I dodged the golden foe’s thrust. His crackling weapon pierced the spot I had occupied only seconds before. Lighting bled from the spear, twisting and popping and reaching angrily toward me. I instinctively backed away. His partner, something of a maladjusted Buddah with a penchant for gargantuan hammers, menacingly dashed my way. I rolled too late and found myself dwarfed by his frame. A soul-crushing swing was all it took to end our little dance.

I squeezed the controller tightly as my armored pyromancer rose from the bonfire. I twisted with as much force as I could muster, thinking for some reason a broken controller would allay my anger. If my girlfriend hadn’t been sleeping in the bed next to me, I would have shouted. I peered over at the alarm clock. People can function on two hours of sleep, right?

Anor Londo, a hauntingly beautiful city that once filled me with fear, was now merely a repetitive, cyclical afterthought. Pull the lever, wait for the platform, ascend the stairs, crank the handle, ride the lift, dodge the huge knights, dodge the other set of huge knights, take care not to be impaled by a man-sized arrow, traverse the white light. It was all muscle memory at this point. A few minutes of tedium between moments of intense agony.

I was again flattened beneath the mass of steel. Then I was electrocuted. And electrocuted again. Then the game froze after I had eliminated one of them. I was crushed again. Then once more. And again. For the first time in nearly fifty hours, I contemplated leaving Lordran behind for good.

YOU HAVE MY SWORD 

As I spawned I took a defeated seat at the fire. Translucent phantoms cropped up around me. Fellow players, my brothers and sisters, off on their own journeys.

Please let me talk to you. I just… want to know if you feel the way I do.

Desperation sunk in as I sat and stared, quietly perusing my belongings in search of some sort of aid, something I had overlooked. I discovered a humanity item that I’d long ago earned, so I reclaimed my prize and used it to recover my human form. I’d had no luck as a human the other times, so this attempt seemed a last desperate plea for help. I stood up and turned around for my usual path, stupidly sleepy but equally motivated. Before long, a peculiar white emblem confronted me.

Press X to summon NightyKnight9. Or maybe it was KnightyNight9. Or 99. Something like that.   

So I did. Within a minute, a gray, Havel-armored warrior appeared. He bowed. I bowed, too. And we set off toward my two murderers, past the platform and the stairs and the knights, who now seemed to trail feebly behind us. As I stepped through the cloudy gate, he followed.

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING

We attacked the skinny one first. My fiery sword steadily chipped away at his life. NightyKnight9 slowly swung a massive axe, missing most of the time but causing devastating damage when he connected. Our foe’s lighting spear pierced my comrade, and I attacked aggressively to draw him away from my… friend. Yes, friend was the appropriate word.

My blade cut deep. The enemy fell and disintegrated into a puff of white particles, leaving only a tiny ring.

The two of us turned to Buddah, who had just inherited his fallen partner’s lightning powers. He swung at us violently with an electrified mass of metal, vying for vengeance. He dashed and the hammer contacted NightyKnight9, chopping his wellness down to a mere sliver. A second inhumanly fast swing finished the job. My friend went limp and fell.

I had killed his friend, now he had killed mine.

The ensuing battle was numb. Cold. I wanted to say thank you. I wanted to tell NightyKnight9 how, even without being here to finish the job, he’d helped me retain enough spells and healing flasks to stand a solid chance against the other guy. I wanted to tell him how I’d died twenty times, and I wanted to ask him how many times he’d attempted this fight. I wanted to recount past battles and swap secrets. I needed to explain to this stranger how his presence compelled me to keep going.

Buddah fell. I should have been happy.