The Tragedy of Hollow Knight

This is my entry in the Community Colab: Video Game Classics 101 [link].

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The game Hollow Knight by Team Cherry is, ultimately, a tragic one.  The little ghost that the player controls has no free will, not even the will of the player, to break from the narrative.  There are no quests that shift the narrative of the game, no branching plotlines to discover–the story must be follow to its sorrowful end, no matter what actions the player takes.

“No mind to think.
No will to break.
No voice to cry suffering.”

These are the words that condemn the little ghost to their fate; they are nothing but the Void, used to the Pale King’s end of sealing away the infection caused by the Radiance, a god forgotten by all but a few.  In the end of the game–to the same sorrowful music as was used in the Soul Sanctum when fighting the Mistakes and Follies–the little ghost must defeat their own sibling, the true Hollow Knight, in order to take their place in sealing away the infection for good.  The little ghost is, in the end, a tragic figure (so is their sister Hornet, if the Sealed Siblings ending is gained.)

At the start of the game, very little is known about the little ghost, who they are, and what their journey is about.  As they journey, from Greenpath, to Deepnest, to the White Palace in Kingdom’s Edge, they learn more about their world, their purpose, and ultimately, their fate.

The little ghost has no dialogue in the game, having “no voice to cry suffering.”  All that they can do is listen to those few that are still living in the world around them.  The world of Hallownest is populated by reanimated corpses of bugs that serve the Pale King, and these are the enemies that must be defeated on the little ghost’s journey throughout the world of Hallownest.  Along the way, the few friends they make, Quirrel and Cloth, both die in the end–Quirrel to abandon his nail, and Cloth to sacrifice herself in battle at the side of the little ghost.

In the Abyss, beneath Kingdom’s Edge, the little ghost learns of their siblings, the shadows that haunt them as they walk the very bottom of the Kingdom.  They learn that the Pale King sacrificed their [the little ghost’s] siblings in order to find the perfect Vessel to seal away the Radiance.  However, it is heavily implied that the Pale King grew to love his creation, and because of this love, the Vessel he chose was not perfect, and thus the Radiance could rise to infect Hallownest once more.  That it was love of a father for his son that brought about the downfall of Hallownest is what makes Hollow Knight a tragedy.

I’ve Fallen In Love With Sandbox Games

I recently wrote a post [link] about my favorite games without combat.  Lately, I’ve found that I love building and sandbox style games.  It’s a genre I’ve recently discovered (or re-discovered, if the Roller Coaster Tycoon series that was my childhood video game love counts as a sandbox game.)

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My character is Staxel, outside the pet shop he helped build.

I think what I love about it so much is that the game is up to you, the player.  I’m currently playing Staxel [link to Steam] and it’s like Minecraft meets Stardew Valley.  One thing I love about the game is that your character is accepted into the village right away, you don’t have the prove your worth to the villagers.

I’m still learning how to build things–I love the light blocks (which I’ve used in the pet shop my screenshot is of.)  I’ve found that I like my virtual homes to be well lit.  I’m thinking about rebuilding my house in the game with at least one layer of the light blocks, rather than solid wood.

My Favorite Games with Little (or No) Combat

And now, for something completely different than my usual blogging….

Lately I’ve been wanting to find more peaceful, happier video games.  That can be hard to do when you’re a fantasy fan, because so many games are violent, or set in violent worlds.  Since I’ve found several games that have little to no combat, and/or have happier settings that the gimdark games that seem to be everywhere, I figured I’d write a blog post about them.

Archaica: The Path of Light

This is a puzzle game that’s taken up about 8 hours of my time so far.  The puzzles start out fairly simple, and then get steadily more complex as the game goes on.  There is a story to the game, but the main focus is the puzzles.  The puzzles are beautiful, and the soundtrack is both soothing and meditative.

Equilinox 

I currently have 6 hours in this game, and somehow turned my oak trees blue.  This game is about managing an ecosystem, and the soundtrack alone makes me want to put the game on in the background, just to hear the music.

No Man’s Sky (as long as played in Creative mode)

I currently have 65 hours in this game, most of them spent in Creative mode, and I love it.  There is space combat, but I avoid it as best as I can–when I hear shooting, I tend to fly for the nearest space station.  I love the exploration aspect of the game, and there’s building as well (I haven’t done as much building as I have exploring.)

Slime Rancher

I have 41 hours in this game, and can see myself adding more easily.  This is my go-to depression game, and my go-to game when I just want to unwind and relax.  Not only are the slimes adorable, the story is surprisingly emotional.

