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Thread: PROTAGONIST DIES; THE END!

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    Proudly Loathsome ;) DMKA's Avatar
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    Default PROTAGONIST DIES; THE END!

    I'm growing rather tired of this growing trend in high profile releases. (SPOILER)Mass Effect 3 did it, (SPOILER)Final Fantasy XIII-2 did it, and word is the much anticipated (SPOILER)Assassin's Creed III does it as well, which, assuming it's true, is highly disappointing.

    Do you think this is ever a sound way of doing things or is it just a lazy way for writers to end these characters' stories rather than giving them drawn out closure?

    I'm sure there are examples of it being necessary and handled well, but I certainly can't think of any.
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    Feel the Bern Administrator Del Murder's Avatar
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    Well, death is going to be everyone's closure at some point.

    I agree it can be a bit of a gimmick way to end a game unless the plot is clearly going in that direction, which I believe was the case in at least one of the games you mentioned. I much prefer the happy ending.

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    Eggstreme Wheelie Recognized Member Jiro's Avatar
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    Sometimes people should die, sometimes they shouldn't. It's all about the tone you've been building. I've not actually played or finished any of the games you spoilered (shouldn't have clicked the smurfing tags ) but I know that (SPOILER)in Mass Effect 3 there is not nearly enough of a feeling of "oh smurf we're losing." I know it gets worse, but you're always progressing towards victory, just like in the previous two. So having Shepard die is a giant cop out.

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    4 Recognized Member Faris's Avatar
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    In some cases I would see it as being a good way to end a series before it gets over used and washed out. Depends on how they die too if it's meaningless then it's lazy, if it was the only option and saves the world better. In FFIX (SPOILER)you don't know Zidane survived until the very end but seeing that the world is saved and how it effected everyone still made the ending great. (SPOILER)I haven't finished ME3 yet, but honestly if they made 10 of those with Shepard...



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    Famine Wolf Recognized Member Sephex's Avatar
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    No game took this concept as far as Steel Battalion where if you died, your file would erase automatically and you would have to start all over.

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    How about the original end to (SPOILER)Fallout 3? Oh, you have companions who are immune to radiation? Too bad, you have to be the one to go into that radiation filled room to die. Just because.
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    I suppose from a dramatist's viewpoint it is a very effective way to close a story; I mean (SPOILER)FFX kind of did it with Tidus. Not to mention outside of video games, you've got Shakespeare (God blimey King Lear used protagonist death like it was candy) and other books and stuff.

    It's a very popular endgame plot device, and can also be made even more effective if you get foreshadowing, the ailing protagonist slowly succumbing to a poison or something. It has to be done well, and have it creep on you slowly. A big surprise death isn't going to work so well. In this regard, FFXIII-2 actually handled it quite well I think. (SPOILER)Serah's eventual death is foreshadowed several times, so even though her death is surprising, it's not a "Oh Snap!" style death


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    Video games are a different type of story, though. In plays, movies, or books, you aren't the character.

    Combine this further with the fact that death is something to be avoided in video games. In most games, when you die, that's the end. You have to restart, or reload. The life of your avatar is your life in the game. When you die, it's because you did something wrong, you screwed up, and you have to go back to undo it.

    Thus, when you die as a part of the story, it feels cheap. You went through everything, only to succumb to the same fate you've been busting your butt to avoid the entire game.

    Even with forshadowing, it can make for an extremely cheap moment, and can ruin a good story. Death is a storytelling tool, and it has to be used right. Death has to serve the story, and the plot. And, in games, it has to serve the gameplay as well.

    If you kill a character just for the sake of kililng a character, in any media, it feels cheap. When a character dies just to elicit a reaction from the audience, it is a temporary feeling, and rarely lasts, usually to be replaced with feelings of frustration and anger.

    But if you kill a character to serve the story, that's when the feelings last. Take Aeris's death. It was done to create an impact on the player, yes. But they made it serve the story. The effect it had on the team and the story going forward from there is enormous. It impacted, heck, it even drove the story forward. That was character death well handled.

    The problem with killing the main character is that you don't get this. When the main character dies, the story dies with them. Thus, the death can't really serve the story. You can't witness the impact of the character's death, and there is no way for it to serve an ongoing conflict. Heck, the conflicts are usually all resolved.

    FFX also did this well. How? By killing the character early. Tidus knows he's going to die from the Fayth Scar on. They don't "foreshadow" his death, the game flat out tells you that he will die, and why. Why there is no possible way to win without losing his life. That is the point at which the inevitibility of his death hits. His impending death changes his actions, his resolve, and his feelings. His death has a strong and meaningful impact on the game from that point on. Because of this, not killing him at the end would have ruined all that, and made it seem just as much a cheap cop-out as killing the main charcter at the end usually is.

    Chrono Trigger also did an excellent job, one of the best, in my opinion. First, they make it optional. As things should be, if you work hard enough, train your party enough, you can survive Lavos. This is frelling phenomenal game impact. It doesn't steal control from you and go "ha-ha, you're dead now", it lets you play through it, and makes your strength in the game actually meaningful. Sure, it's supposed to kill him, that's how the main story continues, but making it avoidable really increased the impact and decreased the "well, that was cheap" moment it would otherwise have.

    Second, they continue the story beyond Crono's death. They let us see how the team reacts, how the story unfolds without him. Similar to what they did in FFVII where we see how Cloud's disappearance into the Lifestream impacts the team. It made the scene have a heck of an impact when you get to see how the party members react, and then the lengths they go to in order to get the character back.

    Main character death can be handled well, but it is one of the hardest things to pull off in a videogame, and, even when pulled off well, should be rarely used. It is far too common, and far too poorly done these days.
    Last edited by Skyblade; 11-04-2012 at 05:05 AM.
    My friend Delzethin is currently running a GoFundMe account to pay for some extended medical troubles he's had. He's had chronic issues and lifetime troubles that have really crippled his career opportunities, and he's trying to get enough funding to get back to a stable medical situation. If you like his content, please support his GoFundMe, or even just contribute to his Patreon.

    He can really use a hand with this, and any support you can offer is appreciated.

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    Mold Anus Old Manus's Avatar
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    (SPOILER)Dr. House actually died in the end


    there was a picture here

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    Gobbledygook! Recognized Member Christmas's Avatar
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    Nowadays they get resurrected in the sequel/DLCs.

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    I don't really mind as long as it's done well. It was getting a little crazy at the time this thread was made but XIII had awful writing and undoes most of it's character death, ME was crushed under the weight of its own ambition, and AC ultimately never did anything really interesting with Desmond's story.

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