Hello to all of my non-existant readers. I have been rather slack in my posting of late, but that’s because i’ve been busy doing nothing. It’s a strange thing, being at home with four weeks of time to kill but instead of being bored and writing here, i’ve actually been kept busy doing nothing with my friends that have all travelled back home from university life for the festive period. Now i’m back at Uni, expect some more posts… if you’re lucky.
This post is basically a look at how death in games is a dead idea. Long ago, Mario would only give us so many lives. Once you fell down that pit enough times, that’s it, Game Over. Mario wasn’t the only character to be suffering from real world mechanics. Games since their beginning have always been using the Death mechanic as a way to say to the player “Sorry, you really do need to get better at this”. However, in recent times, that mechanic is being handled very differently.
Death in games actually brings about alot of narrative anomalies. When Mario dies, you just get up from that last check point and have another go and no one in that world gives a damn. However, when Bowser dies, he doesn’t get given the Kiss of Life to have another go. It’s a flawed mechanic in that respect, but it still does it’s job in letting the player know that they’re getting it wrong somewhere.
Alot of recent developers have spotted this problem and now games such as Prince of Persia and Fable II have done away with that annoyingly innevitable phase of life. In fact; Prince of Persia in particular, they have just streamlined the death mechanic. Although you don’t die in PoP, you do still feel that same sense of failure when you do “die”. When you fall, you get picked up again and you have to start again from that first ledge. This is a case of losing time. These newer mechanics still bring about that same feeling of failure, as when it comes to it, you will be more annoyed by the loss of invested time than a little counter going down.
And that’s all that death is for. With a limited period of time on this planet, time is ultimately more precious than Mario’s life count. Losing time to a slight lack of concentration is infinately more annoying. The mechanics used in PoP help to also keep the narrative consistent aswell. So why do games still use life counters?
I can’t see the games industry ever being void of life counters. Players identify them as a game mechanic and maybe they make a game harder. Rather than trying the same bit over and over, you only have 3 shots at it. This is certainly a true perception as many people have criticised PoP and Fable 2 as being “too easy” (not for the fact that both games are rather generous in rewarding the player) because you can’t “die”. I guess my point is that it’s not about dying, it’s about the time lost. This is ultimately what failure in a game comes down to; so instead of criticising these games for no death, we should be applauding the game designers for being ingenuitive for thinking of new ways to keep the narrative consistent and for thinking of new ways to create the same time investment loss feeling that death traditionally brings about.
(I wrote half of this post a short while ago and just finished it now. Sorry for it being shit lol)