Created By: MetroidPeter on February 28, 2017 Last Edited By: MetroidPeter on March 21, 2017
Troped

Player Death Is Dramatic

The player character's death is played for drama.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
trope
"Snake! What's going on?! Snake!? SNAAAAAAAKE!!!"
— Otacon Metal Gear Solid

Anytime the player character is killed in a video game, Critical Existence Failure is sure to manifest. Sometimes, the player character's body just flops dead like a rag-doll. Other times, they explode (normally if they're a robot, but in chunky salsa if they're not), or the enemies start Beating A Dead Player.

We're not talking about those. We're talking about when the death of the player character is treated with some actual drama, as the player themselves would, and sees it as a tragic happening. It does so by conveying to the player that the player character is truly defeated, and that the game cannot go on without them. How this manifests itself varies, in some early video games, everything except the player would disappear and be replaced by a black void, removing all distractions from the character's corpse. In more modern games, all entities that are not the player (enemies, bosses, NPCs, etc.) would freeze in place as the player character dies. Dramatic Spotlight may be involved if the work is being showy. Due to the nature of this trope, it's very rare for The Many Deaths of You to apply, but if it does, expect all death scenes to have something in common, even if it's Yet Another Stupid Death.

It's worth mentioning that the player character doesn't necessarily need to die for this trope to come into play, any type of failure can apply, as long as it's Played for Drama. If the rest of the game world keeps going on despite the player character dying, then it's not an example.

This isn't to be confused with It's a Wonderful Failure, as that is for dramatic failure in specific circumstances, while this encompasses dying in normal circumstances during game play. Contrast Have a Nice Death.


Examples

  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Every 2D Metroid game after Super Metroid did this. When Samus takes her last hit, she freezes in place & the entire screen turns black, except for her.
  • Final Fantasy VI: If the party is defeated, the lead party member is seen disappointed in the middle of the screen against a black background.
  • Crash Bandicoot (1996): Several of Crash's death animations involve him dying against a black background. Though it's mostly Played for Laughs.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Starting with the first Solid game, Mission Control characters who you speak with on the Codec will become alarmed if Snake dies. Otacon provides the page quote.
  • Undertale: During battle, the human's SOUL is visible when fighting monsters. If the human's HP hits 0, then all monsters on screen, along with the entire interface, vanish. Only the human's SOUL remains visible before cracking, and promptly shattering into pieces, signifying the human has died.
  • Yandere Simulator: Another rare 3D game doing this, if anything happens to Yan-Chan or Senpai that makes it impossible for them to be in a relationship, then a heartbroken Yan-Chan is seen against a black background as everything else disappears.
"I can never face my Senpai again..."
Yandere Chan
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • March 1, 2017
    Arivne

    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.
  • March 1, 2017
    Getta
    Crash Bandicoot 1996: The majority of Crash's death animation include the screen suddenly turning black, except for Crash, who spins in place as the camera closes in before he collapses. This is never used in future games.
  • March 1, 2017
    sailing101
    For visuals like this I'll ask my standard question. What does this do to tell a story?
  • March 1, 2017
    Lullabee
    @sailing101: It helps reinforce the message that you got a game over and your character is dead. It's an easily comprehensible visual shorthand for how dead your character is, they're not just stunned, there's nothing you can do, you're gonna go back to your last save point and that's just how it is. If the character was shown lying dead on a normal background, it'd be less obvious.
  • March 1, 2017
    AgProv
    Literature
    • In the cumulative events of The Elric Saga, the hero Elric is alone in a world destroyed by total war, all his friends having died along with, well, everybody else. The world takes on the uniform grey expanse of Total Law as it prepares to reform itself. Elric chooses to die at the point of the hell-blade Stormbringer rather than to seek to survive in this. But his death is the sacrifice needed to create a new world on the formless steel-grey mass of the old.
  • March 1, 2017
    sailing101
    But that's not part of the story now is it.
  • March 1, 2017
    Lullabee
    @sailing101 I don't understand where you got the idea that video game tropes have to relate strictly to the actual game plotline? A lot of Video Game Tropes don't exist to literally tell you the story, if you define the story as just the part of the game that's about "Ganondorf is trying to take over Hyrule and the Chosen Hero must stop him" or something. Does that mean games with an Excuse Plot don't have tropes because they're not telling a story?

