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What Is Permadeath in Video Games?

In modern video games, death is hardly the end. When your character dies, they usually respawn at the nearest checkpoint with a full health bar, ready to take on the thing that took them out.

But sometimes, game designers include a mechanic called permadeath, and it’s as brutal as it sounds. Let’s dive in.

Permadeath in Video Games, Explained

Permadeath stands for permanent death, and it is a mechanic where a video game character dies for good.

If the death occurs to the main character, you’ll have to start the game from the beginning (sometimes, you’ll even have to create a new character). If it happened to a team or squad member, for example, in a strategy game like XCOM, you can’t use that character again.

Although each game implements permadeath differently, generally, dying means the character loses most, if not all, of their weapons, items, abilities, or any other sense of progression.

If a game implements permadeath, you can bet that it will be hard as well, meaning it’s up your alley if you prefer hard mode to be your default difficulty setting. That’s because dying is a major part of gameplay, and the developers intend for it to be a positive learning experience. That way, you’re encouraged to fully utilize the game’s mechanics to make it to the end and see the credits roll.

If there’s any genre of games where the permadeath mechanic is ubiquitous, it’s roguelike and roguelite games. But some games, like The Last of Us Part II and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, make it optional as part of their hardcore modes.

Long Live the Permadeath Mechanic

If permadeath in video games sounds punishing, well, that’s because it is by design. You’d think that gamers would avoid this feature like the plague. After all, games are supposed to be fun, right?

However, arguably, beating games with permadeath can provide greater satisfaction and bragging rights. And that’s part of the reason many people love this mechanic.

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