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Deletion As Punishment
You know what the best thing about video games is? The freedom to do whatever you want. You're not necessarily bound to perform the task the game gives you; nothing's stopping you from repeatedly playing that particular minigame over and over again, spending hours fighting irrelevant monsters or even getting yourself into some mischief. While most games attempt to deter you from committing heinous acts by punishing your character in various ways, for some players, it isn't enough. So what if the punishment ends up being that you lost some money, disbarred from a particular location, or even the game straight up killing you? You can regain that money, wait out your sentence, and just restart your game—really, it's no big deal. Even if the punishment were to go further than that, it's nothing a little Save Scumming can't fix, right?

Well, what if the game had the ability to take that away as well?

Here is the last resort of a video game to set you straight: Threaten to delete your save data. It's most likely to catch even the most unaffected player's attention, as this particular punishment violates the secure barrier between game and player. Sure, it seems like a cardinal sin a game designer would put upon a player to actually go that far, but still—the player brought it upon himself.

This trope specifically applies to games that actually have (or fakes) the capacity to erase its own save data (save actually going through the game options and deleting the data through there) as a result of the player's in-game actions.

A lot of games likely won't follow through with it, but would you, the player, actually take that chance?

See also Final Death Mode, where this trope may come into play should your Player Character bite it.

Examples:

  • In Nier, to get the final ending where Kaine is saved, Nier must choose to have his existence erased, including everyone's memories of him. If you do choose this, the game erases all of your save data, and doesn't even allow you to choose the same name if you start a new game. It does give you three or four "Are You Sure You Want to Do That?" warnings, first.
  • The Alf game has a trap item that resets your game if you use it (not sure whether the game actually has a save system, though).
  • An NPC in Oracle Of Seasons really hates people who destroy signposts. This being a Zelda game, by the time you talk to him you've probably slaughtered signposts by the dozen, and he responds by sending the game back to the start screen (possibly giving the player a heart attack)... then it goes back to normal and you get a ring for it.
  • The Resettis from Animal Crossing will show up to lecture you if you don't save your game properly before quitting and even threaten to delete your save file. They can't actually do it.
  • One Sanity Effect in Eternal Darkness makes it look like you've just accidentally deleted all your saves.
  • Early versions of An Untitled Story would delete save files whose data didn't correspond to their checksum. This was basically meant to prevent players from tampering with the save files.
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, Bottles threatens to delete your save file if you talk to him too many times in a row. Gruntilda actually does erase your save if you overuse certain cheat codes.
  • In The Stinger of Kid Icarus: Uprising, Hades pretends to erase your save file after telling you that the game is over.
  • Fail to eject in an emergency playing the mecha simulator Steel Battalion? Enjoy your erased save file.
  • Be wary playing Hardcore Mode in Minecraft, as dying in this Harder Than Hard mode results in your entire map getting deleted.
  • Hardcore in Terraria does a similar idea except it deletes your character instead of the world after death. You can painfully continue by creating a new character but the items, mana, life are all lost.
  • Present in Earthbound as the final routine in the game's well-known Copy Protection. If you make it to the final boss, the game hangs. Resetting the game reveals that your saves are erased.
  • Shows up in Gunstar Heroes as the consequence to failing a certain Advancing Wall of Doom section, but only in the Japanese version. It's a bluff, however.

Video Game Cruelty PunishmentVideo Game RewardsViolation of Common Sense

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