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A life no longer worth playing: some remarks on in-game suicide

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Abstract:

While references to life and death are often made in texts dealing with video games, and violence in video games is still among the most discussed issues, there are, to date, only a few accounts of the act of virtual self-killing or in-game suicide. In fact, in most video games the player's task is to keep his or her character alive. However, there are some very prominent examples of video games that include the suicide of player and non-player characters. By in-game suicide we refer to any kind of self-harming behaviour with intended lethal outcome for a virtual, human-like character in a game. This article will begin by building a typology of different modes of in-game suicide, before going on to take a closer look at several examples. One major distinction for this research is based on the motivation of the character, whereby we distinguish between game-world's internal motivation and game-world's external motivation. Therefore, some basic considerations on the relationship between player and character are given. In the third section we will analyze three different kinds of games involving suicide: first, we will address games where the act of self-killing is the main task of the player; this is followed by an examination of suicide attackers in video games; and finally, we will address the issue of (attempted) in-game suicide as part of the practice of playing, which includes rituals of self-destruction as well as the dramatic staging of a character's departure from the game's world.

Keywords: death; identity; in-game suicide; life; suicide; suicide bombers

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jgvw.1.2.83/1

Affiliations: 1: University of Tbingen (Germany). 2: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany).

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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