Monday, 25 February 2013

Death and the Letter 'A'

The last game of the A's for me is Audiosurf, but unfortunately it doesn't really fit this project well. Audiosurf is about beating high scores and climbing the global leaderboard, but failure isn't really possible in a 'death' sense, only in a 'not doing as well as you could have done' sense. I gave it a bash though, because why not?

I scanned through my work PC for music to race to (for those who don't know audiosurf is a racing game which uses a song of your choosing as a basis for the track). I only have tracks by my own band, or Mike TV, and they're both pop punk bands so I knew the track would be fairly straight and fast. Deciding against narcissism for a change I settle for 'Paperthin' by Mike TV (just because it contains the word 'bereft') and it is as straight and predictable as I imagined even on the hardest difficulty. Go to bandcamp and grab it yourself if you want to give it a try (it's on the Stopgap EP) - you probably will be disappointed.

All this is moot because you can't die anyway, so a bit of a stumble over the line but there you go.

One thing I have noticed from these few games though is how much death in a runthrough of a game is expected. It is almost impossible to imagine a hero in an action film dying, yet the hero of any computer game will be killed again and again and again. In fact people don't complain about dying in games at all, only where you begin again after it's happened.
Checkpoints, quicksave, quickload, reversing time, gold rings, lives - all of these staples of gaming are all in response to the fact that you will die. It seems like it's impossible not to.

But most importantly, this isn't a problem. I've been pondering over whether you should be able to complete a game without dying on the first runthrough, but I don't think that makes sense. That way lies a pretty boring experience.

Ultimately, whether you think they should try to be or not, games are games, not stories. The excitement of a football match is that there is always a genuine chance that your team will lose no matter how good they are. Should it be a regular occurrence to play a game of monopoly without ever giving any money away? Or to play Chess and never lose a piece? That doesn't sound like much fun. Risk and failure are what make most games so compelling. Bruce Willis is never going to die, even in a film which has the word 'Die' in the title. The entertainment comes from seeing how he survives whereas in games it comes from not knowing if you will survive and, if you don't, working out how to.

So this project has suddenly infused death in games with the finality that it has in stories, and in most cases (excluding Neil's Amnesia runthrough), with that finality comes a real sense of sadness that your adventure has come to an end.

On to Bioshock then, and also, concurrently, the first of our multiplayer runs. How long can the Ninth Life boys stay undefeated against the wrath of an uncaring public?


  1. Well I personally love stories where failure is an option. For example Stanislaw Lem books like Fiasco are awesome.

    1. Perhaps I should clarify that as a 'story-stopping' failure (unless you're on the last page)

  2. We should do a ninth life for those adventure book things, the turn to page 45 if you choose blah blah.

    For it in the dark? or in another language?