingly insurmountable. For the first time in my career as a student I tackled a difficult class head on, eager to prove that I was capable of succeeding where so many others had failed. I ended up getting a solid B in the class, which was no small feat considering the average amongst those of us who were left was a low C. It wasn’t pretty, like a nail biting victory over Ornstein and Smough, but in the end I had come out on top and overcome the impossible.
Second semester just started, and with it comes a new set of classes. In my new biology class, the professor started out the lecture by warning us that the failure rate in his class was extremely high. Upon hearing this all I could do was smile. New Game Plus was going to be easy.