Self-doubt has played a large part in my life. In some way or another, it has affected me since secondary school, which in turn had an effect on my self-confidence. I have always tried to be open about my mental health, treating it much like my physical health. In a previous article for Jumpcut, I wrote about how the discovery of the Soulsborne series had helped me through a tough time during the UK lockdown. One series title in particular had a very profound effect on me: Bloodborne.
Throughout my gaming career, I have avoided “hard” games. I’ve always wanted my gaming experiences to be a solitary escape where I can relax from a stressful day. This was particularly the case during my early school days, where I’d more often be found in a Halo 3 lobby as opposed to a Call of Duty one, a game that was popular with fellow pupils. I avoided any real challenge for many years, making myself believe that I couldn’t manage to beat something as difficult as Dark Souls. This was bolstered by my attempt to play the aforementioned prior to the release of the PS4, which ended after around an hour. Seven years later and fresh off of my Demon’s Souls (PS5) completion, I threw myself in at the deep end with Bloodborne.
Now I want to be clear from the start: Bloodborne hasn’t solved all of my mental health issues. It’s a damn good game, but it’s not that good. But what Bloodborne has done for me has allowed me to understand my mental health through the lens of video games.
Towards the end of the game, I faced a boss named Micolash. That name may cause a shiver down your spine if you’re familiar with the game—I know it certainly does to me. For me, Micolash proved the hardest boss in the game and truly affected how I viewed myself as a player. Up until this point, I’d been challenged but overcame each adversary fairly easily. I approached this boss with the same vigor. If you aren’t familiar with this encounter, you first have to “catch” Micolash by chasing him through a mechanically unreliable maze, in which he never goes the way you want him to. Following that, you corner the slippery, cage-wearing student in what feels like a rather unfair way. With only a couple of attacks, Micolash feels strangely defenceless, even with his ghostly marionettes swinging some punches towards you. Just when the fight is going well, Micolash disappears into the aether and taunts you into another painstaking maze that concludes in a fight that I can only describe as the worst thing in gaming I have ever had to endure; a small room plus a massive attack equals a huge headache for me. This headache continued for hours upon hours, mostly due to the awful lead up to the fight itself. Feelings of self-doubt and anger crept back in and I once again felt tiny in an overwhelming world. The mocking voice of Micolash was something that reminded me of school bullies that had played such a large role in my early life. This boss had reminded me of a feeling that I’d largely forgotten, something bordering on ridicule. After persevering, I defeated Micolash and felt a huge wave of relief roll over me. For a game to take me back to a particularly unpleasant moment in my life and act as a surrogate in order for me to move past it is truly unbelievable.
Cainhurst Castle is one of my favourite locations in Bloodborne. Only accessible by ghostly horsedrawn carriage, you arrive at the snowtopped gothic castle unsure of what awaits you. Dagger wielding apparitions of noblewomen line the corridors as you battle towards the top of the grand building—it feels like a real departure from what you have seen in the game so far. The location is also home to a boss who, once defeated, made me feel truly unstoppable. After uncovering the secrets of the castle, I made my way along the treacherous rooftops to the domain of Martyr Logarious. Before coming into the game, I knew about some of the tougher bosses that I was going to confront. I didn’t know any tactics or weaknesses, just names and faces. The name Logarious was often followed up with the words hard, impossible, or punishing. After recently facing Micolash, I was preparing myself for the worst. Entering the arena and seeing the scythe-wielding nightmare for the first time filled me with dread. Have you ever had that feeling that you’re going to know every inch of an area like the back of your hand due to spending so much time on a fight? That’s what I was feeling and boy, did it make me tense. Saw cleaver drawn, I took the plunge and to my surprise, I defeated him the first time! I felt a release and almost felt stupid for doubting myself. When I was being bullied, I always felt tense and never had a release. I took up performing arts and found my niche, slowly accepting who I was. After my fight with Logarious, I too found an acceptance for myself within the game, almost like I deserve to be able to say I am good at it, to take pride in it.
I have had mentally tough times since completing the game, but remembering little things such as defeating Micolash or striking down Martyr Logarious on my first attempt have helped me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It has helped to remind me of the things that I am good at in life.
I fought through Bloodborne on my own without any co-op help. It was probably foolish of me to do, especially looking back at the toll the Micolash fight took on me. I felt like I had to go through everything at my own to prove to myself that I was good enough—this is never the case. Within anything you do, you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. During tough times, luckily, I have had people to turn to for help. A quick chat or a shoulder to cry on has always been there for me. If you’re reading this now and need someone to talk to, reach out and don’t hold back. Your mental health matters, and there is no shame in admitting you need help.