The Greatest Victory

Ernest Becker, Lara Croft, & Death in Tomb Raider

As Tadhg Kelly wrote in 2011, All games are about death. I tend to agree with Kelly, though I’d say that all games are partially about death, and some more than others. After all, some of the earliest games (e.g. 1962’s Spacewar!) framed success and failure within thanatological terms, and even games without anthropomorphized/organic avatars tend to do the same. For example, why does a game like Brickbreaker, which features only inanimate objects, frame success and failure within thanatological terms? Why do I start with 3 lives, and whose lives are lost when I fail to hit the ball? Is Brickbreaker perhaps exploring non-organic modes of being, a la Object Oriented Ontology? I don’t think so. I think life and death are just the clearest indications of success and failure we have. At a very basic level, to die is to fail, and we understand this at a primordial level. Thus, this thanatological shorthand simply lends itself very well to videogames, which are often concerned with success and failure. But death is a very unpleasant subject, so why is it such a prevalent ludic metaphor? Continue Reading