We’ve all died at some point. Hit by a brown sedan while crossing the street, shot in the face by a drug dealer with bad skin, fell into a lava pit, crushed by a rampaging wild horse, vital organs consumed by a skinless horror, dropped out of a jet in mid-air, stabbed through the heart by a giant spider, pulled through a portal to hell, legs blown to pieces by a sticky grenade, pecked to death at the beak of an angry chicken, head cut off by a rampaging yokel or hammered into a fine paste by a robot that is also a tank. These are all bad.
Death is a nasty, permanent, mood-killer in the real world. It is literally the last thing you will ever do. It’s the end of the movie, the final note in the symphony and the only certainty in a short, human life. Silent oblivion.
But while death remains the grand finale of life - until our eventual absorption into the robot overnet - things are all messed up in the gaming world. Death happens in the middle, an inconvenient obstacle or minor setback on the road to greater things. There is a very good chance you will die in most videogames, and usually more than once. And so death becomes a powerful tool in the developer arsenal, allowing gamers to experience something generally reserved for people unable to report back. It’s a tool often misused and overlooked, however. Most games currently use death as a measure of skill, as in: you died because you suck, try harder.... read more