Death. It’s something most of us don’t fancy the idea of. But in the world of virtual reality, the concept of death can be massively skewed. Coming back to life infinitely means dying kind of loses its edge, letting you laugh in the face of the virtual Grim Reaper.
Guest writer Liam from 10lb Gamer looks at whether or not that’s a good thing. Are you ready to get your geek on? Good, because we’re about to, hard.
Life is such a fragile existence.
It’s something we only get one shot at, unless we’re a cat. In life we take care so as not to put ourselves in compromised positions which may bring our existence to an abrupt end. However, as a gamer, the view of life can be very different. This is all brought about by a single word – “RESPAWN”.
As a gamer, dying isn’t that scary when you’re safe in the knowledge that there was a checkpoint 5 minutes ago that you’ll just go back to. “Is that guy holding a rocket launcher? Yep, and back to the checkpoint I go”. Your ammo and supplies are all restocked and you’re ready to face the same dangers again. Respawning can even grant that extra insight into a game – Let’s plan our approach a bit better this time. We know bad guy X is around corner Y, so I’ll go around the back instead.
All of this leads to many gamers charging in head first and carefree as they know that the respawn safety net is always there, waiting to catch them. But is this reckless attitude to death in gaming a good thing?
There has been many a match in COD or Battlefield where the top players may have killed 30+ enemies, but in return they have been butchered 80 times resulting in a terrible kills/deaths ratio. As great as it is to score as many points for your team, it’s also about preserving your own life and not giving the enemy an easy advantage.
When games were in their infancy you had a limit of lives, or in some games only the one. Every step you took and every shot you fired meant something. If you didn’t kill that enemy or side step their attack at the right time you lost vital lives, which could lose your entire game progress and that chance at the leaderboard. That was a big deal.
This was a time when there was a thrill in scraping to victory by the skin of your teeth, making it all the more delicious.
Now it seems this approach is coming back to the forefront of gaming. Perma-death can be like that well-used marmite cliche – some gamers thrive from the thrill of only a single chance, others find it a nightmarish frustration when they lose all their progress after one wrong move. I for one love perma-death in games and find it brings a thrill back to gaming which has been long lost. Of course I’ll respawn after dying but all my weapons, equipment and progress will be cast aside with my failure and I must work to get it all back. Depending on the game this can be repetitive for some, but for others this is where a game comes into its own.
It’s mechanics like this that help Indie games in particular stand out in what is already a crowded market. Games like Don’t Starve drive the perma-death feature hard, making you tread carefully around anything that’s new in the fear that it’ll make your 84 days of survival mean nothing. Or there is Rogue Legacy, which puts a unique twist on perma-death allowing your genetic attributes to be passed onto your children. This can lead to some pretty weird combinations! Colour blind barbarian who sees the world upside down, anyone?
I’m not saying all games should be perma-death. I tried Dead Space 3 on the hardest difficulty with perma-death enabled. After 8 hours of careful progression through dark corridors and with surgeon like precision dismembering enemies, I was less than happy when I was crept upon and executed. But I think more people should face these challenges in games and make the most of every life their character has.
Respawn or perma-death. All life is valuable.
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