Play a Hard Game

Spending a 28th birthday beating Isshin the Sword Saint.

I spent my 28th birthday beating Isshin the Sword Saint, the final boss of FromSoftware’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. 14 hours in front of my PlayStation 4, birthday cake barely touched, and the culmination of more than 100 hours of perspective-shifting hardship.

You should know, I don’t say perspective-shifting lightly; Sekiro redefined what I thought I was capable of. As someone who deals with anxiety and a learning disability, I habitually avoid doing things that make me feel uncapable. The first time I picked the game up, I quit within the hour. The fourth time I quit before reaching the first main boss. That time, in particular, I remember scrolling through Reddit looking for stories of other people who gave up, thinking it would provide me comfort after I had quietly ejected the disk, put it back in the case and hid it in my garage so I would not be reminded of my failed attempts.

Call it curiosity, but months later, I found myself behind Wolf again, still anxious about failing but with just enough patience to clear the game’s first major roadblock. 10 more bosses, a used game guide from Amazon, countless hours of trial and error and many, many YouTube “how-to defeat” searches later, I found myself staring down Isshin, the Sword Saint, about to do what I thought I was legitimately incapable of.

But it’s okay. Failing is encouraged because every failure is an opportunity to learn. Sekiro did not teach me that. That is a value I am sure I already knew but had not practiced in a very long time. Somewhere in adulthood, I learned what I was capable of and how to avoid everything else. But by the time I got to my final run against Isshin, I had a mantra, “let’s just try and see what works.” And when the credits rolled, and the game was done, I found myself saying it in real life, reminded of my resilience and more optimistic about my capabilities.

By Vernon Ayiku

Vernon is a writer and TV Producer from Toronto, he enjoys discussing film, music, football, and pop culture. You can find more of his work by following on Twitter and Instagram @VernonAyiku.

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