Prepare to Try – How a Let’s Play Series Changed My Life

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I’ve been a gamer since I can remember. The language and visuals of video games are ingrained in my subconscious to the point where I frequently dream in video game format. I played The Legend of Zelda for hours when I was six, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and obsessively trying to find every temple and every secret, but having to start over again every day because for some reason, my save file never worked. My love of gaming never diminished, either. As an adult, my favorite game became Skyrim, and I explored its realms as intensely as I had explored Hyrule as a child.

When I heard about Let’s Plays, well… While I wouldn’t criticize someone for enjoying them, I thought it was stupid. Why would you want to watch someone play video games while jabbering obnoxiously? I understand watching them for the purposes of finding out good strategies for games you might get stuck on, but just watching a Let’s Play for fun? What are you gaining from that?

Hahaha.

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Well, one day I wanted to see if The Evil Within 2 looked like it was worth buying, so I searched YouTube for a game play video. I clicked on one from IGN, because I figured they would have a quality video with pertinent info. Oh, ugh. There are people talking over it. I bet they think they’re funny, but they’re really just obnoxious. I’ll give this video five minutes. If it sucks, I’ll find a different one.

Oh, wow, they’re actually really fucking funny.

I’ll share with you the joke that convinced me to keep watching the video, because it’s still one of my favorites:

“I didn’t even know there were zombies in it before he said.” “What did you think it was gonna be? Evil Within?” “Well, The Evil Within… so… racism, or something.”

After that video, I was hooked. For anyone reading this who is not familiar, I’ll give you a quick rundown: This series was titled “Prepare to Try,” and it was created for IGN in 2016. It started off as a challenge, pitting a gamer, completely inexperienced with the crushingly difficult Souls-type games, against the original Dark Souls, attempting to finish it before the release of Dark Souls 3, roughly a month later. Rory Powers held the controller, while Dan Krupa gave insight into the rich lore of the series, and Gav Murphy kept the banter going. Eventually, the series grew and produced play throughs of Dark Souls 3Resident EvilBloodborne, Cuphead, and more. All of which I’ve now watched at least twice and still enjoy.

Everything about the series was a pleasant surprise. It was informative, funny, and exciting. At the same time I was laughing my ass off, I was learning about the background of whatever game they were playing. I was also glad to find out how progressive their views were, as they often made remarks decrying sexism, racism, and homophobia. In the wake of fiascos like Gamergate, when so many people associate geek culture with toxic behavior and bigotry, this series stood out as a brilliant contrast to all that negativity. Their zany humor, positivity, and frequent Simpsons joke references charmed me.

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Cut forward to 2018. I’d pretty much never been lower in my life. Financial problems, the death of a friend, and familial turmoil, to name just a few things I was dealing with. It had come to a point where I was pretty sure there was no reason to keep living, and the best I could hope for was the dignity of being able to check myself out of a miserable, humiliating existence. Insomnia set in, giving these noxious thoughts plenty of time to ferment in my head. It was too easy to think of ways to put an end to it all, too many methods that were within arm’s reach. I had to drown out those thoughts. Distract myself. So I’d binge watch Prepare to Try.

I’m not sure why, but it was the only thing that made me smile. I would still be crying, but I found myself laughing through the tears.

Struggling with depression is like climbing up the side of a cliff above a whirlpool. You search for a foothold, a grip, anything to keep yourself from falling, be it friends, pets, hobbies, whatever… Just something that keeps you above the water another day. And eventually those days turn to weeks, months, years, a lifetime. It is about survival. And whether profound or simple, anything that keeps you going becomes close to your heart.

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I soon found that my experience wasn’t unusual. Within the following that sprung up around Prepare to Try, there were many who said the series had helped them cope with their depression. Joining their unofficial Facebook group, I found that their fans are some of the nicest damn people on the internet, being very supportive of each other and happy to talk with fellow fans who reach out in the midst of personal struggles.

There’s a recurring joke on Prepare to Try: When struggling with some simple task like going up an elevator, opening a door, etc, they’ll ask, “Is this a Boss?” and laugh at the absurdity of laboring with what’s literally the easiest part of the game. But in a way, silly as it sounds, that’s a great metaphor for living with depression. Sometimes, getting out of bed and making breakfast is a Boss. Cleaning your room is a Boss. Walking to the store is a Boss. Things that should be easy become arduous under the weight of depression, and sometimes you beat the Boss, and sometimes, you just have to try again.