    Does Sound Of No Damage, Flash Of Pain, or some other video game trope like that tell you something about how Ganondorf is trying to take over Hyrule? Of course not, but it tells you something about the game anyway.
  • March 1, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Does this count?
    • Final Fantasy VI When the party is defeated, the scene shifts to black, and the first character sits down.
  • March 1, 2017
    sailing101
    Just because some pages violate trope policy is no excuse to make more. This is Not A Trope.
  • March 1, 2017
    Getta
    ^ tropes aren't necessarily about plots. Otherwise we won't have Video Game Tropes or Para Text.
  • March 1, 2017
    sailing101
    I repeat. Just because we have pages that violate wiki policy is no excuse to make more that do the same.
  • March 1, 2017
    Kooshmeister
    Yeah, but so much about video games involves, well, gameplay elements, which aren't necessarily related to the story, but are commonly used enough to merit mention. I mean, in my opinion.
  • March 1, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    OK, I see that people are split on whether or not this is Trope Worthy. I think that the title & way I phrased the explanation may have been too specific. I may broaden the trope a little bit if that'll make it easier to understand.
  • March 1, 2017
    Kooshmeister
    Works for me.
  • March 2, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    I have broadened the title & updated the Laconic & description, as well as added some more examples. Let me know what you guys think.
  • March 2, 2017
    Getta
    ^ Now that's better.

    ...though I kinda think Its A Wonderful Failure would be similar to this...
  • March 4, 2017
    Koveras
    The rewrite made me think of Tabletop RPGs where player character deaths are sometimes so dramatic, their effects spill over into real life and ruin actual friendships between players—less because the game or the Game Master go out of their way to make it dramatic, but because of the extreme identification players often have with their characters. As an example, Wil Wheaton's character's death by a trap in the season 3 of Acquisitions Incorporated had seriously soured his real life relationships with the DM Chris Perkins and fellow player Scott Kurtz (whom he gave part of the blame) for a year, until his character was resurrected.
  • March 4, 2017
    Getta
  • March 5, 2017
    Koveras
    Oh, and also, the title "Player Death Is Dramatic" is ambiguous, in that it can refer to actual real life player's death, such as when lets-players die on camera during live streams (which has sadly happened multiple times in the past years).
  • March 5, 2017
    BKelly95
    • Metal Gear Solid and its follow-ups have the player character's death followed by a character screaming for a response, then screaming out his name. It usually goes something like this:
      Snake, what happened? Snake? Snake!
  • March 5, 2017
    Getta
    ^^ The one dying is the player character, right?
  • March 5, 2017
    Koveras
    ^ Of course, that's what the OP obviously meant. I am just saying that a trope title should be clear before concise, and there is a lot of current research that points towards player and player character being very separate entities.
  • March 15, 2017
    Getta
    Should be "Dramatic Gameplay Death" or something.
  • March 20, 2017
    Skylite
    I'd say it's a trope. Meta wise, player is going back to their last save to try it again. In story, though, the player character is The Chosen One in many cases, so if the Big Bad (or any smaller bads along the way) defeats them, that's it. All Is Lost. Nobody else is strong enough to stop the Big Bad from taking over or destroying the world. Final Fantasy tends to make this very plain, though usually the Hero's entire current party has to fall (shorthand for they all died too, offscreen). The funereal music is played but with the sense it's the funeral for the whole world.

    It's also a meta cue for the player, in role playing scenarios. You know from the townsfolk what is lost. You don't want their stories left unfinished, do you? You don't want to leave the fate of the world where it will go without you, do you?
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