Death might be the most vast and most common topos in games. Since the beginning of gaming, players “died” on screen, losing one or multiple “lives.” The metaphor of cheating death pretty soon became a real option for players, be it through gaining extra lives or willingly manipulating the games’ core functions via cheat codes.
When games got stronger and deeper in terms of narrative, death became part of that. Death–as with literature–became a character. Sometimes it was the villain (Hades in God of War 3), sometimes an NPC, and sometimes the player became death itself as some sort of (anti-) hero (Grim Fandango, Darksiders 2).
But it’s not until quite recently that more and more games started to deal with the impact of death on us as people, as humans. How do we cope with the loss of a loved one? How do we manage to grasp our own mortality, when it is thrown into our face like a punch? A fatal disease, a car accident–these things happen to us in the physical reality of our daily lives. And games can aid us when we struggle with them.
In part one I will take a closer look at some examples, namely In Between and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. In part two I will talk about Life is Strange and Fragments of Him. I will reflect on presentation, narrative, gameplay, and background of these games and try to find similarities and differences. I will examine how these games resonate with the philosophical concepts of death, e.g. the Kübler-Ross Model, monism and dualism. Obviously, this text contains some heavy spoilers, but I will try to keep them at a minimum. (more…)