Dark Souls is one of those video games that really divides players. A ton of digital ink has been thrown at justifying the punishing difficulty of From Software’s 2011 cult hit, and whether you love it or hate it, it’s safe to say that you yourself have thrown countless hours into conquering it.
But for the precious few who brave the difficulty level, Dark Souls is a hell of a lot more than “that game that made me swear off games forever.” Despite its minimalist plot, the world of Dark Souls is a rich, living thing. If the game is truly just meant to be experienced … to play and to be played … then the vibrant, dedicated community of Dark Souls fans are its prophets.
Call it obsession. I call it commitment, but I’m biased. I love Dark Souls.
The Dark Souls community is this concept we call “social” at its very finest. It’s practically a secret society of collaborative knowledge and speculation. A hive-mind dedicated to the exploration and understanding of Lordran, the significance of the seemingly insignificant, and the curation of carefully and strategically engineered character builds.
But I’m beginning to wander.
There are some highly respected pundits within the Dark Souls community. Most of them offer advice on builds, weapons and strategies, but far more interesting and engrossing is the speculation regarding the plot and the world of the game that many of them dabble in.
Among them is Michael, known by his 114,000 YouTube followers as “VaatiVidya.” He’s a 21-year-old Australian college student who does general maintenance and gardening part-time at a retirement village in New South Wales, where he lives.
But to the Dark Souls community, Vaati is one of the most creative and entertaining speculative pundits around. Where others have spent countless hours of video attempting to parse the lore of Dark Souls, Vaati focuses on the cast of characters that populate the game, telling emotional stories about NPCs you might not have taken a second look at while you were trying to survive Sen’s Fortress or Anor Londo.
We talked to Michael, aka “Vaati” about the process behind his videos, Dark Souls theology, and the future of his “Prepare to Cry” series when Dark Souls II comes out next year.
SocialNewsDaily’s Interview With VaatiVidya:
SocialNewsDaily: So, how did you get started with YouTube videos?
VaatiVidya: I probably got started the same way everyone else on YouTube does: slowly.
It started with an admiration of a few YouTubers, which developed into a desire to make content. I started thinking critically about the content creators I watched, trying to pinpoint what made them popular with the audience they were marketing to. And for a long time, that’s all I could do! People forget about the barriers to starting on YouTube. You have to invest in a good microphone, a capture device, editing software hardware – all of which can cost you upwards of $500, depending on what you have already. And you’re buying these things with absolutely no guarantee that people will even watch your videos!
So I decided to start when Dark Souls came to PC, with FRAPS to record gameplay, Windows Movie Maker to edit and a crappy headset to record audio. I was really into Dark Souls at the time, and I recognized it as a title with a lot of potential for YouTube! There were things I wanted to do that no one else was doing, or things that I thought I could do better.
So my first proper series was “Prepare to Cry,” where I focused on the story behind characters in Dark Souls. I think it was popular because the videos were regular, took longer to make, had a recognisable title and focused on great characters, rather than the lore of the world itself.
I built around that series, and that’s how I got to where I am today!
SND: Where do you get your ideas for your lore discussions in the “Prepare to Cry” series?
Vaati: Most of my ideas come from playing the game, obviously. But many develop from participation in the community. For example, Dark Souls inspires so much debate about the lore, so a lot of my lore knowledge came while arguing with others on anonymous imageboards and forums.
Popular theories about the lore exist now, but when I started making videos a year ago there was a lot less known. People had less of an idea of what was going on, so discussing and posting theories with others was when I started to think that someone should turn these theories into videos – filling in the gaps with your own ideas was just so much fun.
Since popular theories about the lore have been pretty much established at this point, I base my videos around things I think subscribers would be interested in. Namely Dark Souls 2 news, new ways to play the game, etc.
SND: About how long does it take to make each video, and do you do the thumbnail art yourself?
Vaati: It depends. When I started, a “Prepare to Cry” video would easily take me [more than] 10 hours. I had to write the script, collect appropriate gameplay, narrate and then fit everything together with the abomination that is Windows Movie Maker. Over time you improve. Nowadays the same video would take less than half the time. I’m better at writing, narrating, and editing. Also, gathering gameplay is much faster because I have programs that allow me to teleport to the appropriate part of the game, rather than playing through the entire game for one clip.
I’d say videos take about 3-7 hours on average, nowadays.
I definitely don’t do the artwork in my thumbnails myself! I commission the important thumbnails and try to support the artists who allow me to use their existing work. The two artists who have helped me out the most are Carson-Drew-It and Kalis de Vals. They both have a very distinctive style, which I think is important for recognition on YouTube.
SND: Do you get a lot of negative comments?
Vaati: Not really. You’re always going to get a bit of mindless hate on YouTube, but in my case it’s outweighed by overwhelming positive support so I think it’s petty to complain or censor. The best negative comments are constructive criticism, which are comments I really valued when I first started on YouTube. I don’t expect everyone to like what I make, but that’s not going to affect my vision.
