Bloodborne will always be my game of the year

A Bloodborne character holds out a torch to a werewolf.

picture: BySoftware

“Hello, good hunter”, The doll said to me after accidentally visiting bloodborne‘s first optional boss, the howling cleric beast, and some of those obtained in the game metaphysical currency, Insight. “I am a doll, here in this dream to take care of you.”

I could say it in front of her said nothing. I’m used to dolls watching me and giving off that frosted glass glow, a certain satin femininity. You scare me. bloodborneFromSoftware’s RPG battered by decay and perverted gore, knows this. A realistic doll is a silver hairbrush with burnt horsehair bristles, a mean take on what girls want. It fits comfortably in the game’s spooky palm. but bloodborne settles into discomfort without supporting it, and so no matter how hard I try to branch out, bloodborne is my all-time game of the year.

I remember the china dolls in my bedroom had green eyes. I wasn’t sure if their bonnets were satin because I didn’t know the word. But I did notice their muted glow, the coin-sized glass irises, which I found both easy to stare at and frightening. Scary, because I recognized the dolls as a pulseless version of myself – we were both small, unable to sleep. They were like me but not. I was afraid that they would come alive at night and kill me.

I finally worked up the courage to tell my parents that I hated the dolls and had them evicted from my room. About a decade later I was playing bloodborne for the first time. Unnerving and a little tender, as the white doves of childhood memory flared, I recognized a part of myself in the cloaked blonde girl slumped on the stone steps, The Doll. Freud would describe my reaction – a rush of fascination, a shot of a worm rising from my stomach – as a product of the “uncanny”.

“Dolls, of course, are quite closely related to childhood life,” he wrote a 1919 essay. “Children do not distinguish sharply at all between living and inanimate objects, and […] They particularly like to treat their dolls like real people.” So a sense of the uncanny doesn’t necessarily come from fears taught by fairy tales, but from a more general “childlike belief”.

bloodborne Toys with childhood fears and beliefs like a cat groping an already poisoned mouse. The residents of Yharnam, a town in the game where fog hovers like a permanent poltergeist where everything probably smells very bad, hold on to the basic idea that they’re fine if they do as they’re told, and inside stay. They lash out: “Away, away!” falteringly ordering Yharnamites to level their torches at me as if she would do anything to keep my ax from cleaving their faces off their necks – at the monster they see in me , while disease catalyzes the monster within them. They turn to zombie werewolves, all of them craving blood.

The game’s only respite is the hunter’s dream, where the doll is located.

“It used to be a safe haven for hunters,” dirty old man Gehrman tells me when I first arrive at the workshop. “We don’t have as many tools as we used to, but feel free to use whatever you can find. Even the doll, if you like it…”

She’s not alive, but she’s still crying.

I have completed bloodborne three times now and have a couple also lightly used backup files. I’ve watched every Lore video on YouTube and I’m hooked its boring 30 FPS at this point. But everyone When I see low-poly German saying, “Even the doll, if you like it,” I get a little shaken. I’m trying to move on quickly – sure, old man, the Vietnam War was a great idea.

Still, FromSoftware has tainted in its many worlds an undeniable habit portraying his female characters as muted, mutilated meerkats. And, apart from my elementary school angst, dolls, especially afterwards the arrival of barbie in 1959, are often used as symbols of the impossible feminine ideal, literal objectification. “A living doll everywhere you look,” wrote Sylvia Plath in a 1962 poem criticizing expectations of wives. “The applicant”. “It works, there’s nothing wrong with that. […]/ Do you want to marry, marry, marry it?”

Over 30 years later, Courtney Love seems to reply, “He only loves these things because he loves to see them broken,” she sings in the 1994 song “Hole.” “Doll parts.” “I’m faking it so real, I’m beyond fake.”

but bloodborne‘s doll, though Gehrman likely wishes otherwise, doesn’t mean the patriarchy-sanctioned lobotomy plath and lovesickness. It’s not quite the fantasy of the 1987 “romantic” “comedy.” mannequinwhere Kim Cattrall’s languishing soul resides in a mannequin until she falls in love, or the stiff sex doll Bianca with whom Ryan Gosling begins a passionate, imaginative romance Lars and the real girl (2007). The existence of the doll does not dictate much of the ancient inspiration for these two films, either: by the Roman poet Ovid Story of Pygmaliona sculptor so enraptured with his creation—”that of a virgin”, “even more beautifully naked” – that the goddess Venus brings it to life and finally marries it.

The doll, while still a cake topper for the rest of the game’s knee-deep carnage, was created with the intention of offering unconditional affection and support (“should you like it…”), but agonizes over its artificiality instead to have fun inside. However, her tears of hard crystalare still falling and as I use my ax to slaughter their human counterpart, Gehrman’s obsession, Lady Maria, She knows. And she’s happy.

“Have I changed in any way?” she asks me. “Just moments ago, from somewhere, maybe deep within me, I felt a release from heavy bondage.”

Like The Doll, I always feel attached to other people’s interpretation of how I look. Just as I was horrified as a child at the vision of primitive ladyness my dolls showed me, I am still painfully aware of my smallness.

As I walk down the street with cars honking and men shouting various phrases, I sense some people wanting to know if they can break me like china. So I go home and go to Yharnam, get my axe, or if I’m in a good mood, raise it my holy blade and hack through monsters. They don’t know they’re monsters and I’m acting like I’m pruning a rosebush. I see myself, somewhat reluctantly, in the blonde doll, which frightens me but reflects me.

What I like bloodborne is that it understands that fear has no honest solution. You learn to live in it. It allows me to decipher a nightmare I’ve never really been able to forget, and so, like a fragile, fluffy gray moth, I routinely return to this thing that wounds me. Bloodborne will always be my game of the year

Curtis Crabtree

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