For as long as technology has existed, man has invented games. Sparing you the history lesson, games date back to 5000BC. And as technology evolved, so did gaming. They went from being pieces on a board whose movement was governed by a set of rules to a world behind a digital screen running on a billion circuits in the palm of your hand. Games have advanced from tiny pixels on a screen bouncing a square ball across it, to blockbuster affairs with compelling stories, engaging characters and big budget effects.
Given all the options, one of the facets games are farthest from reality today is with their concept of death. This is also the one thing that most of the games we’ve seen or played have in common. Dying in a game has no real life consequences. When your character dies, you simply start over, and you can do that as many times as you please.
Imagine a game where death of a character also means the end of that character. This probably wouldn’t be fun if it’s a single player game, so let’s imagine that game as a multiplayer shooter. The gameplay would be pretty much what you’re used to – jumping, maneuvering, running, shooting, etc.
If you like that idea, then you’ll definitely like One Life, and you’re not the only one. One Life is the FPS(First Person Shooter) that will permanently lock you out of the game once you die(permadeath). There was a lot of speculation about whether anyone would want to pay $10 for a game that gives you only one life, because you could die 5 or 10 minutes after you first buy the game and boot it, and then you’re completely locked out. Since the game has been greenlit by the community on Steam, we now know that a lot of people would actually be willing to pay.
One Life, however, is not the first we are seeing of the permanent death concept. Diablo, an action role-playing game first released in 1997 gives players a choice to make hardcore characters in Diablo II and III. Players are required to level up their regular characters before they can make hardcore characters. Diablo III added a Hall of Heroes where players can archive their dead Hardcore characters, though only to look at them as they were at death; not to access any of their gear or inventory.
Terraria, initially released for Microsoft Windows in 2011, also has a similar concept – hardcore characters that do not resurrect once they die.
Upsilon circuit(coming soon), is another FPS where death in the game has almost the same consequences as death in real life. Upsilon Circuit, as described on their website, “Part Gameshow. Part RPG. Perma-Permadeath,” will allow an spectators to watch the game in real time and buy items to help or troll certain players. Once a player dies, a spectator chosen at random, will replace them.
Generally, permanent death(permadeath or PD) is not highly supported. A lot of players might not be willing to pay a fee for a game only to be permanently locked out at the first failure. Initially, Star wars Galaxies had permadeath for Jedi characters for a short period, but later eliminated that functionality.
What you’ll mostly see is a game like Super Meat Boy. In the game, which is available for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, the player controls a character – Meat Boy as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend from the antagonist, Dr. Fetus. The player can jump and run on platforms, and jump off or slide down walls. The player has unlimited attempts to complete each level, but if Meat Boy is killed, the level restarts, though the ornamental red meat juice left behind on surfaces that the player has touched remains. You are then treated to all your attempts at a level, and your glorious deaths unless you’re lucky enough to complete a level on the first try. Just so you know Super Meat Boy is old-school punishing
Such games have neat mechanics, without much consequence. Counter-Strike, developed by Valve Corporation and initially released in 1999, allows players to assume the roles of members of combating teams of the governmental counter-terrorist forces and various terrorist militants opposing them. It doesn’t have permadeath, but one shot, the character dies for the whole round. During that round, they become spectators. When another round starts, they only have their basic default starting equipment, unlike surviving players who keep their equipment for the next round.
More permadeath in gaming would be a good challenge for players, and maybe players would value the one life they get in the game more. While death may not be an ever present reality in everyone’s daily lives, it is still a truth. Gaming used as a medium to explore this, I believe, while dark, is interesting. Especially in a medium that takes it so lightly yet could convey this truth better than most others. Because while 100 coins in Mario or regenerating life in Halo helps make the experience less frustrating for players, I laud One Life for challenging the norm.