A not-insignificant amount of people believe, wholeheartedly, that Elden Ring does not need a pause button, because the game is not designed to have one if it doesn’t have one in the first place. “The game ain’t for you if you need to mod in an entire pause button,” one insightful Elden Ring player yelled into the ether. “And if you desperately need to pause, just quit out. Ain’t that hard imo.”
Of course, there are also ways to pause Elden Ring aside from just implementing the pause button, a manoeuvre that lets you pause a game in just one second. The same player has suggested several alternatives: you can, for instance, fast travel to the bonfire (the quintessential FromSoftware save point), which will take you more than one second—or use the game’s equivalent of Dark Souls’ homeward bone to return to the last bonfire, which will also take you more than one second—never mind the fact that there isn’t actually one such item in the game. Because “pausing would trivialize the majority of the game and take away a lot of the challenge that comes to them”, I guess you can also just grab your nearest sledgehammer and smash your computer in if all else fails, just in case your favourite FromSoftware game still refuses to pause, like an eternal march across the infinity of the universe. It wasn’t part of the developer’s vision that I could stop to go to the bathroom, I guess.
But the inability to pause Elden Ring isn’t what makes the game difficult; it’s what makes the game unapproachable. Several players have pointed out that if you’re a functioning human being who needs to tend to the occasional urgent matters—take a dump, tend to your crying cat, reply a short message on your phone—you don’t want to nuke your progress that you’ve painstakingly made over the past half an hour because a so-called bonfire isn’t within the vicinity. Having to make several button inputs to pause the game also isn’t a feature, but simply thoughtless game design. Then there’s also another persistent argument that the pause button would also make combat a lot easier since you can pause scum your way through battle, which also fails to take into consideration that this manoeuvre makes any game more miserable to play for anyone, regardless of skill.
There are plenty more loopholes that can be poked at, but it’s clear that such issues about approachability—and by extension, accessibility—have plagued Elden Ring and other FromSoftware games for a long while. There’s a cadre of players who pride themselves on being technically proficient at games, and potentially lowering that bar, even if that means adding a simple pause button, feels unthinkable to them. The result is, unfortunately, a space that’s fiercely antagonistic to dialogues around granting access to a more diverse group of players. Moving beyond discussions that sacralise combat in games above all else is necessary, but so is reading about accessibility and alternative perspectives about games, such as accessibility-focused sites like Can I Play That.
Fortunately for the rest of us, there’s now a mod you can download at Nexus Mod to pause your Elden Ring runs, when you need to attend to real-life concerns and your bodily functions. If you don’t need this mod, that’s fine too. Just go teleport to your nearest bonfire or something—or be massacred by roving wolves—when you need to take a leak.
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