Over at rockpapershotgun today, John Walker has a post on wanting to be immortal. Immortal in a game, that is.

That’s right, he wants his character to go through a game in what can only be called “god mode”. Naturally, one thinks immediately of Bioshock, but in that one, you could die. You simply came right back from one of the resurrection chambers.

At first glance, it seems crazy to want invincibility. After all, in Bioshock, combat wasn’t much of a real challenge. You could keep coming back and take out anything with just a wrench. Time-consuming, but possible, because death had no meaning beyond momentary annoyance.

However, what John wants is a game designed with challenges to take the place of the inevitable die/restore mechanism, however it’s implemented. He isn’t specific on what such a challenge could be, sidestepping the matter and leaving that up to game designers. Clever move, John ;)

He wants more than just rambling through a FPS or RPG in god mode. These usually aren’t created with “no character death” in mind. God mode can be fun for awhile, but there certainly isn’t any challenge with it.

We’ve looked at death in games before, most recently with Learned Your Lesson?. There I examined dying as a learning experience through failure. And personally, I don’t die too often in games. That’s with RPGs, of course; things may be different in shooters.

But we’re trying here to eliminate character death as a feature. It’s certainly possible to have other unpleasant things happen to your character. There really are “fates worse than death”. But would we want them?

Suppose a fight goes poorly, but instead of dying, your character comes out of it crippled for life. Say, his left arm doesn’t function very well any more. Or maybe it’s a leg. Yeah, it sure would be a challenge to continue, but would it be fun?

So what could replace the possibility of death? If we consider just the RPG, where does that leave combat? Would there even be any point to having fights, when the player knows that death is impossible? “Hah, foolish dragon! I will slay you with my trusty rusty dagger! You don’t have a chance!”

So is there a way of doing it? I can’t see one myself. How could combat – the mainstay of RPGs – be in any way interesting when death is not a factor? Would “maimed/scarred for life” be a better solution? What kind of challenge can you offer to an immortal?

I Want to Live Forever on rockpapershotgun