Death and Gaming: Yurt the Silent Chief in Demon’s Souls

Demons Souls Yurt

*Note: if you have not encountered Yurt the Silent Chief in Demon’s Souls, or if you do not know what his purpose in the game is, read this article at your own risk.

 

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so” –John Donne

 

We all die, and in video games, we all die a lot. It’s a given. But what if you knew exactly when you were going to die? How you were going to die? Who was going to kill you? Inevitable, mysterious death suddenly becomes tangible, something to rage and struggle against rather than resign oneself to.

I had survived a flurry of crossbow bolts, a teleporting sorceress, a cult of religious fanatics and a number of agile gargoyles. It was the longest time I had ever spent in a physical body form in Demon’s Souls. Those messages glowing on the ground that read “I’ve been in spirit form for so long…” had made so much sense—I had even bemoaned my similar fate to others—but now I had left the dead behind. I was reborn.

Demon's Souls Gargoyle

I approached a seemingly dead end in my travel, a broken bridge that dropped down to a circular platform below. A eerie trail of multicolored lights pointed towards a cage containing a character I recognized from the loading screens—Yurt, the Silent Chief. I did what I always did while playing Demon’s Souls: I consulted the wiki.

 

I quickly discovered that Yurt, upon his rescue, would return to the game’s hub, the Nexus, and murder everyone one by one. The vendors, the blacksmiths, the spell and miracle trainers would all be slaughtered, and I had a chance to stop it. All I had to do was kill Yurt before he reached safety. I had bested Death. For the first time, in a game that revolved around the physical realm and the hereafter, I had defeated the ultimate enemy.

 

I stabbed the newly freed assassin in the back and kicked him off the platform into the nothingness. And then I had a realization. All this time I had spent hating death, dreading every moment that my health bar slipped to zero, and I had missed the whole point. Death had become inconsequential to me. “I’ve been in spirit form so long” that it no longer mattered. I had grown accustomed to death—the exact opposite lesson Demon’s Souls hopes to teach.

 

Demon's Souls soldier

Death is a recurring theme throughout Demon's Souls

 

Yurt was meant to be the great teacher. He was meant to show the players the consequence of death in a game that, like so many others, diminishes the absolution of death into a respawn. I had saved so many back in the Nexus from a fate that wasn’t as frivolous as my own relationship with Death. If I hadn’t known about Yurt’s true nature, I would have felt pain, loss and hardship.

 

When I reached the end of the level and was promptly slain by the fast-moving Maneater demons, I took a moment and thanked the game for giving me another chance. It’s not every day that Death can be so forgiving.

 

Written by Neutrally Chaotic

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