Apr 26

Hollow Knight (2018)

Cocooned in our private crises

 
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Sasha talks about her middle-aged bewilderment from a QTPOC perspective. And video games, kind of
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Hollow Knight
by Team Cherry
Released on Nintendo Switch in 2018

My mother’s beloved Family Radio, soundtrack to my childhood, said salvation hinges on faith alone. When I was six or seven, precocious in my atheism, I called bullshit. If only faith mattered, if you could erase a lifetime of sin with a deathbed conversion, then goodness counted for nothing. The gospels lied. Jesus didn’t care about acts of service or righteous deeds, about altruism or compassion. He only cared about fealty. Those who submit are saved. Everyone else can go to hell.

I told my mom it wasn’t fair to all the non-Christians or the people born before Christ. But there was no arguing with her or Harold Camping.

We all want the good ending. But you’ve gotta earn it. Hollow Knight gives you a choice: a bleak denouement after a middling final boss, or a more satisfying conclusion for defeating a god.

I couldn’t cut it. I had to watch the good ending on YouTube. The game’s final difficulty spike aside, I adored every one of the sixty hours I spent with Hollow Knight: the meandering levels, the understated music, the bleak and obtuse narrative. I loved the design of the decaying world. I loved how lonely it made me feel.

My favorite Metroidvanias fill me with loneliness, like it’s 1 AM and I’m on an empty beach standing in the ankle-deep surf, looking up at the stars and feeling like the depressed black-clad boi I was in 1999, lying on the grass with other stoned teens, each of us cocooned in our own private crises, together in a field off Elkton Road, turn right at the 7-11, then a quick left onto Barksdale to a park that might not exist anymore, where I’d go to look at the stars and be reminded that I am infinitely small.

This existential communion with the universe is the closest thing I’ve got to religion. Despite my mom’s one-time Evangelical bent, my parents are devout Filipino Catholics. I don’t share their faith, but I’m down with the aesthetics. What could be more goth (gother?) than old cathedrals, monuments to divine suffering, with time-worn crucifixes and stained glass windows depicting the Stations of the Cross?

It’s wild to think churches are just empty most of the time. Absent a congregation, they remind me of how lonely ritualized celebration can be, how obligation can strip away the holiness of fellowship, like someone who only sees their siblings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, a nephew’s wedding, a sister-in-law’s funeral.

I don’t think about death—at least not my own— as much as you’d think. My seventy-four year old mother is active and in good health. But she often dwells on the irrefutable fact that she has less time ahead of her than behind. There’s not much I can say in her moments of despair besides, Focus on the present, or something equally sincere but platitudinous. She accepted Jesus Christ into her heart long ago. According to her faith, she’ll be rewarded with paradise, an eternity basking in God’s divine love. She’ll see her mother again. She’ll finally meet her father. It’s the ending she wants. But she’s in no rush to get there.