Brendan Main didn’t believe in ghosts. But a sleep disorder and Demon’s Souls may have changed his mind … sort of.
In most games, death is a solitary experience: You fall onto a spike, you die, you lose a life and try again. Not so in Demon’s Souls, where death – as in life – is an inevitability, and is your only connection with other people playing the game. You can see their warnings scribbled on the walls, you can see the bloodstains where they met their demise, and even relive their final moments. In this way, argues Brendan Main in Issue 233 of The Escapist, Demon’s Souls is one of the loneliest – and most genuinely haunted – games in existence.
On the face of it, it seems paradoxical: What could be lonelier than being alone? I’ve spent thousands of hours of game time by myself, but seldom think of it as solitary. I am occupied and engaged in a way that precludes isolation, perhaps in the same way that, for Douglas Adams, “one is never alone with a rubber duck.” There is that solipsism of the hero: the myth of importance. Taken as a strictly single-player experience, Demon’s Souls‘ gloom could be palatable and even welcoming – yes, the world has been crumbling into a demonic abyss, but now I’m here, and I’m kind of a big deal. Alone, I can entertain the notion of being that last spark of light in a dying world. But being connected, even peripherally, belies this illusion. Witnessing those countless others slaving away at the same quest spoils the isolation, and any hero-fantasies I might have entertained seem idiotic and quaint. Though my quest may be private, it is not unique. I am not a beautiful snowflake. I am grist for the mill.
To read more about the game – and the sleep disorder – that got Brendan Main thinking about ghosts, read “Ghosts in the Machine” in Issue 233 of The Escapist.