Conference paper Open Access

The Dark Sigil Will Guide Thee: The Hollowing Mechanic in FromSoftware's Souls Games

Stein, Eric

In developer FromSoftware’s acclaimed Dark Souls trilogy (2011, 2014, 2016), the concept of “hollowing” occupies a central position in the broader thematic landscape of the games. Concerned with the fates of cursed undead in worlds on the brink of collapse, the Dark Souls games present hollowing—a violent, withering insanity—as the doom of all undead who fail to endure their brutal conditions. More than a mere fantasy trope, however, hollowing functions in each game as both a narrative and a mechanical instrument, mobilizing the player-character to participate in the precisely designed ludonarrative circuits that the developers have devised. This study contends that it is this particular gameplay structure that reinforces an evolving theorization on FromSoftware’s part (if tacit) as to what constitutes human being.

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