11-1 | Playing to Death


Playing to Death

Ken S. McAllister and Judd Ethan Ruggill


The authors discuss the relationship of death and play as illuminated by computer games. Although these games, they argue, do illustrate the value of being—and staying—alive, they are not so much about life per se as they are about providing gamers with a playground at the edge of mortality. Using a range of visual, auditory, and rule-based distractions, computer games both push thoughts of death away from consciousness and cultivate a perception that death—real death—is predictable, controllable, reasonable, and ultimately benign. Thus, computer games provide opportunities for death play that is both mundane and remarkable, humbling and empowering. The authors label this fundamental characteristic of game play thanatoludism. Key words: computer games; death and play; thanatoludism

Mors aurem vellens: Vivite ait venio.
—Appendix Vergiliana
, “Copa”