Hiroshi Sukarazaka wrote a light novel called, “All You Need Is Kill”. Despite the engrish sounding title, the novel is pretty great. It follows a soldier fighting in a war against aliens. After his initial death, he finds himself in a time loop. Very Groundhog Day-esque, but instead of becoming a better person, the protagonist becomes a better soldier. Each death is a learning experience for him, and each time time reverts he is a little more knowledgable of himself and his enemies. I loved it. Ate it up. The soldiers drive small mechs called “jackets” to fight the aliens. Fuck yeah.
But the reason I’m posting this is because the author’s afterword struck me as interesting. Sakurazaka stated that he got his inspiration for the novel from video games. Sakurazaka said he received no satisfaction from completing games, because he died several times along the way. The king would praise the hero, saying that the kingdom was saved only because of him. Well, of course, every time the hero died he was able to retry. Naturally, the hero would save the kingdom.
So in video games, how special is the main character? What justifies dying and retrying? Some games do this well, like Dark/Demons Souls, Kid Icarus, immortal characters, or characters that control time. But is Mario special when he saves the princess? Are the Hunters in Monster Hunter good because they can kill a towering beast in three tries? Is Snake the legendary soldier when he can load a checkpoint?
Logically this can all be explained. The “retry” in video games is a do over. To revert before the crisis. As if it never happened. Cannonly, Link saves Zelda without ever dying. Same with Mario. When the character dies, time is reverted to before the princess was doomed.
But role-playing games are the worst about this. Kefka goes God mode, destroys the party, game over. Then, time is reverted, and the characters grind for more EXP so they can kill Kefka. In Oblivion and Morrowind, you are a nobody, that becomes somebody. But how? Because you can do what the other NPCs can’t, revive from a save. These are games designed to immerse the player. You are a part of this world while you play. So at the end of the day, do you deserve to win?
Granted, this is a in depth look at entertainment. Yes, I understand that games wouldn’t be fun unless you could reload a save. I see the line between fantasy and reality. These are all just thought-provoking concepts after all. But ever since Sukarazaka planted these thoughts in my head with his writing, I find myself being less satisfied being a hero.