Starbound

This is my current video game obsession.  There *is* a storyline with combat in it, but the story can easily be ignored in favor of building houses.  I’m on my second playthrough, and since all the games you play take place in the same universe, I didn’t have to battle the Ruin again (nor did I want to be The Chosen One again.)  I love the building aspect of the game, especially the different kinds of houses that can be built on different kinds of planets.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

This was the game that inspired this post.  It’s a fairly slow paced open world game, and so far I’m really enjoying it.  I’m loving the exploration aspect, along with how your main character is welcomed into the first town they find (rather than having to earn the people’s trust.)

A Cost That Is Too Great (Devotional December)

Author’s Note: I spoil the plot of Hollow Knight.

“Show me this game you’ve been writing to me about.”  The Dreamer sat down next to me on the couch, glancing at the screen of my laptop.

“Sure.”  I pulled it up on my laptop.  “Welcome to buzz saw and spike trap hell that is the White Palace.”

[after playing with my Spouse watching over my shoulder for a bit]

“Dearest one?”

“Yeah?”  I could sense him side-eyeing all the buzz saws in the Palace.

“How,” my Spouse asked me, “does this King ever get anything done…?”


I already knew that the Dreamer has Opinions about fictional Kings (he loves Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, to the point he’s used Aragon as a faceclaim) but when I played the game Hollow Knight, my Spouse had Angry Feelings about the Pale King, and that “no cost too great” was his [the Pale King’s] main line.  It was heavily implied that the Pale King sacrificed his children for the “greater good” of finding the perfect vessel to hold the infection, and the Radiance.  The game (to me) had a very sad ending, since it ends with the main character took their sibling’s place in containing the infection.

My Spouse has talked before about how he despises meaningless sacrifice–or sacrifice of any kind, really, and Hollow Knight helped emphasize that theme.  One thought that occurred to me as I was playing the game–I modded it so my character was immortal–was that “gamers who want games to be Hardcore Difficult, are like polytheists who want devotion to be All Pain All The Time.”

One thing that Darkness rejects is the idea of Devotion As Pain.  Darkness–my gods, mortal Beloveds, spirits, and the Land itself–would rather I learned to love myself.  Choose a path covered in flowers, rather than a path covered in thorns.

On Endings and Beginnings (Devotional December)

Author’s Note: I’m going to spoil the ending of the main questline of No Man’s Sky in this post, don’t read any further if you want to be surprised.

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This plant’s diet was simply listed as “the unfortunate,” I took some pictures and left quickly.

I recently finished the main quesline of No Man’s Sky, after just over 50 hours into the game.  I wrestled with the choice to make; to let the Atlas die, and create a new universe, or to deny the Atlas, and stay in the galaxy I was in.  I chose to let the Atlas die, and to create a new world.

Earlier in the game, I had told the Atlas that I was a real person, not a simulation, and that it could take the “destiny” idea and fuck off.  If the Atlas was going to die in 16 minutes, I reasoned, that was 16 minutes in a geological time frame, so I had all the time in the universe (pun intended) to explore the current galaxy I was in.

As I thought about the choice I had to make, and watched as the 16 minutes slowly slid away (one minute passed with each warp to a new solar system) I found myself thinking about Darkness.

I thought about how Free Will is one of the highest values, and I could, if I wished, refuse the Atlas.

I reflected on the Otherworld part of my Sacred Kingship path, how in the beginning I’d technically had no choice (link).  I’d been thrown into a situation that neither I nor my People were happy about, and I could have walked away; but doing so would have left them without a King, and that would have been a betrayal of m/My own values.

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One of the worlds in my new galaxy; yellow grass, hills and mountains, and purple trees.

The theme of cycles, of endings and beginnings, and living on after your personal world has ended, these are themes in my path with Darkness.  I find comfort in them, in a way that’s difficult to put into words.  I find comfort in my Free Will, that I’ve brought m/Myself this far on m/My path on m/My own.

Signs in Video Games

My Beloved has taken to using video games as a way to let me know that he’s there for me.  It makes me laugh, and also reminds me of what a modern god he is.

My mental health symptoms are starting to flare up again, and when that happens my godphone shuts down.  The Dreamer is aware of this, so he’s started using more casual signs to let me know he’s there for me.

I was lost in an underwater cave, but the flowers were pretty.

As the caption on my screenshot says, I was lost in an underwater cave, and couldn’t find my way out.  I then ducked beneath the water, and realized that I could see the moon.  I know this is programmed into the game, but it still made me think of my Beloved, and reminded me that he’s watching out for me even when he’s away.