In 2011, FromSoftware and Hidetata Miyazaki, the series creator, created a dark fantasy role-playing game called Dark Souls the spiritual successor to Demon’s Soul. Dark Souls at the time was the only game that allowed players to come up with their own story because Miyazaki form of storytelling was minimalist. By leaving just enough information, but having it ambiguous and giving every item in the game a story tie it to. It allowed the player to create their own story. The game itself was unforgiving and people would give up playing it. With all of this, the game became a huge success making three more game to go with it. Dark Souls 2, Bloodborne, and Dark Souls 3. This created the Soulsborne community where die-hard fans come together to talk about the games and to play together. Using Symbolic Convergence, we can analysis symbolic cues that help shape and sustain the community.
Symbolic Convergence Perspective
The Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) was develop by Ernest Bormann. SCT is where people with shred narratives create a community around it. I will look at the Soulsborne community and examine the symbolic cues that the community used to sustain the games. Before analyzing, we need to see if there is a community and how many are participating in it. On Facebook there are 828,768 people who like it and on Reddit for the first game there are 262,000 members and 882,000 people if you add all the subreddits. We also tell that the game is well received and better than other games that came out around it because it won the Community Choice Game of the Year award and was placed first on GamesRadar’s “The 100 best games ever” list.
Symbolic Cues are like an inside joke where only the people who make the joke get it. These cues can be anything from a voice line to a gesture a character made. The community used these to remove the outsiders. I am looking only at Dark Souls 1 because there is a treasure trove of cues that the community used. I will be highlighting some of the big ones. There are multiple cues that come off of one character. Solaire of Astora is a non-player character (NPC) that the player meets throughout their journey. The first time meeting him he talks about how he wants his very own sun and fans love him for his overall friendliness and being plain jolly in a world that is dark and everything is trying to kill you. He asks the player if they would like to have him help and if the player says yes, they are given an item that allows you to help other players online. The cues here are a couple. First when you say yes to him, he says, “But, use this, to summon one another as spirits, cross the gaps between the worlds, and engage in jolly co-operation!” The community quickly started using the term jolly co-operation to one of another instead of co-op. This is escalated more by the community because if you join Solaire’s covenant of the warriors sunlight you are called a “sunbro” due to you joining the covenant, but also when you’re summoned into another world you are bright orange like the sun. The community also uses an item called the pendant that can be picked as a starting item in the game. Some of the items are useful like a key that opens up doors early for the player or firebombs that can be used to kill enemies. The pendant does nothing, but if a new player asks what item to use the community will tell them the pendant. It is used to see if the person knows about it or not. The one that the community is known for is the “praise the sun!” gesture where the player makes a Y-shape with their body and stand on their toes. This became a universal sign of hello in the game, because there was no voice chat, but is also used outside of the game in real life to see if anyone is part of the Dark Souls community.
Dark Souls has been out for nine years and with three other games that are part of the Soulborne community and with a remaster of the first game it has brought in more people in the community or has rekindled an old love for it from older fans keeping the game alive keeping it in the third phase of the life cycle called consciousness sustaining. I will say that even these cues are from this community and people who play the game get the references, but because of the internet and memes these symbolic cues are now out for everyone to use, not just the community does this hinder the community keeping non-like minded people out.