Elden Ring’s difficult bosses and challenging enemies can get very frustrating, which is why it's extra important to “try fingers but hole.” Leaving silly messages in a blood smear on the ground has become the new meta thanks to the laughs and the heals it offers along the way.
Like Dark Souls before it, Elden Ring incorporates a “Message” system that lets players leave notes for each other that they can “appraise” (a.k.a., rate). Appraisals seem designed to rate and boost helpful hints and other pieces of legitimate advice. However, more often than not, players instead use the system to applaud pranks, memes, and shitposts.
Messaging templates have a limited selection of words to choose from to construct a sentence. Many offer a starting word like “blank ahead” or “try blank,” and then give the option to select a few words relevant to the game like chest, passage, and horse. As a result, many messages are simple sentences like “behold, dog” or “try jumping” (typically down to your death). There’s also a lot of “try rear and thrust” or “if only I had a giant pickle” to be found in the Lands Between.
Meme-ing with messages has been a tradition since the first Dark Souls. If someone appraises your message, then it heals you — sometimes when you need it most. So it pays to be funny in an otherwise bloodstained, monster-infested world where death is frequent. In fact, the messages don’t even have to be good. Disliking a message still heals the writer, so like any online content, it’s all about engagement. Hate clicks are still clicks. Write provocative material to hook a reader into rating your message, and you’ve got some major buffs headed your way.
Many players have shared their Pulitzer-worthy shitposts over social media, thanking the flow of memes for healing them through a boss fight.
“Love that Elden Ring messages that pop off heal you,” one person wrote. “Like yeah I called a tortoise a dog 20 hours ago and now I have gained actual immortality.”
Those playing Elden Ring will likely get the reference. Since launch, players have been calling animals of all kinds “dogs,” even though they are clearly not dogs. It's unclear who started the trend, but it spread through the game (especially the starting areas) like wildfire. People apparently find it hilarious to leave messages like “behold, dog!” in front of tortoises, horses, donkeys, and basically any animal that won’t kill you. Ironically, there aren’t any actual dogs in Elden Ring, unless you count the wolfish bosses.
Calling animals “dogs” isn’t the only way to gain functional immortality, either. One player reported that “behold, grass!” saved them a couple of times. Another said the same for “edge lord.” Still, the most popular healing incantations seem to be sentences mentioning “dog” or “finger but hole.” One writer even claimed that she received four appraisals in the span of one minute from her dog messages.
Players who don’t enjoy Elden Ring’s silliest system can always play offline for a more dog-free experience where nobody talks about putting their fingers in their nether regions. However, those laughing along are free to enjoy the benefits.
“It's a simple system, but we expect that it will lead to new ways to play.”
In a Famitsu interview about Elden Ring, Hidetaka Miyazaki said he thought of Messages as a “simple system” that could lead to “new ways to play.”
“Phantoms, bloodstains, and messages were always left behind by some nameless player out of the masses, but by using groups this information will sort of belong to players you know,” he told Famitsu (via Reddit translation). “Or by knowing that it will be used by those players, there may be some new meaning or emotion attached to it, that is our aim.”
Apparently, that new meaning is middle school humor in a dark fantasy setting. If you want to join the jokesters, leave a message. Or, if you just need the heals, leave a message. Not everyone writes messages, especially if they don’t think of a funny joke right away or don’t want to use materials to make one. Like Miyazaki and his team intended, it’s just another new way to play.