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Robert Massaioli

I am making a puzzle game at the moment and I am not seeing where death fits into my game mechanic. You cannot 'loose' a level in a puzzle game but you can not finish it and in a way it defeats you...is that what you mean for puzzle games? I guess perhaps a puzzle has the opposite in that getting to new levels is like living more rather than dying less.


Hi Robert,

For puzzle games, yes, that is what that means. Also when completing the puzzle, a new puzzle is presented which is the change aspect.

Thanks for the comment,



I just discovered your blog a couple days ago, and I'm really enjoying your fresh, insightful analysis of games. Looking forward to your book.

With this last article, I was curious how you were going to answer Robert's comment, because I had the same thought. How do puzzle games that have no lose condition fit into this? Or the countless point-and-click adventure games where you can't die or do anything "wrong"?

So, in a way, both losing (failing) and winning (change) are analogous to death?

Account Deleted

Yes, death and change seem imperative for a game to be a game. But is death synonymous with failure? It's not that hard to imagine death and change as a result of win (actually, winning a game IS kinda like death, as noted in the previous comment)


Hi Martoonster,

All games have a lose condition, just as all games are played to win. However, just like the point about winning, losing is not necessarily telegraphed by the game.

So for example, adventure games are lost by giving up. A puzzle is too hard, or a riddle too complicated, and the player cannot proceed. This is no different structurally from an action game where, despite having infinite saves from which to restart, the player finds a level just tough to overcome.

Thanks for the comment,


Hi Nevermind,

To be the causer of death is synonymous with winning. To die and therefore win? I'm skeptical.



I think that most of the worries are not about death or violence tout-court, but against violent death.

Hyperrealism and violence in video games — often justified as means to a higher engagement — bring violent depiction of death; but as every player knows we can feel challenge, experience change and "feel that Zen" in games like Super Mario where we don't have to slaughter mushrooms, disembody turtles or expose the innards of Bowser.

Anyway: great article, I found your blog recently but I plan to read most of it!

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