Modern video games often employ consequences for a player’s choices or actions. These consequences vary from not getting some gold for doing a measly side quest to turning every being in the known universe into organic/inorganic hybrid beings without their consent. I’m looking at you Mass Effect 3. These consequences do a great job of making the player feel as though his or her character is part of a living world. It creates a world that acts and reacts in tandem with how your decisions change its state of being, a world you care about. That being said, the consequence of permanent death and all that it entails is often absent in games. The norm seems to be that when your player character, or another character in the player’s core group, is killed during gameplay you receive a slap on the wrist and move on. Either you get sent back some in the level and have to start over at a checkpoint (Halo), you are fined some
experience or currency from the world and stand back up (Fable 2), or even incorporate dying and respawning as a learning mechanic canon to the story of the game (Dark Souls). It is very rare that a modern game actually embraces the sense of loss and the impact a death would have in the world and doesn’t just let you have another shot. Fire Emblem: Awakening, a title for the Nintendo 3DS developed by Intelligent Systems and Nintendo SPD, is one of the few modern games that gives death its due.
Awakening focuses on the player character, named Robin by default, and his or her time with a prince, named Chrom, as they fight battles.
Now I won’t go into the plot details because it would possibly ruin the game for some if they haven’t played it. Awakening allows a mechanic called perma-death to be enabled. This means that when a soldier dies in battle they are gone for good. You can no longer use them in game and for most they are completely gone. This takes on even greater significance when every soldier you may lose in battle is their own character with a personality and unique interactions. In Awakening there are no faceless army troops in your army as there are in End War-esque games of war. You can build bonds with everyone you fight alongside, teaming with them to strengthen your friendship and even finding
possible romance between soldiers in wartime. The unique personalities of each give them all a significance beyond their usefulness as a certain class of soldier. Due to this, if you lose someone on the battlefield, it’s much more than just weakening of your forces, you have lost someone you care about. As a result, if you play with perma-death on it adds a ominence to the battles. An added wariness that comes from wanting to bring all of your troops, your friends, through the battle alive. Jason Schreier, a writer at Kotaku, writes that perma-death is a useless mechanic as a player will just turn off the game when they lose a character so it defeats the purpose. This may be true, but even aside from those who wouldn’t do this and would continue with that loss, there is still meaning in the mechanic. Even though you can start over, you still play differently. That desire to keep them alive is still there far more than in the average game. After all, without at least the option of perma-death Fire Emblem wouldn’t be Fire-Emblem.