The battle was drawing to a close. My heroes had dispatched of the Mad King Gangrel a few turns previous, and were now finishing off the last of the desperate loyalists. And then, on the second to last turn I made the mistake of putting Olivia, the talented young Dancer who had only just joined my forces, within range of an enemy warrior. Disaster.
The enemy was swift and ruthless. As I watched in horror, a silent scream on my lips, the warrior brought his axe down and Olivia would never dance again.
I’m playing [Fire Emblem: Awakening][game], a turn-based strategy where your team of knights, mages and archers fight hordes and hordes of enemies in a fantasy setting. You tend to grow attached to these tiny men made of stats and polygons. Your guys have names, relationships and as it turns out, hopes and dreams. You can hang out with them back at the base and eavesdrop on their interactions. Donnel wants the war to end, so he can return home and be a farmer. Miriel wants to study the world. And Kellam just want the others to see him.
However, if your guys are killed in battle they die permanently. Unlike other games, there is no respawn and no resurrection. When you’re gone, you’re gone. And you feel terrible. Partly because it’s your fault, partly because you won’t get to hang out with them anymore.
Sure, you have the option of playing your game in the baby mode, where there is no actual permadeath. And there is always the option of resetting and going back to a saved game if the situation is too unbearable (it happens). But, I’ve found that when you instead learn to let go and accept your loss it feels weirdly liberating. Starting over is a way of cheating death, but accepting fate is conquering it.