SND: What’s the story behind the name “Vaati?”
Vaati: Vaati is a character from The Legend of Zelda. I’ve just always used variations of the name “Vaati” as my internet alias. The “Vidya” part of my YouTube name is slang for “video games,” so I just combined the two because I thought it sounded decent!
SND: Right I knew that. Anyway. You do mods, you do comedic shorts, you do news, and you do lore. Which topic is your most favorite to work on? Which series has the most traction?
Vaati: I get the most out of working on the lore, so I’d have to say that. It’s the topic where I have the most creative freedom when writing, and sometimes you get so caught up in a good story that you just can’t wait for the video to be completed. I think my lore videos have the most traction on YouTube because they’re emotional stories about great characters.
It’s worth mentioning comedic shorts as well though. Content that makes people laugh is probably the most rewarding, and working on funny videos is a really fun process. Difficult for me to do regularly, though! Coming up with original, funny concepts can be difficult.
SND: Are there any more “Things We Don’t Know About Dark Souls?”
Vaati: I think it’s fair to say that there’s nothing major we don’t know! Every inch of the game has been pretty much explored, which was helped by the tools that came along with the PC version.
If there’s anything new to learn, it will be from cut content that remains in the games files, or a tidbit about the lore that will make more sense if Dark Souls 2 clears something up!
SND: I know you played the Dark Souls 2 beta, and seemed pretty satisfied. Are you worried at all about speculation that Dark Souls 2 will be a watered-down version of the first game?
Vaati: I’m not worried at all. There were fears at the beginning of the year when one of the lead developers mentioned the game would be more accessible, but this comment was exaggerated way too much. If anything, the game will be a bit easier for new players to get into, but will retain its depth and difficulty. Everything we’ve seen so far indicates that the game will be a true sequel in all essential regards.
Vaati: There are definitely many people in the Dark Souls community worth mentioning! I think everyone has different talents, and everyone contributes something unique. EpicNameBro is great at speculation, and I agree with most of what he says because he has logical reasoning behind it. But even if I didn’t agree, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that!
You fill in the gaps in Dark Souls with your own theories, and that’s what makes it so great. My videos are my own sensationalist interpretation and I encourage people to come up with their own idea of what the story means to them.
SND: What’s your favorite build/covenant in Dark Souls (without modding)?
Vaati: Difficult question! I’d have to say my favourite build is a dexterity/intelligence build that uses the barbed straight sword and the lifehunt scythe.
I love the concept of the Darkmoon covenant, where you punish the invaders of other worlds. It’s a shame it doesn’t get as much action online these days …
SND: Which ending do you think is the “good” ending, and why?
Vaati: I have a video on the topic [ed. note: up top] which explains my thoughts in much more depth, but overall I think that both endings lead towards the same result in the end, since the flame will always fade. I think the better ending is to offer yourself as fuel, even though you’re forestalling the inevitable. At least you buy the world a bit more time.
SND: Which supporting character in Dark Souls is your favorite, and why?
Vaati: Another difficult question. I would have to say Solaire. From created a really unique character! A jolly, friendly character with a determination that shines through in every location you meet him.
In my opinion he has the best endings. Both have to do with him finding a light or a sun, but in one he goes tragically insane and in the other he becomes a light for the world like I imagine he would have wanted. Fitting how the only happy ending in Dark Souls involves you burning for eternity.
SND: I’ve noticed that for “Prepare to Cry,” you’ve moved on to Demon’s Souls lore. I’m assuming it’s because you ran out of ideas for Dark Souls! Will there be any more Dark Souls lore videos? Are you just waiting for Dark Souls 2 to come out so you can move on to lore videos for that game?
Vaati: There are a few more minor Dark Souls characters I’d like to cover, but I don’t want to cover them just for the sake of covering them. I’d rather tell a good story, and I moved on to Demon’s Souls because there were a lot of fresh characters to cover! I can’t wait for Dark Souls 2 to come out so I can cover it.
SND: Speaking of Demon’s Souls lore videos, are you going to make one about fan-favorites Garl Vinland and Maiden Astrea anytime soon?
Vaati: The end of my most recent Demon’s Souls lore video alludes to them 😉
It’s one of the most touching stories across both Souls games, and I’m looking forward to doing a good job with it.
SND: You mentioned that you want to make your content more professional as time moves on … could you elaborate on that?
Vaati: I think that once you’ve done YouTube for a while it’s easy to become complacent, especially if you have a lot of people telling you that you do a good job. If you think about it, a lot of popular uploaders eventually tend towards content that’s easier to produce, but wasn’t what made them popular in the first place. I’m sure readers can think of a few personal examples.
So by “more professional” I mean trying to always improve my editing or narration, maybe even to the point where I can start creating content for companies or publishers as well.
Also, we’re always looking to do more YouTube Profiles, so if you have a favorite under-sung content creator on YouTube, drop me a line on Twitter and we’ll reach out.