Most video gamers can recognize that the act of dying usually indicates the end of gameplay. That is, all players can understand that when ones character meets death they relinquish their ability to control or to act. In Galloway’s words, gamic death is “[t]he most emblematic non-diegetic machine act [or] game over” (Galloway, 28). However, World of Warcraft (“WoW”) handles death differently. Unlike the limiting non-diegetic machine act that most games impose on players, WoW attempts to open up more possibilities. When one’s character dies in World of Warcraft, their spirit releases from their body and spawns at a nearby graveyard. WoW then gives the player three options, resurrect at this graveyard in a short amount of time through the Spirit Healer, return to the player’s corpse and resurrect where they met their demise, or wait for a player to resurrect the corpse. Each choice contains different advantages and disadvantages. This gameplay mechanic not only reduces non-diegetic machine acts, but also allows the player to experience more of the diegesis. Blizzard not only opens up the world for more gameplay, but they also make a statement about the general use of death. Death does not have to indicate that gamic action is over. One does not have to separate the player from the diegesis in order to show that their character’s life is over. That is, WoW is encouraging other games to not limit players to the diegesis of life; to explore the diegesis of death.
There could be arguments made against this however, such as the gamic use of fear of failure. The biggest case for this are classic arcade games with their jarring and frequent game over screen. Most of these games (“Pac-Man”, “Mario”, and “Street Fighter”) flash a non-diegetic “Game Over” upon death. Although each of these illustrate “Game Over” in their own way, each negatively reinforces the player and urges them to put another quarter in and try again. Even modern video games feature this non-diegetic “Game Over” upon death. Take for instance the popular franchise “Grand Theft Auto”. Rockstar’s hit series is iconic for its death mechanic. In all GTA games, slow motion and a big red “Wasted” follows shortly after the death of the main character. The game then gives players a menu in which they can choose to reload a save or restart at a checkpoint, causing the player to replay what they had just done. Even though these means do cause fear of failure and provide gameplay motivation, they limit the player with a myriad of non-diegetic machine acts.
Although WoW does not transact with players through token means, it also exhibits the gamic use of fear of failure. Anytime death occurs in WoW, any armor that equipped by the player takes a 10% durability (important for maintaining defense) reduction. This reduction increases by a larger percentage if the player chooses to revive at a graveyard through the Spirit Healer. Not only does the player receive a 25% extra durability reduction, the player will also suffer from resurrection sickness which decreases all base attributes by 75%. The fear of failure is very much alive in WoW. Players have to be way of death and make choices afterwards to reduce the cost on their character. But, WoW does this convincingly without the use of non-diegetic machine acts. Every moment after death is for the player to decide. It opens up potential for diegetic operator acts.
So next time you play or create a video game. WoW encourages you to ask yourself and think about how :
- Could I advocate player actions beyond death?
- Is non-diegetic machine acts necessary to simulate death?
- Could I explore the diegesis of death and not just life?
World of Warcraft says yes to each of these questions. It makes clear that a video game does not have to rely on non-diegetic machine acts to portray death. Death in video games have potential to open up limitless opportunities in diegetic operator acts.
Works Cited :
Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. Print.