How ‘Elden Ring’ Ruined Gaming For Me
— 25 September 2023

How ‘Elden Ring’ Ruined Gaming For Me

— 25 September 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

While I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “gamer” at the age of 36, I do still have a deep love for video games. Like most others my age, it’s the nostalgia factor that reels me in each time I need an escape from reality.

I rarely get stuck into new games nowadays. When I do, I always get distracted far too quickly.

There are exceptions. I’m slowly working my way through Nintendo’s ground-breaking Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and I can’t wait to spend some time with Lies of P. But by and large, my days of picking up a new AAA title and smashing it in one or two weeks are done and dusted.

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FromSoftware has a lot to do with this. It’s not only age that has turned me off gaming. It’s the fact that I finished a title that was so ridiculously good that it’s now the only thing I can think about when I’m playing other games.

I wish I could play 2022 Game of the Year Elden Ring for the first time again, and I honestly don’t think another open-world title will come close to edging it out of the top spot for many gamers. That is until FromSoftware decides to make a sequel. Or, better yet, a follow-up to their equally fantastic gothic action RPG Bloodborne.

After doing some digging on Reddit, I found multiple threads started by users complaining about the same thing. And if it wasn’t Elden Ring, it was Dark Soul III or Sekiro — also FromSoftware games.

One of pop culture’s most prolific commentators, Erik Kain from Forbes, once wrote a piece complaining about how the confected ‘Soulslike’ genre — games that are similar to the mechanics and style of FromSoftware’s signature titles — had ruined gaming for him. Screenrant wrote a similar piece on Elden Ring and how it sucked the joy out of other open-world games.

This piece is not much different, yet I’m more interested in what makes games like Elden Ring so engaging, rewarding and addictive in the first place.

The “FromSoftware Effect”

I stumbled upon this term while doing said digging through Reddit. It makes sense. FromSoftware, a developer based in Tokyo, can create critically acclaimed games so boundary-breaking that a brand new genre had to be invented for them. So it follows that these games would offer an incomparable experience that makes playing other games feel like a regression.

Once you’ve flown Business Class, you can’t go back to Economy.

As of February 2023, Elden Ring has sold more than 20 million copies. In its first few weeks, the game clocked over 12 million copies sold. Crunchyroll even reports that, to date, the game has reached US$7.3 billion (AU$11.3 billion) in sales.

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The Future Of Open Worlds

The future of open-world gameplay is less about prescriptive missions and more about rewarding exploration.

When Rockstar changed the literal game by eschewing top-down for 3D with Grand Theft Auto, the US developers created a deathless appetite for sandbox design. That is, a larger, less linear map that offered more freedom, gave options for creativity, and made gamers feel like they were, at least to a degree, making their own decisions. It led to deeper immersion and a more rewarding experience.

Ever since, open-world games have become more sophisticated. From shooters like Far Cry to adventure RPGs like Fallout, modern video games started to really focus on world-building and atmosphere. And that’s probably why they know make for such good TV and movie adaptations. Yet, with these titles, you generally had a good idea of where to get next, what to do once you got there, and how to win. It’s hand-holding without explicitly doing so.

Elden Ring, on the other hand, doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care that you’re super frustrated when trying to decide where to go. It damn sure doesn’t care that the game is too hard. There are no difficulty settings. FromSoftware does not give a flying f**k about your stress levels; the onus is on you to, as gamers say, “git gud” (get good).

elden ring

What Elden Ring does so well is empower you, as the player, and trust that you’ll be able to figure it all out. That trust is usually misplaced, however. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t need to use a walkthrough numerous times (like I have with all other FromSoftware games).

The game’s overworld, the fantastical Lands Between, has more than enough content to encourage players to explore. Even if those players aren’t necessarily the type to “100%” a game (that is, complete every single aspect of it, not just the main story). I’m not one of those guys, but for the first time in my life, Elden Ring made me want to see every single part of the game.

That’s because the lore is not just incredibly interesting and poetic, but it’s hard to piece together. Constructing the storyline is as rewarding as the punishing battle mechanics. And it’s this ecosystem of hard-won dopamine that makes the game so addictive, much like Dark Souls III, Bloodborne and Sekiro.

Having such deftly crated settings with fewer instructions than conventional open-world games broke the mold, so the speak. Up until Elden Ring the only true open-world game that really gave you an unprecedented amount of freedom was Nintendo’s Zelda: Breathe of the Wild. And it doesn’t take but a quick Google search to find out how successful that game was. Much like it’s record-breaking follow-up.

elden ring

It seems what discerning gamers want nowadays is less hand-holding from developers. They want trust. They want a sense of adventure rather than a structured step-by-step guide. Yet that would require a decent investment of time on the player’s behalf. Developers need to make games that provide that return on investment. And it’s clear that they need to keep rewarding guests and scale the sense of accomplishment until the very end.

Give me minimal clues and cryptic dialogue any day. It helps make games feel more cinematic and true-to-life, as opposed to the typical errand-running, objective-based gameplay.

But I’m yet to find a game like Elden Ring (and Zelda) that does just that. Given the success of both, I’m confident in saying this golden age of gaming everyone speaks about is only getting started. And that’s going to mean more dollars for what is the most profitable form of entertainment in the world.

And if I’m right, then maybe I’m ending this piece on an optimistic note. Elden Ring has ruined gaming for me. It’s also ruined gaming for many around the world. But it’s also created a new high watermark for other developers to reach. They just haven’t reached it yet.

We saw Nintendo already smash through with the company’s latest take on Zelda, I think it’s only a matter of time before other developers start investing heavily in making highly engaging open-world games that focus less on being accessible and “easy” and more on being rewarding and genuinely challenging.

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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