A few days back, I asked Would You Mind Dying? in a game, so long as your mission was accomplished by doing so. Now there’s an article on The Guardian (U.K. newspaper) site about the other side.

The other side being, “Why Do We Have To Die?” (in games, that is!). Kate Bevan explores the issue, but doesn’t come up with any specific answers of her own.

She does, however, mention what some gamers believe, namely, that “Dying gives a game meaning”, which is further defined by Markus Montola who says: “You have a motivation – to avoid being annoyed by dying. Motivation is what makes the game meaningful.”

Well, I can certainly agree that death is annoying, and something to be avoided. But does that make a game “meaningful”? Possibly in a shooter, which is all about avoiding death while dealing it out yourself.

Peter Molyneux thinks designers should take a cue from Hollywood (I think they’ve done too much of that already). Heroes in films absorb enough punishment to lay low an army, yet come back for more and win at the end.

In any fight, our characters take punishment, too. Of course, unlike the movie heroes, ours could indeed bite the dust. A bite that lasts until the next reload.

So why should we have to die at all then? Possibly because we’ve been used to it from the beginning of gaming. As Montola points out, “death” has been with us from the earliest arcades.

It certainly wouldn’t do to have death be final. There is a set of players that likes the “ironman” mode in some games, where, if your character dies, it really is “game over, man”. No question, that gives playing a real tension, and a definite satisfaction in making it through.

On the other hand, not making it through can lead to quite different feelings. I know this very well, having played Diablo 2 on “hardcore”, and watched in horror as my Necromancer died at the end of Act III, just before the big fight with Mephisto. I leave my thoughts (and screams) to your imagination ;)

It would not be at all fun if every game were “ironman”, and few would be willing to play if it meant starting from the very beginning any time your character died.

We have looked at some alternatives before, in Death And The CRPG. My conclusion there was that, on the whole, we’re better off with the death/restore system, “because save/restore is our last defense against designers who don’t do it right, and that’s something I don’t want to lose.”

I haven’t changed my mind since then, either. Anyway, check out the article and see what you think.

Why Do We Have To Die? on The Guardian