The easiest and hardest part about writing about Bloodborne is while there are so many topics which are intimately familiar to me. The clear H.P. Lovecraft comparisons, strong ties to various works of horror to nihilistic psychology, it’s ridiculously difficult for me to articulate about just one element but something I noticed on the several occasions I have played the game is this; it is a deliberate deconstruction and annihilation of the concept of the human myth and it’s place in our culture. To be frank with you, I haven’t the foggiest where this drabble is going to go, and while I will try my darnedest not to go off on too many a tangent, keep in mind this is more a less a string of consciousness made digital word as opposed to anything remotely resembling academic thought.
Simply put, Bloodborne is a perverse inversion of our exclusively human beliefs and values, things which have been a part of our culture and our psychology since we learned the ability to think beyond what we could merely see. However, it does not do so by employing the strictly strange to show this, quite the contrary, Bloodborne remorselessly presents us all with a knowledge we all know, but performed in a sacrilegious context which lays bare just how fragile our sense of belonging and existence truly is. Although it is tempting to strictly adhere to comparing these notions from the relatively modern source of Lovecraft, let’s keep in mind the concept of existential crisis, both interior and exterior, have always been a part of the human condition before some stringy, socially awkward bigoted racist was a gleam in his progenitors’ eye.
Like it or not, we are a selfish species; most if not all of what we have done has been to preserve our livelihoods with all over concerns being secondary, even tertiary. We consume and reproduce in an endless cycle with little forethought for the consequences our collective and generational actions will have on our world, despite the fact the world and the universe it exists within is a greater entity than we will ever be. In the broad scheme of things, all of us, no matter how powerful or profitable we are, will mean less than nothing. When we die, the world and universe will continue, altered in the formers’ case to be sure, but save for those who love us, we are not mourned or given an immortal legacy.
We will never become deified by anyone beyond those who we share our lives with because we are only temporary beings. In the case of Bloodborne, the nebulous belief of immortal legacy and godhood is something humans were never meant for, and in the pursuit of changing such a dynamic for our betterment, instead, we end up denigrating further as opposed to flourishing. For the duration of the game, while playing as the Hunter, you make the gruesome discovery that the residents of Yharnam have collectively gone mad and have descended rapidly into becoming blood-thirsty beasts, where a transmorphic event has taken place in their bodies, minds and souls.
Quite simply, their forebears believed humanity could ascend to meet the Great Ones eye to eye. Scholars attempted to bridge the two races through research and experimentation, all achieving disastrous results, all of which being imperfect, horrendous and abhorrent hence the reason for the Hunter. The Hunter is the tool used to hunt down those who relinquished their humanity in favor of communing with the Great Ones, eliminating the primitive element, but as it becomes apparent, this cycle never ends. As long as humans have the aspiration and the entitlement to go beyond what they are worth, the hunt never ends. This desire in addition to the consumption of the Paleblood (which enables you to look past the veil at what truly lurks in the shadows of Yharnam) is what reverts humanity to it’s most base instincts, stripping away logic, morality and any mores of societal norms and always results in certain tragedy.
The Paleblood goes beyond exposing a persons’ Jungian Shadow, it transforms that person into the Jungian Shadow. In this sense, the story line pushes forward the truth that despite everything we see and read, despite everything we vow to never do, one way or another, the temptation to give in is greater than anything. This almost suicidal drive to become the animal is the religion of humanity, it’s where we came from, it’s where we could potentially go because it is all too easy for us to give in at the end.
The Hunter, at least to me, represents the figurative Hero in Joseph Campbell’s seminal The Hero’s Journey, a distinctly humanistic trait which shows up constantly in stories because it appeals to our sense of self worth and hope. Below I’ve included the overview of this, however, one of the most recognisable examples of this can be seen in the story arc of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy or the myth of King Arthur which is the epitome of a classic quest of the hero in any story;
1. The Ordinary World: The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. The hero-in-potential is shown to be torn in various directions due to circumstances, personal dilemmas and other outside forces beyond their control.
2. The Call To Adventure: Something disrupts the current status quo, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within the person’s existence, so the they must be introduced to the genesis of change.
3. Refusal of The Call: The hero feels the understandable human fear of the unknown and attempts to shirk the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and treachery ahead.
4. Meeting The Mentor: The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of who gives him or her the primary training, equipment, and/or crucial advice that will help on the journey. In some cases, the hero will find that mentorship within themselves through realising their own true sense of resolve.
5. Crossing the Threshold: At the conclusion of the First Act the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and enters a new world, the Special World, filled with unknown challenges, labors and dangers.
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: The hero’s innate strength and/or intelligence is tested and soughts out allegiances in the Special World.
7. Approach: The hero and new found allies formally prepare and forge a sense of unity for the major challenge in the Special World.
8. The Ordeal: Near the middle or the end of Act Two, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear which they have long been running away from. Death, literal or figurative of either self or their traveling party occurs which fully pushes the hero to their absolute limits.
9. The Reward: The hero earns the treasure by facing death or something akin to it. There may be a temporary cause to celebrate, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again and the hero knows better not to rest upon their laurels.
10. The Road Back: About three-fourths of the way through Act Three, the hero is resolute to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought back to their home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission which can last the entire remainder of the story.
11. The Resurrection: At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last monumental sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and intimately complete level.
12. The Return: The hero makes an assured return to home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the reward that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed and has a greater awareness of who they are, what they can do, and a willingness to help future heroes, thus the cycle continues.
Bearing that in mind in addition what I mentioned earlier about the rift between humanity and the gods, I want you to think of the reverse when it comes to the Hunter’s journey in Bloodborne and you will find that Bloodborne is the direct antithesis to Campbell’s celebrated narrative theorem. Despite the fact the game is indeed an RPG while permits you to customize your character’s appearance, attitude, skills, clothes and weaponry, this initial feeling of empowerment is actually a cruel joke which gradually rubs itself in your face when you realise that most if not all of what you have done has been not for the benefit of humanity, but for the Great Ones.
As the Hunter gathers further knowledge and insight about the curse of Yharnam, they start to see the Great Ones and realise every movement they have made has been dispassionately scrutinised. The Great Ones do not concern themselves with the affairs of humanity, instead they observe, watch us as we destroy themselves in the senseless, compulsive pursuit of something they will never have. Witnessing this reminds you as the player that no matter how well you have performed in-game, how many times you have needed to restart an area, regardless of your upgrades, pimped-out wardrobe and enhanced weaponry, is of absolutely no significance in the story, specifically the universe in which the Hunter exists.
Nothing, not a single deed of what you have done, not an iota of your suffering and self-determination matters.
Your Hero’s Journey proves fruitless and utterly inconsequential which in turn cements home the notion that anything human, anything of which has been our thought, our will and our creation, no matter how powerful we may see it as, has absolutely no place beyond our own ego because it is only human. ONLY human. This nonchalant act of perversion against our expectations is the brilliance in the narrative of Bloodborne; it is not interested in giving you yet another optimistic boost about yourself or the human race. It pummels your fragile ego and awareness into oblivion because that is, at least in this universe, where we are all bound and cursed to belong.