It seems more of you are keen to have your voice heard here on TSA, with another guest article landing in my inbox this morning. This week ashw92 has decided to chip in his two cents on death in gaming.
Death is an ever present theme and tool in our favoured pastime of video games. Excluding sport games, it’s hard to think of a title which does not deal with death in one way, shape or form. They do, however, approach and execute deaths in a wide range of ways. From the throw away nature of a death in early platformers such as Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog which simply meant you started the level again, through the triumphant slaying of enemies and bosses like Ganondorf in the Zelda series to the genuinely emotional demise of characters in titles such as Heavy Rain.
This recurring theme means that when death appears in games, it is taken as nonchalantly as possible the majority of the time. Nobody mourns when someone picks you off with a head shot causing your kill to death ratio to dip slightly and never does an individual face a tearing emotional decision about slaying a 600 foot tall Greek god who may or may not be your father.
The throwaway nature of death and killing in a video game is an odd notion when thought about. Death in general could hardly be less of a throwaway subject; it is one of the most difficult and harrowing experiences to witness and the killing side of the coin is just as extreme with many soldiers returning from combat with intense cases of post traumatic stress disorder. I highly doubt Modern Warfare 3 will include a post game level in which you struggle to reintegrate into society due to the atrocities you experienced in conflict.[drop]Few games deal with death in a serious and emotional manner or in a way similar to that which it is dealt with in everyday life. As I mentioned before, Heavy Rain is one the few in this minority as is L.A. Noire which portrayed grief and difficulty in coping with loss, the Golden Butterfly case being a particular stand out. Seeing a husband whose grief is further strained by his suspect status in the case certainly carried an emotional impact, as did witnessing a young girl dealing with the death of her mother. The feeling the story evoked was aided by the Motion Scan technology displaying the emotion on the characters faces; it genuinely made me sad for a loss that actually did not occur in the real world.
While I am happy to accept that all games cannot treat death in such a fashion, in some it simply would not work or fit, I feel it is important for games to treat death less as a solid victory or an unimportant game mechanic. The inclusion of more difficult decisions when disposing of enemies and more of a emphasis on the emotional side of death is something that would not only aid the story but also help gaming to remove its perception as the cause of violent acts among young people. Furthermore, deeper, stronger themes and connections with the characters you engage with are one way to ensure a game stays in your mind longer; leaving you with more of an attachment to the game increases your likelihood of returning for the sequel.