What is our purpose in life? Why are we so afraid of dying? These are the type of questions that have plagued the human race every single day since the origin of human life.
In our world, art serves as a mirror, or lens, through which we can examine difficult and complicated questions such as these. For me, games fall under this category as an artistic medium. Like Xiant, I also do not wish to address the age-old debate of “Games as Art” now. Rather, my proposal is that games help us reflect on what it means to live and die.
Remember when you first jumped into an endless abyss in Super Mario? Or had your Pacman triple-teamed to inescapable demise? What about when you got slaughtered round after round in a game of Counter-strike against your friends? And when those despicable roofers finally nail you to the ground after a 30-second chase?
Dying in games is of course, frustrating. It means you have to wait while twiddling your thumbs before you can ‘resurrect’ and rejoin the action, often losing valuable resources and time in the process. All that time you spent in that dungeon mining for gold and rare materials go ‘poof’ (especially if you’re playing hardcore mode in certain games) in the blink of an eye.
Games penalize deaths in various ways, some harsher than others. In Super Mario, you just lose a life, no big deal (unless that was your last life, in which case it’s GG). In Assassin’s Creed, you lose valuable time respawning when you could be padding your score with more kills and stuns.
The type of game you’re in also affects the value of each life you possess. In Counter-strike, if you’re playing in a pub server and die, nobody would bat an eyelid (including you). If you’re in an International tournament with tens of thousands of dollars on the line, however, you might react a little differently.
But let’s brush aside all those factors for the time being. Say you’ve just started a game of Assassin’s Creed, playing online against a bunch of randoms, with not much on the line (except maybe pride). Certainly you’d probably die multiple times within that one game (if you don’t, I salute you, as even I have yet been able to claim the ‘untouchable’ challenge), but do you value each death the same way? Why is it that we’re more afraid dying in some games/situations over others? Are some deaths ‘worth’ more than others?
Of course some deaths are worth more than others, you say. Getting a kill and a stun per death is obviously much more productive than using a life with no gain in points whatsoever (though I’d argue even a death with no points scored is not completely worthless). It doesn’t take Einstein to figure that out (actually, if I write anything that does take Einstein to figure out, I probably wouldn’t be writing here in the first place).
What I’m trying to say is that this simple piece of logic clearly also applies to the game we’ve been playing since we were born ― life. Every day we are alive is a life. Every activity we pursue is a life. These ‘lives’ are limited, and together they make up every individual’s lifetime. To make the most of our life, we must try to ensure that we are as productive as possible with the time we are blessed with and with each opportunity we stumble across (i.e. getting a kill and a stun every day instead of just getting killed*) Because at the end of the day, we’re all playing ‘hardcore’ mode ― with only one life.
* FC2000 and Top Tier Tactics do not take any responsibility, legal or otherwise, for dangerous or otherwise violent actions resulting in injury or death. Any legal claims and compensation can be directed at Ubisoft Group Inc. and all trademarks of the Assassin’s Creed brand.