Hacked Off: Why Do Deaths in Videos Games No Longer Have Big Consequences?

As a kid I remember video games being a cruel and unforgiving world, where death was a serious problem. It meant that if people died, they had to go from a lot further back before attempting it again, and some games forced you to start from the beginning. As a child there were many games I could just not complete as I would always die a lot. Sure, this was annoying, but death just being an inconvenience rather than a serious worry is not exciting.

Now, I know this was to make games that were fairly short last longer, but why must we remove it, just because games last a little longer? Surely a standard shooter campaign that has a 7 hour story could nearly double in game time if you have to restart missions when you die. Do developers think we have forgotten how to play games and so persist to hold our hands through the game? It’s as if every game is made with children at the focus, which is ludicrous as games are not just for children. Besides, I’ve been mocked enough times online to know most children are better than me anyway.

What happened to games like the Super Mario and Sonic games, where you had a certain amount of lives, and when they are gone that’s your lot? Forgetting the fact that as a child I rarely made it past the first worlds of these games, but at least getting further in the game felt like a real achievement. Obviously, the system would need to be tweaked for games like Skyrim as this would be cause for many people to go insane. Nonetheless, a system that made deaths a huge problem made the game more challenging without having to do much. If anything, developers should leap at this, as it means they have less work trying to make a game challenging.

I understand that in today’s world there are so many things trying to grab our attention, so developers don’t want to annoy players too much that they will just throw in the towel and move on to something else. But they need to have faith in people or just have different modes. A normal mode with setbacks on death and one where there is not. I know hard mode is there for people who want something challenging, but it’s different. Having more enemies and dying more easily isn’t the same as trying your hardest to avoid death in fear of a setback. Most hard modes just reset you when you die, and you can have as many attempts as your heart contents.

Destiny received a lot of grief in its first year and over time has really become a phenomenal game, in fact it’s one of my favourite games so far this generation. Though there was something they got rid of, which I wish they hadn’t, but I may be alone on this one. Do you remember when you had to restart the whole weekly nightfall if your fire team members all died? Now, this was extraordinarily annoying, but it ensured people played more carefully, and there was a greater sense of accomplishment in doing so. Why would you need to remove something that made the game hard? Most of the game revolves around grinding and not a lot of challenge, so why remove something that incorporated challenge to the grind? Completing it was something far more impressive, I used to envy those who had flames around the helmet and got that sweet experience boost.

Look at 2008’s Prince of Persia, it was an awful game. Now, there were a whole manner of reasons for this, one of which was the fact you couldn’t actually die. If you failed at the wall running part, Elika would just pick you up, or if you were about to be killed, she would step in. No matter how many times you fell, she would be there. It removed any sense of difficulty. I suppose you could take this scene as a death and it just avoids loading, but it made the game feel easy, and playing it became mindless. Why should I concentrate 100% on playing when if I fail I’ll just get picked back up? Did they think that their game was just too hard without this? Well, actually the boring gameplay and terrible storyline was at bigger risk of causing players to quit the game, anyway.

It might just be me, but I don’t have fun just throwing corpses at enemies until I complete a level or mission. Sure, I could just take my time, but the fear of having a huge knock-on effect makes you play better than you would anyway. Now, this isn’t to say I enjoy games that have this harshness towards death as I’m not a fan of Dark Souls or similar games. I just feel there should be a reason to make players worry about getting a death, rather than just killing themselves to re-start with full health and items back.

The constant access to saving does cause a problem. However, if you had death consequences, then people who want an easy way through could just revert to their last save and those who want to be tested can continue with the setbacks. It doesn’t have to be restarting the whole game again, a few debuffs would work well to make death a serious risk. When you die, maybe you do less damage or have less health.

Who knows? If this does happen, I could be writing a feature about how I wish it wasn’t a thing. Oh well, we won’t know until it happens.

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