In the era of remakes and reboots, I revisited one of my older articles and decided it needed a rewrite. So, equipped with new knowledge and experience, on the 3rd anniversary of the original article, here is my new take on Insight: The Curse of Knowledge.
It all started when I discovered about this interesting mechanic in Bloodborne. Bloodborne is an unforgiving action role playing game set in a decrepit Gothic, Victorian-era–inspired city called Yharnam, whose inhabitants are afflicted with a blood-borne disease, which transforms the residents into horrific beasts.
Being a game from the Japanese game developer, "From Software", it did not have the straightforward linear storytelling. You had to unravel the city's mysteries and understand what had happened from the environment, the occasional messages in the world and the description of items all while fighting beasts and cosmic beings.
I set out on my journey through Central Yharnam and made my way through the world with a little help here and there. The first challenge (not counting making my way across the town without dying) came when I tried to cross a bridge to the Cathedral Ward. My progress was thwarted by the Cleric Beast. This was the first boss I encountered in the game and still trying to get a grip of the mechanics, I was easily defeated.
However, in my defeat, I was rewarded with Insight. With Insight, you gain knowledge, you starting seeing the unseen. I could now interact with the inanimate doll in the Hunter's Dream (the place where you are sent to after you die in the game), which had come to life.
Knowledge changes the way we see the world
You cannot interact with the doll unless you have at least 1 Insight. At that time, I did not understand the significance of Insight beyond this.
I persisted through and defeated the Cleric Beast and was rewarded with some more Insight. It seemed taking down bosses gave me Insight, both literally and figuratively. I learned and understood more about the world, and I made my way forward slowly and steadily.
Each area I entered I encountered different types of enemies. One of the prominent ones are the Church Doctors, who roam the Cathedral Ward, with a staff on one hand and a lantern on the other. They seemed like a standard Bloodborne enemy, albeit challenging ones. You would not want to be caught at the tail end of their staff.
I challenged other bosses and started racking up Insight. I learned that it can be used as currency to get outfits or alternatively to summon help from NPCs and other players. Insight was a scarce resource and I had to be smart in my use of it. So, I started being cautious with it as I believed I would need it for later use (esp. to summon help).
At around 15 Insight, the world changed. I found that the Church Doctors were not just carrying an ordinary lantern, but one covered with eyeballs.
And then at 40 Insight, I found lurking on the Cathedral of the Cathedral Ward this huge creepy looking multi-legged monster. These creatures were called Amygdala. I couldn't believe what was lurking unseen all this time because I did not have enough Insight.
Does it even exist if we do not have knowledge about it?
When I saw the Cathedral for the first time, I did not have enough Insight for seeing the Amygdala. Yet it was always there.
It is interesting to note that the developers chose to name this monster Amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for learning and organizing fear responses. The shape of Amygdala's head roughly corresponds with the shape of this region in the brain. And ironically, the creature strikes fear in us and puts the player in a Frenzy if caught in its grips.
With Insight, the game started challenging me by making the enemies tougher. Enemies had new move sets with higher insight. This further intrigued me. Did my new knowledge give me the ability to see moves they already used to make or did the enemies realize I was more aware?
Insight in the Real World
"From Software" had managed to quantify knowledge into a number and further implemented a system, where the more you know, the more dangerous it will be. Ignorance keeps you safe (supposedly, coz with lesser Insight you are more likely to succumb to Beasthood in the game). This transformation of a real world effect and human nature into the game was radical. When I realized this, I looked at how I perceived the world.
With ignorance, we are not aware of the reality of the world. I remember my first encounter with death when I was 9 years old through the passing of my grandma. One day she was there and the next she was no more. I felt the finality and inevitability of it and found myself burdened with the knowledge. This life is finite! Until then, everything seemed eternal.
It is strange but if you try to recollect your ignorance, you will find a time of before and a time of after. But the reality will always seem so absolute. It seems that once we learn about something, it fills the gaps of ignorance in the past as well. At times, it seems like it did not exist until we learned about it. When you look through the memory, it seems to be always there, even though you did not see it or know about it in the first place.
The more we learn, the more our world view expands, the more we see around us. If we tend to ignore that which we can't understand, our vision blocks it out. Essentially, if we ignore Insight, we lose knowledge. In the end, its a choice we have to make.
I still have to make my way through the world of Bloodborne but at times, I am afraid of what more challenges lay ahead, and what more knowledge will bring. I do hear that more Insight will make the game more challenging and equally more rewarding. Isn't that how life is?
In reality, knowledge can indeed be a double-edged sword. It can open our eyes to the wonders of the world, but it can also expose us to its harshness. Ultimately, how we choose to engage with knowledge and its impact on our perception is in our hands. We can seek to embrace knowledge and its challenges, or find comfort in a state of relative ignorance. It's a balance we must strike in our own way.
A special thanks to Tidy Mice for allowing me to use her images. You can follow her on twitter: @TidyMice and if you want to check out some more of her Bloodborne shots, you can check her out on Flickr