My name is Eric, and I’m currently the junior member here at DigitalSkin. And I’d like to take you along on a little journey towards enlightenment… or something.
I’ve been creating innovation with the DigitalSkin team for a few months now and finishing my last year of studies at the same time. Frankly, it’s been a blast! If there’s one thing you have to understand about these guys, it’s that they do things like no one else. Take my first workshop with them for example: I get there, and Toby, our mastermind — he doesn’t like to be called a boss, because… he isn’t I guess — directed me to an XBox One with a screen and 5 games and told me I had to get to work to catch up with the others. To make things short, playing hardcore games is all about learning from experience and sharing, and that’s important, really important. But things got really interesting when he got one of our clients — who hadn’t touched a video game in his life — to sit down and drudge his way through the first boss of Lords of the Fallen. In the end, and after a ton of coaching exercises and experiments, we all learned a whole lot!
Over the next few weeks, or months, I’d like to share an experiment with you: I’m going to play Dark Souls II Scholar of the First Sin, a video game notoriously designed to make experienced gamers fail over and over again! But what I’m interested in is what this game can teach us about failure and learning.
You can’t trust yourself
Playing Dark Souls II is like herding cats: you’re slow, weak and fragile but you still walk straight into the dragon’s lair. The game starts out pretty easy; you see an enemy and a sign tells you how to hit him. He dies. Then you see two enemies, and you learn to hide around a corner to attack them one by one. And then there is a point where you walk around a corner just out of town — where all seems safe and jolly — and then you see an archer. You walk towards the archer, cautiously, and all of a sudden there are five enemies around you and you are dead.
What does that teach us? You might say it teaches us not to trust archers, but I believe the game is teaching us not to trust ourselves. When you are learning to do something, your past experiences in various fields of knowledge lead you to make assumptions. Without assumptions, we might not have any idea of what to try, and we’d do nothing. But these assumptions can often be a hindrance. In this case, my honed skills as a gamer have taught me to always try and attack lone enemies: they are weak and will not bother me when I encounter small groups later on. But here, the game is telling me that I can’t trust that instinct: if an enemy is alone, it’s probably a trap. On the other hand, if there is a group, I’ll probably die. And so, quite subtly, the game has given me a dilemma: I cannot trust my instincts, yet I must find a solution. And after having died 8-10 times against the seemingly lone archer, I finally learned my lesson: It’s not about making the game easy by killing enemies one by one, it’s about being able to react rapidly to impossible situations and surmounting them.
If you’re wondering, I killed the archer and his nasty little friends. How you ask? Well by running away and killing the minions away from the bowman’s line of sight.
You have to die a few times
Though the lesson is simple, the way the game teaches us is much more interesting here. I could not have won this encounter on my first try — probably. And this is the first key element of learning by experience. Failing was what triggered me to think differently and learn from my mistakes. If I hadn’t died against the archer, I would still be running up to each enemy I see without thinking. Now, I see each enemy as a threat, and I approach him with caution and a large shield raised high.
I won’t go into too many details about the game, but I can assure you that after only a few hours, I have learned to look up and down, to edge around corners with caution, to fear holes in the ground and cliffs, to hate archers with incredible ferocity and to never trust an overly convenient everything. Incessant failure and the repetition of mistakes has driven the learning process out of my conscious mind and into my emotion-filled subconscious. I am becoming more dexterous with the game and more adept at adapting to its constant surprises and ambushes by simply feeling.
Dark Souls II does not teach me knowledge, it fills me with emotions that push me to become more skillful. This game is painful, and by turning us into masochists it creates a perfect environment to help us evolve.
To be continued…