Bloodborne and the concept of fair play

There has been much debate lately regarding the appeal of Bloodborne. Critics have praised it, while others decry it for being obtuse. Cries of “get good” or “Bloodborne isn’t for you” have been thrown around, creating for an atmosphere surrounding From Software’s title that feels both muddled and hostile.

David Thier wrote about the critical perception of Bloodborne and how “most people will hate it.” His argument is sound in theory, discussing how the astoundingly positive reviews most games media outlets have given Bloodborne may very well stand in contrast to the public perception of the game by the Souls uninitiated.

You see, Thier’s point falls apart because he approaches Bloodborne as a game that appeals specifically to one crowd while shunning or turning itself away from another. I am a Souls fan, admittedly, but it is plain as day that Bloodborne is a game that can be tackled by anyone on even ground.

Bloodborne is a hard game. This point has been hammered home time and again. It will continue to be discussed for years to come. What Thier – and other critics – seem to ignore is that Bloodborne plays its hand very early.

Shortly after beginning the game, messenger notes are scattered about the first area. Mechanics are explained by these short messages. By the time the player has emerged through into Central Yharnam proper, every basic element of Bloodborne’s combat and core gameplay has been explained to the player.

It is, of course, up to them to put the pieces together.

Sure, a Souls series veteran will have an easier time adjusting to the faster-paced combat of Bloodborne, but that doesn’t mean a complete newcomer cannot as well.

“Bloodborne has a much broader exposure than any of the games before it,” Thier writes, “and it’s being held up as a system seller for the PS4.” He then goes on to say that he has had ‘casual gamer friends’ ask for his recommendation regarding Bloodborne, to which he says no.

That conception is the problem. Because the author has determined his friends – be it by their own admission or not – to be casual gamers, the title is deemed off limits to them. Bloodborne, as I have said, is remarkably open in how it works. The game is obtuse in its inner workings, but the fundamentals are taught to the player simply and explicitly.

Everyone has a right to their opinion. Thier’s is somewhere along the lines that many people who are not members of the gaming press will not like Bloodborne. I cannot speak for everyone in the gaming world but I can say that I think those who want a game that requires more from them than simply watching a cutscene or hiding behind a rock will love Bloodborne. In an era where most games treat the player as incompetent, Bloodborne presents them with a set of rules. Ultimately, anyone who spends time with the game will learn to master them and overcome the challenge.

In many ways, Bloodborne is fairer than we ever give it credit for. For all of the game’s mystery and sublime elements, on the most basic level, Bloodborne concedes its main mechanics – the tools that you need to tackle virtually any challenge thrown at you – minutes within the game.

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