I never expected to gain so much from watching people play video games. It sounds so ridiculous. It’s one of the last things I would have thought would help me fight against my suicidal inclinations, but there’s no denying that it gave me great comfort in one of the worst periods of my life. I think their Bloodborne play through, in particular, is a great analog for life: You’re not equipped for this, everything is trying to kill you, there are spiders everywhere, and nobody has any idea what’s going on, but you keep trying. And sometimes you have to respawn and start all over again with nothing, but you keep trying.

You. Keep. Trying.

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I’d like to mention that, while the Prepare to Try series has ended, Rory, Krupa, and Gav have moved on to found their own channel, RKG, and will be releasing their long-awaited play through of Dark Souls 2 very soon. I encourage you to check it out, as well as the content on their old Prepare to Try channel on YouTube.

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Theory: The Deeper Connection Between Bloodborne and Lovecraft

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers for Bloodborne.

There’s no question that the Hidetaka Miyazaki game Bloodborne is heavily influenced by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, particularly the concept of the Great Ones and other incomprehensible beings. There are three main cycles in Lovecraft’s work, with some overlaps here and there: The Cthulhu Mythos, the Dream Cycles, and his miscellaneous works. For this theory we’ll just be focusing on the first two.

There are two factions of “Gods” (for lack of a better word) in Lovecraft’s mythos: The Great Old Ones, such as Cthulhu and Tsathoggua, and the Outer Gods, such as Nyarlathotep and Azathoth. (There are also their minions, but those irrelevant here.) The Great Old Ones are mostly Earth deities, worshiped by ancient man. They are rooted in nature and the workings of the Earth itself. Then, there are the Outer Gods, which are more concerned with the Dream Lands and space. They exist outside of our natural realms, living instead in the far reaches of the cosmos and other dimensions.

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In Bloodborne, the main goal of the humans is to transform into higher beings, akin to the Great Ones, through consumption of the blood of the left behind Great One, Ebrietas and experiments with the Kos parasites. However, these humans attempting ascension seem awfully confused. They believe that the Kos parasites will grant them the insight needed to ascend, and begin working with water-based experiments. Kos seems analogous to the Great Old Ones of the Earth. However, there seem to be bigger fish to fry, like the Moon presence, which seems more like an Outer God. It’s not a one-to-one comparison, but I believe Bloodborne drew from this concept of there being two factions of Gods, and created a conflict between them. Someone* suggested that the Amygdala seemed to be the antagonists of the Moon Presence.

*Author’s note: My sincerest apologies, I can’t recall whose theory this is. If anyone reading this knows, please bring it to my attention in the comments below so I can properly attribute their work to them.

Furthermore to prove that the citizens of Yharnam are greatly unaware of the truth, they mistook the concept of Insight to mean “Eyes on the inside.” This makes no sense, honestly. It sounds like the result of a game of telephone, wherein the original concept was to gain insight into the nature of these greater beings, so as to reach their level of existence, but over the years, or decades, or possibly even eras, this word “insight” was mistranslated by those that followed the original discoverers of the eldritch truth, and thought that they were supposed to literally have eyes inside their brains. They therefore began experimenting on animals, and later humans, mutilating them to sprout multiple eyes.

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My theory on what all this means for the story of Bloodborne: Humans attempting ascension are concerned with the “Great Old Ones” like Kos, but they fail in their goals because this is not the true way. The twist at the end is that, while the humans were concerned with the Great Old Ones, the Moon Presence, an Outer God, was pulling the strings the whole time, and it is the true means of ascension. The ending is a revelation that everything the humans thought was important was a red herring. It was never the way to becoming a higher being. Something that other humans could never have fathomed was there was the true means they sought. It enslaved Gehrman so that it could find a Hunter to do its bidding, and destroy the Great Old Ones for reasons that are probably unfathomable to us mortals. Who knows how long this has been going on. Perhaps every Hunter has been given a different task, each one a step towards the Moon Presence’s ultimate goal. Eileen and Djura seem to have been successful in whatever task they were given, and were returned to the waking world by Gehrman’s execution.

Notice how it’s only once you meet the Moon Presence that you ascend to being a higher being. That was the only way the whole time. The blood of the Great Old Ones, Gods of the Earth, were only ever going to turn people into beasts, because the beasts are creatures of the Earth and Nature. The only way to become a higher being, is to commune with the cosmic entities.

 

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