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The slow disappearing act of Demon's Souls


Two things happened this week that made me think about beautiful stuff vanishing from the world, and about the strange notion that there might be a kind a melancholic pleasure to be had – if melancholic pleasures can be had – in the spaces created by fresh absence. I’m not ghoulishly thinking of death or anything as serious as that. More the weird kind of beauty you sometimes get when you look at a wall of framed pictures and notice the ghostly parchment patches where something else once hung and now hangs no longer. Ghoulishly, ghostly. We are not off to a great start here.

The first thing that happened was that I read a piece on Eurogamer about the fact that Demon’s Souls is going to have its online elements turned off for good next February. I never played Demon’s Souls properly, and I now suspect that I am not going to. In a vague way it is something I had always planned to do, though, and I know how I would have had to approach it. I have seen this game many times, a world of darkness in which the action unfolds in little pools of golden light that hover around the player. There is a hub world of sorts – in my memory a huge part of it is spiral walkways made of old stone – and there is the Souls DNA in rich form: waiting for an opponent to move, waiting for the perfect opening, thrilling to the energising thwack of a sword hitting a shield: still alive!

Mostly what I know about this game, though, I don’t know from the screen. I know from long conversations with Simon Parkin over coffee in which he talked me through these dazzling discoveries he kept making in a game that kept its whole cosmology, as it were, a thing that had to be understood by the player tentatively and over a number of hours. He talked about the messages people left for others, and he talked about the way that some of these messages could not be trusted. I think he maybe talked about invasions, other people suddenly turning up in his game? Or was that Dark Souls? I guess I’ll never know now.