How do you feel when a character dies in a video game? No like seriously. Do you feel happy? Do you feel sad? Do you only care if it is a plot important character? Do you only care because you’ll have to redo the level again?
I took a class this semester all about death and dying in films but I was able to extend it to video games (mainly due to not being a film student). And while we talked in class about topics such as the eroticism and taboo surrounding death. The focus of the class however, was how death made us feel. This got me thinking about how gamers (in general) seem to handle death in video games.
I would have to say there are about four basic emotions that someone experiences when someone dies in a video game. The first is sadness (obviously). Whether it be because the player sympathizes with the main character or feels despair when their favorite character dies, sadness is the more expected feeling to watching someone die in a video game. But it is a selective sadness. People don’t feel sad when they throw the main character down a pit in a platformer or shoot someone in the face in an FPS.
Anger is another one of the basic emotions. People get furious when they die in games like Overwatch or League of Legends. You have probably seen some “rage gamer” through your travels through the internet. Most of the time they are either mad at their teammates or at the game itself. It doesn’t even really matter if it was the person’s fault or not, they are mad as hell and it is anything but their fault. It isn’t the death that is impactful, it is the failure state.
Some people even feel happy when someone/thing dies in a game. The fall of a villain. The death of an annoying character that has been bugging you for three chapters. A member of the other team died by your hand. Is it sadistic? Probably. But honestly nobody cares the moral implication that come with it. You just really wanted the person/character to die.
Apathy is the last major emotion people feel towards death in video games. People don’t stop to think about the fact that someone/thing just died. It is unimportant or “just a video game.” This one is linked very heavily with anger. Take the platformer example. Say you threw Mario into a pit in world one. You are probably apathetic towards the end of Mario’s life but angry that you have to redo the level again.
This isn’t meant as a criticism of how people feel, I know personally I have felt every last one of these emotions. I am curious though, what do you think? Are gamers heartless because sadness isn’t the only emotion we feel towards death? Is it just par for the course?