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Default 1Up - Game Over: How Video Games Handle Death

May 1st, 2008, 20:40
1UP has a discussion of the use of death and dying in video games posted, called Game Over. It deals with how different developers in different genres handle death (and survival) in games. Here's a little bit from the (more or less)RPG angle:
Some developers have come up with creative alternatives to dying -- or even creative reasons to die. In Smith's Thief: Deadly Shadows, protagonist Garrett doesn't die the first time he gets caught by city guards; instead, he wakes up in jail (a concept mimicked in Starbreeze Studios' Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) -- transforming potential failure into a dramatic and fun story event with its own opportunities. Black Isle Studios' 1999 RPG Planescape: Torment famously required its main character to die in order to solve puzzles.
But Smith admits that Thief illustrates the challenges of this approach: How enjoyable (or plausible) is it to go back to jail again and again? How do you justify such alternatives to dying while still maintaining narrative credibility?…
So if alternative approaches exist, as Grossman suggests, is the relative emotional insignificance of death in games simply a function of the relative insignificance of emotion in today's games? "This conclusion creates a bunch of design problems that need to be solved, such as how to resolve the narrative's continuity against the protagonist's demise, how to provide feedback about partial failure and guide the player back toward success, and so on," Smith says. "Some imaginative and effective solutions to these design problems have been invented over the years, but it seems clear to me that these assumptions about goals and death are pretty limiting when considering the entire space of what games can be about."
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May 1st, 2008, 20:40
I'm all for creative alernatives to death and reloading, but there should be some limit to them or some challenge. Bioshock is an example of a game that got it wrong. They should have at least made you spend money to use a vita-chamber or it should be an acheivement to activate one. I kind of worry that "no death, no challenge" is going to become a more common trend.
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