Video Games and Their Consequences for Failure

Harry Lin, Staff Writer

There are many ways to fail in a video game–whether that be your health reaching 0, time running out, or being unable to achieve specific objectives. The most common restart option developers use the instant reset, spawning players back into the world to try again. Players spawn into exactly how, where, and when they last saved the game with no real consequences. I won’t really talk about this one, as it is probably the most boring; but it is just to set a foundation on which to build off of.

One way to sidestep the reset is to make a punishment while keeping this system intact. One game that I think does this well is Hollow Knight, as when you die it happens exactly like any standard game but you lose all your money and part of your max mana. To regain these two very crucial parts of gameplay you have to travel back to where you died and kill a ghost that spawns when you die. This encourages you to trek back to where you died and encourages exploration and mastery. Forcing you to fight the same enemies that you lost to, as well as try to find another way to get more loot instead of going through the already looted path you died on. 

On the other hand, there are games that don’t do this kind of punishment very well. Take Red Dead Redemption 2,  for example. When you die you lose some of your money permanently. This is pretty negligible, as after the 2-hour mark you don’t have anything you’re saving up for or can really use it on. So losing some of it is something the player can just ignore.  The game would function just as well if it didn’t exist. But since Red Dead Redemption 2 is a story game first, and not gameplay first, this isn’t as much of a deal breaker for me as it could’ve been if it was the other way around.

Now the effects of the punishments from these two games are recoverable as you can just get that currency or max mana back for more severe and permanent damages to a player’s game when they die. Darkest Dungeon is arguably the game that uses punishments to its logical limits to essentially torture the player, as it is a turn-based RPG in which every character takes around 10 or so hours to fully level up a party of 4. These characters can permanently die at any time when on an expedition in a dungeon. Without the proper preparation, the entire party will die in a flash. 

This stupidly-high punishment is to enforce the themes the game is going for as well as emphasize the player throwing these lives away for riches and glory for themselves. As the harder expeditions provide greater rewards, these two opposing forces make you choose whether you throw characters to risk their lives or slowly inch forward in progress in order to keep them alive.

For this article, I wanted to explore an interesting part of video games that shouldn’t be brushed off and be just a reset button. There is a lot of depth that can go into risking failure and with such risk, developers can give better rewards can be given to those who have the willingness or skill to brave those challenges. This can further engage the player into thinking more carefully by giving consequences and weight to their decisions.