Game Over Used to Mean Something
Published on August 23, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at Kotaku, Maria Bustillos writes a fairly thought-provoking and philosophical piece about video game deaths, and how they help us experience "not only the thrill of danger and survival, but the ecstasy of reincarnation."

In her piece, titled "How Video Game Deaths Help Us Live," Bustillos makes an observation I've made before: It's much harder to die in a video game than it used to be. I'm sure there are people out there who think this is a good thing, but I'm not one of them. I rarely play video games now, but when I do, it never feels like the stakes are as high, or like I'm doing anything that really matters. Whereas Super Mario Brothers often felt like a matter of life and death, as well as a major challenge. My goal was to beat Super Mario without jumping any levels, and so I strove to earn as many extra lives as I could; I didn't want to run out of lives and have to start all over again.

Over the weekend, I played a skydiving game on the Wii with a small boy, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the point of it was, because death was never a threat. I earned some points, and tried to figure out how to control my skydiver character, but my heart just wasn't in it. Give me a fire-breathing dragon and a princess to rescue, and I might find it in myself to care.

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