Games

Fighting FOMO in 'Bloodborne'

Bloodborne's biggest challenge? Accepting the fact you probably won’t see everything.

One of the most maddening and one of the coolest things about Bloodborne is that it just doesn’t care if you miss things. I’m not talking about optional dialogue trees or one-off cutscenes. I’m talking about entire mechanics, huge boss fights, or even the story itself. Bloodborne has depth and complexity, and on top of that is a layer of obscurity that requires you to examine the game from every angle. As a consequence, it’s easy to wander through Bloodborne with a constant fear of missing out.

The trick is realizing that you will miss out on things. There is just too much for anyone but the most incredibly dedicated player to learn and find on their own. Consequently, the game maintains a sense of mystery throughout all of its stages and each discovery feels a little more special. There are plenty of things that I’ve either partially or totally missed out on, but I've found that ultimately I’m okay with that.

I almost completely skipped Caryll Runes. These add on perks give you hugely useful stat boosts and can be swapped out based on what types of challenges you’re facing. I just happened to walk right by the path that leads to unlocking them and subsequently went without them for about 50% longer than I needed to. When trading stories with Jorge, I realized that I simply turned right where Jorge turned left and completely bypassed a huge area and a pivotal boss fight. I kicked myself for missing such an important thing, but I definitely blamed myself rather than the game. Underneath all its fiendish mechanics, Bloodborne has a fundamental respect for the player. There aren’t any scripted sequences, obnoxious handholding, or flashing waypoints on a superimposed minimap. You have a lot of freedom to take your own path, and the trade off is that you simply have to pay attention to all the small details.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be a hunter who wields an axe (or for that matter, anything besides a cane and a sword). I made my choice early. I thought the idea of a cane that turned into a whip was cool and ridiculous in the best possible sense. Bloodborne punishes dilettantes. Enemies get increasingly difficult and upgrading your weapon of choice is crucial. Learning the mechanics of a new weapon and grinding out the experience necessary to improve it just isn’t feasible in a relatively short period of time, so I am left with the consequences of my choices. Thankfully, any choice is a viable one as long as you hone your skills. At the same time, the ghostly echoes of other hunters in the game’s latent multiplayer give you experiences by proxy. There are times when you see another player simultaneously attack the same enemy that you are dealing with in a totally different way. While you aren’t directly doing it, you do get to see glimpse into a world that might have been.

I’m still not quite sure that should have sworn an oath to the Vileblood Queen. She certainly seems menacing, but so does everyone else in the world. The immediate impact of the powers that you get from flirting with the dark side are apparent, but I know that there are implications that I only partially understand. Perhaps a different covenant would have been a better first choice? I can’t be too mad at the obscurity. After all, no one forced me to choose, and I could always re-read the arcane lore hidden in the various item and weapon descriptions. Like Bloodborne's many secret paths and mechanics, the story is there to find for people who want to look.

All of this mystery leaves gaps that are filled by the larger group of people playing Bloodborne. Because everyone inevitably misses out on something, there is a unique social network both inside and outside of the game. Players drop hints on the streets of Yharnam and then take off to speculate on message boards. Even the wiki communities haven’t fully dissected the various mechanics in the game. It all starts to feel like a modern version of swapping stories about Mortal Kombat fatalities in a era before the Internet was an all encompassing social unifier. Thanks to a system of rumors, guesswork, and experimentation, the larger of community of people is assembling a picture that is more complete than any one individual’s efforts.

You are missing out on certain things in Bloodborne, but so is everyone else. The only way that you’ll know everything is by forging your own path and then comparing hard won notes with everyone else. It’s neither mandatory nor expected to see and know everything that the game contains. Once you accept that, the excitement of seeing others’ unique discoveries and sharing your own far outweighs the fear of missing out.

Sense and Sensibility at the World Cup

I've sworn, after learning about the latest kleptocrat billionaire to buy a club, or scrambling from the clash between hooligans and riot police, or hearing a homophobic chant rise up from the stands, I would give up on the game. Anyone with sense would.

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