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– Noticia sobre videojuegos interesante:

Why do we have to die in games?
In real life, dying is unavoidable and final. But even though it’s
accepted that characters die in videogames, is it really necessary,
wonders Kate Bevan

Kate Bevan
Thursday July 26, 2007

Guardian

Dying in real life is – religious beliefs aside – the end, the last
event you’ll take part in. Not so in computer games, where it’s never
worse than briefly infuriating. In World of Warcraft, the massively
multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) that 8.5 million people
play every day, your death just means you have to spend several minutes
trekking back to the point at which you died. And your avatar is
temporarily weakened. It’s an inconvenience.
But why is in-game “dying” necessary at all? Alternatively, why isn’t
dying in a game as final as it is in real life? In MMORPGs, the latter
is in part at least simply answered: it’s economics. From Blizzard’s
point of view, if in-game death were final, people would stop coughing
up their monthly subscription. And the vibrant in-game economy depends
to a certain extent on death and regeneration: when your avatar comes
back to life, your weapons are damaged and need repairing – for which
you pay a fee.

In fact many games, both on computers and in real life, require you to
leave the field of play, for structural as much as for narrative
reasons. In childrens’ playground games, team members have to be
eliminated to determine the winner before the end of the lunch break. In
arcade videogames such as Space Invaders, your skill determines how long
you can play before giving the machine more cash. Death puts a time
limit on those games, just as it does for life. In other games, “dying”
means you have to go back to the beginning of a level and work your way
through it again; so death becomes an indication that you’ve not reached
a specific skill level.

But where’s the fun in endlessly replaying a level? Gamers are
unequivocal: “Dying gives a game meaning”, say posters on the PC Advisor
forums. Markus Montola, a researcher at Tampere University in Finland,
takes this further: “You have a motivation – to avoid being annoyed by
dying. Motivation is what makes the game meaningful.”

Pete Hines – vice-president at Bethesda, the developer behind the
role-playing game Oblivion and its expansion pack, Shivering Isles –
agrees. “Having your character die or fail is important because your
actions have to have some meaning in the game, and to you.”

Meaningful death

But is the death of your character the right way to give a game meaning?
Peter Molyneux of Lionhead, the developer of Fable, Black & White and
The Movies, says: “A fight has to cost the player something, or it loses
its meaning. Previously, that cost was time and tedium [in replaying a
level]. But is that the right cost?”

Molyneux argues that designers should look to Hollywood for how to treat
the game’s hero – ie you, the player. “Have you ever seen a film where
the hero dies and dies again? The tension in an action film almost
always comes from hammering a hero so hard that he almost dies – and
then he leaps back up.”

In a film, death is usually the climax, a cathartic event. The battle of
Thermopylae is depicted in the film 300; commentators remarked on how
much like a computer game it is, with its cinematic cutscenes and boss
battles. However, this film ends, as the real events did, with the
glorious death of its hero, Leonidas, king of the Spartans, and his
plucky army.

Perhaps the difference between computer games and film or television
dramas is how we consume them. TV and film are genres that we consume
passively: we can’t affect the outcome (though the popularity of voting
in shows such as Big Brother and talent contests might indicate that we
like to). Roleplaying games, however, challenge us directly by setting
goals, and often one of those goals is to avoid being killed.

There are three types of goals in computer games, says Montola.
Endogenous goals originate within the game; exogenous from outside it.
“Every game of chess has identical endogenous goals, but the exogenous
ones range from having fun to humiliating the opponent to winning a
tournament. Endogenous goals are always about getting a checkmate, or at
least not being checkmated yourself.”

Diegetic goals “come in when you start to role-play,” he says. “If you
play World of Warcraft and just grind to get better gear, you never
think about this dwarf hunter you’re playing. But once you start with
pretend-play, you have to think ‘what would Mr Dwarf Hunter want? What
are his goals?’ And those goals are diegetic.” Montola points to Eve
Online, the space-trading MMORPG. “It is particularly elegant in regard
to diegetic goals. Everyone plays a space trader, miner or pirate, so
it’s easy to understand that I’m a trader and I want to maximise profit
and live a peaceful life.”

Eve, he adds, “is a game where you can lose months of work by being shot
from the skies. That game is given exogenous meaning by the extremely
strong endogenous and diegetic urge to avoid death.”

Death has been part of computer gaming since its earliest days. Montola
points to Arkanoid, a clone of Breakout and a direct descendant of Pong.
Dating from 1986, the game involves you moving a bat at the bottom of
the screen to try to prevent the ball falling away from the board. Says
Montola: “You probably don’t think you can die in Arkanoid, even if you
miss the ball. But your bat is in fact a spaceship called Vaus, and it
gets destroyed when you miss the ball, so missing the ball means dozens
or thousands of deaths … depending on your imagination.”

Reaching even further into the dark ages of computing, he says: “If you
think that an abstract bunch of pixels can die, you can trace this back
to the earliest computer games, such as Spacewar! from 1961. Since this
predates the earliest arcade games by a decade, it’s fair to say that
death has always been one of the central punishments in digital gaming.”

Reflect real life?

But do you need to die at all? Eric Zimmerman, a New York-based game
designer who helps run the studio Gamelab, says: “Dying in games is a
strange artifact of certain kinds of historical forms and content, and
there is no good reason for including it in many cases.” Molyneux
concurs: “If we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t come up with
this paradigm.”

There are bigger questions, of course. In real life, death is more than
an annoyance. So should games reflect real life? Or should we redefine
“dying” in the context of games? Isn’t it more like tennis, where you
can lose a set but go on to win the game? Or are there bigger lessons to
be learned from games?

Says David Ewen, a 46-year-old gamer: “Kids need to learn that if
they’re ambushed by a horde of self-regenerating laser-festooned killer
robots on an asteroid far from the main space trade routes in real life,
they’re not actually going to end up getting teleported out to the local
Starbucks for a nice refreshing break.”

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