Dear Miyazaki-san and From Software,

Allow me to start off by thanking you for birthing my favorite new gaming IPs in the past decade with Bloodborne and the Souls series. These titles have consumed hundreds of hours of my life, and in the best possible way. Until your games saw the light of day, I had no idea this medium could cause me to feel the kind of wonder and delightful disquietude I’ve experienced while roaming the worlds that you’ve created.

I recall reading reviews of Demon’s Souls the day of its release and thinking, “Dear god, I need this in my life.” I then proceeded to drive an hour and a half to purchase a copy, as the game was in short supply and the closest stocked GameStop I found was near Pittsburgh. They had two copies available, although they would not hold one for me. Luckily, I made it in time to snag one. As my days with Demon’s Souls passed, a realization swept over me that for years I had been dearly missing an element of video games I hadn’t even known was lost: true gameplay. A game based on skill that treated the gamer with respect, and somehow managed to feel old-school in a new way. A game that wasn’t a spray-and-pray trigger fest, or filled with trivial quick time events. I was in love.

Then came Dark Souls, my most cherished From Software title. It was a true evolution of the Demon’s Souls formula. After the introduction, you quite literally dropped me into the middle of the game world and provided little direction to help my advance. I was forced to explore, and from there I learned and adapted. Giving up simply wasn’t an option. With Dark Souls I endured feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, frustration, and occasional anger. And while I’m sure that sounds completely off-putting to gamers who’ve kept away from your titles, I can assure them that the counterbalance to those is the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie when you finally reach the next checkpoint, or down a difficult boss. The Tomb of the Giants is one of my favorite memories in all of gaming. You forced me to navigate the utter darkness, my only cues coming from elevation changes in the environment, and of course those intimidating, glowing eyes, just waiting to attack. I want to thank you again for being the creative geniuses you are.

Bloodborne midnight launch.
Bloodborne midnight launch.

With Bloodborne I’ve fallen in love all over again. There is a staggering amount of clever minutiae in everything that makes up the game. Some of the most awe-delivering moments derive from when you provide me with a vantage of an enemy that is not yet attempting to aggressively end me. It inspires fear and astonishment on an incomparable scale within interactive media, from the NPC sound design to every small macabre detail. The creatures and their surroundings tell deep stories without the need of actual narration. It’s quite a commendable feat.

But the thoughtfulness within the details isn’t confined to only the horror aspects. I smile every time I leave a note, and my character snaps his fingers to summon my little top hat-wearing messengers. I love the sound effect that plays when joining another player’s world, the bad-ass feeling of combining a weapon transformation into a successful attack, and the proper amount mud and gore my character is caked with at the conclusion of a fight. A substantial amount of care was applied to every facet of the game, so much that the bar has been raised to such a height I suspect Dark Souls III may be the only title in the near future that has a chance to reach it.

With every new environment I enter in Bloodborne, I receive a sense of discomfort. I am the wandering foreigner invading the creatures’ homes, and they are justified in trying to keep me out of their habitat. I am planning on slaughtering an abundance of them, no doubt. And with every new area, there comes with it a sense of dread that overtakes me as I’m being rushed by a sort of enraged abnormality, and before I can even register what it is I’m looking at I’m trying to spot any feature of the thing that might betray how it will attack. All I really know is I need to kill it before it kills me. It’s a wonderful experience.

The Forbidden Woods is a perfect example of your masterful level and creature design. The snake balls that blend in with the high grass throughout the terrain had me doing double takes constantly, and the snake parasite huntsman showed me that a single NPC can act as two enemies in one, each operating independently of the other. It added a layer of unpredictability within an enemy’s attack animations I had not anticipated. I found the areas in which the snake parasite huntsmen patrol are usually dotted with specters (ghosts of dead players) for good reason. The Forbidden Woods taught me that as I was becoming comfortable traversing Bloodborne, I was being naïve. The enemies had not exhausted their bag of tricks, and I still had things to learn. And the Shadow of Yharnam boss fight before leaving the area, oh that boss fight is just so damn cool and fun. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you.

I could write another five pages about how much I adore you as a creators, but at what point do I sound as though I’m obsessing? And I unabashedly admit that I am. I haven’t even mentioned becoming attached to a particular weapon and play style, or the brilliant way in which you encourage your players to do their own detective work within the online community in order to piece together their understanding of the worlds you create. Anyway…I really want to jump back into your art and see what’s waiting for me. I still have The Old Hunters to explore. So I should go.

Forever yours,

JC VanHorn

P.S. It is thanks to you I will never open a treasure chest in a video game again before warily beating the snot out of it.

JC VanHorn

JC VanHorn

JC's mother became pregnant with him out of wedlock; however, she birthed him within the sanctity of marriage where he later grew up to become the 1995 Blockbuster Video Game Champion. Coincidence?
JC VanHorn

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