Anyone who’s played any video game has certainly seen what happens when you fail at your main objective: Game Over.
Something so inherent in video games, the game over screen comes when you have exhausted all your chances to complete your mission and requires you to return to a previous checkpoint or completely start over.
I didn’t think about this declaration of failure too much until I recently tackled the Uncharted series. During my time with the franchise, I may have been a bit overconfident, picking an increasingly difficult setting after completing each game, resulting in me dying frequently (read: too many times to count). One thing you do notice is when you are getting hurt, the screen starts to fade, as everything around you goes gray.
Similarly, when you die, the screen turns brighter, fading everything around you. The screen then blacks out and returns you to the last checkpoint. What’s missing? Those two words that make gamers sick: Game Over. The main part of this omission is to encourage players to progress, continuing the experience, which studio Naughty Dogs labors to make as seamless, fun, and cinematic as possible.
So what’s the deal?
Why do I pinpoint this? In every game, there is a loser and a winner. Player One wins, player two loses. You lose. Game Over. There are so many ways for a video game to clearly define when failure has occurred. Adding insult to injury, sometimes cinematic sequences are created for simply when you fail.
It’s rough to watch and seeing these depictions of death are motivation enough for some people to keep going further. Playing through plenty of video games in my life, I have come across many a screen and few motivate me to move on. One notable exception was in Earthbound for the Super Nintendo. A game rife with dialogue, your party is treated to a different experience once you’ve been beaten.
For me, a little reinforcement goes a long way, especially in a role-playing game than can take upwards of 30 to 50 hours to complete. Much like two button controllers, I think game over screens are a thing of the past that should be remedied as time progresses. A game like Xenoblade Chronicles shows off your failure in battle, but then puts you back to before your death. I don’t think anyone is more critical on themselves in the game as the player is, as progress is the intended goal with any game. Can games be hard? No doubt. Is it possible to die plenty of times but still have enough motivation to continue forward? Definitely. There are better ways to transition from failure and in game design, encouraging players to play the game is much more important than putting a giant exclamation point on top of failure. A black screen telling you the obvious is something that should be removed altogether.
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