Really, this is a story about Stockholm Syndrome.
It’s a story about Hidetaka Miyazaki’s reputation. It’s a story about a reputation so powerful that even clear, technical flaws are somehow transformed into deliberate strokes of genius.
Yesterday Bloodborne was patched. The purpose of the patch was multi-fold, but the main benefit: the reduction of Bloodborne’s notorious loading times.
The loading times: as great as the game is, it remains Bloodborne’s most common complaint. In a game where you will most likely die frequently, it takes a significant period of time to go from death to respawn. It also takes a significant time to travel back to The Hunter’s Dream, where players level-up their character, upgrade their gear, etc. The best description I heard of Bloodborne’s loading screens: they are “go and do something else” long. Make a cup of tea, go to the bathroom, do some exercise.
In other words: the loading times between deaths in Bloodborne. Not great.
They’re really not great.
Or are they? At some point there was chatter on the internet. People were defending the indefensible. “The loading screens aren’t that bad” “they give you a well-earned breather between deaths”. That kind of thing. Tim Rogers wrote a great article about Bloodborne, openly wondered if the loading times were a design choice. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. The truth is I started nodding along in agreement.
What the hell is wrong with me?
The loading screens. To begin with I didn’t notice. Then I noticed. Then I became frustrated. Then I learned to endure them. Then I became indifferent. Then, at some point, for some goddamn unknown reason that makes no sense to reasonable human beings I began convincing myself that this purely technical failure was an actual good thing that enhanced the Bloodborne experience. I had subscribed to what I’m going to call ‘punctuation theory’. That the loading screens allowed you a moment to relax, a moment to ‘think about what you just did’, to consider the reasons for your death and come back stronger.
Then I started thinking in terms of the game’s design. The loading screens make fast travel difficult, which forces you to explore the world, allowing you to drink in the game’s environment. Which in turn helps you to unlock shortcuts, which allows you to better appreciate the dense, honeycombed structure of Yharnham’s intricate level design.
Of course the rational part of my brain is telling me that’s all utter horseshit. Of course. The loading screens are and have always been a technical problem — an optimisation issue. But I’m there, I’m at that point in my love of Bloodborne. I’m crossing that weird line where I’ve lost all ability to be objective about it. I’ve created this dense matrix of rationalisations in the tissues of my brain goo, and it’s gonna take a good long while to make sense of that mess.
A strange part of my lizard brain is going to miss Bloodborne’s loading screens.
As of today Bloodborne’s loading screens have been replaced with screens of item lore — giving players something to read while they wait. Common sense tells you that’s a good thing, Dark Souls did it, that means it must be good, right?
Am I alone in saying this? I’m going to miss that white on black logo. The starkness of it. Bloodborne. You are playing Bloodborne. This game is called fucking Bloodborne and here it stands as uncompromising as Stonehenge. A man-made mountain that will not shift, bend or cater to your petty human desires. The inflexibility of it. The gall of it. The fact that it was a blatantly technical mistake yet somehow still forced me, an otherwise sane person, to love it regardless. To justify it. No other game could gave gotten away with it. Bloodborne. Bloodborne. Bloodborne. A reminder: you are playing Bloodborne. This is Bloodborne.
The dissonance — yes I’m using the word correctly — the cognitive dissonance I’m currently working through. It’s a spectacular testament to the power Hidetaka Miyazaki wields over us all. He holds us captive in the prism of his faultless reputation.
Everything Miyazaki does he does for a reason and if we don’t understand that is our own human failing. You defeated.
He is wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes and I’m braying like a Hyena in rapturous applause.