Great horror makes the familiar monstrous, and in a video game, nothing is more familiar than the person behind the controller.
Code Vein is an ambitious artwork that I worry many have overlooked because of its apparent mishmash of various genres: it blended the punishing, death-oriented gameplay of Dark Souls with the rich character focus of Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) and added a vampire motif for good measure. Yet what seems at first glance to be a random mix of concepts empowers Code Vein to present a challenging, horrifying image of what it means for a player to invest herself in games that treat the very characters she’s meant to care about as pawns rather than intrinsically valuable individuals.
I want to convince you that true horror Code Vein is you, the player. More precisely, I want to show you that by setting up a point-by-point analogy between the player and Cruz Silva, the game’s apparent main antagonist, the game frames the player as a kind of metaphysical vampire: a horrifying entity that parasitically engages with the world of a video game, sustaining the world for her own sake rather than the sake of the characters within the world. While this horror may seem bizarre and niche at first glance, I ultimately argue that this increasingly common model for video-game storytelling may hold the key to further innovation in players’ relationships to the worlds and stories of games.
I begin by articulating precisely what features of Code Vein come from Dark Souls, JRPGs, and vampire stories. Then, I show how the game presents Cruz Silva as its main antagonist—and how she ultimately functions as a mirror to reveal the vampiric nature of the player as the true antagonist. After that, I step back to examine how the blend of elements from Dark Souls, JRPGs, and vampire stories unexpectedly managed to trick the player into taking on the role of metaphysical vampire without even realizing it. Finally, I explore how we can view Code Vein as a blueprint for a new way of telling stories about the ethics of players and video-game worlds.
(Be warned: spoilers for Code Vein abound.)
What “Anime Dark Souls” Really Means
The downside of having shorthand for everything we’d ever want to talk about is that the nuance of new stories gets lost in our rush to compare them to those stories with which we’re more familiar. In reality, Code Vein’s unique blend of elements from games like Dark Souls, Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs), and vampire stories is precisely what enables it to slyly turn the player into a monster without their even realizing it—but you wouldn’t intuit this by simply knowing the game as “anime Dark Souls.”
In that spirit, before I can articulate the exact kind of monster that the player of Code Vein is, I want to articulate just what the game borrows from these three genres so we can see the storytelling sleight-of-hand that makes the player monstrous.
From Dark Souls, Code Vein borrows gameplay that emphasizes an avatar dying many times in the course of trying to progress through the world of the game before actually succeeding in making progress. One of the many elements of the Dark Souls series that other games have sought to emulate is that of an unforgiving world whose labyrinthine paths and aggressive creatures lead the avatar to die many times as the player fails, learns, and retries brief stretches of the adventure before finally gaining enough skill to make an iota of progress—at which point the cycle typically begins anew.
This is the mechanical foundation of Dark Souls, upon which the game and the series built robust meditations on futility and the Sisyphean task of making meaning in the face of incorrigible meaninglessness. Code Vein builds a different structure upon that same foundation, with the player flinging the avatar—a Revenant, or a human corpse that has gained the ability to reconstitute itself nearly infinitely after death by bonding with a Biological Organ Regenerative (“BOR”) Parasite that connects to its heart, pumps its own blood through its veins, and takes control of all its vital functions—into death after death, only to see the avatar endlessly respawn at blood springs, Code Vein’s version of Dark Souls’ proverbial bonfires.
From JRPGs, Code Vein borrows storytelling anchored in complex, evolving, explicit relationships between a wide array of characters. While there are exceptions to every rule, chances are good that your favorite JRPG features a team of diverse and unlikely companions where other games might feature a standalone avatar. A game like Xenoblade Chronicles or Final Fantasy VII Remake is identifiable to many as a JRPG, among other reasons, because of the amount of time—and number of cutscenes—committed to developing and explaining the relationships between the four or more characters embarking on the game’s central quest together.
In interactive stories featuring a number of main characters, it makes sense, as a practical matter, to commit this focus to ingratiating the player with those characters such that she would actually want to spend the 60-80 hours typical of a JRPG helping these characters to achieve their goals. Code Vein is straightforwardly a JRPG in this regard: it features a ragtag group of seven core party members, including the player’s avatar, each with their own histories and motivations for embarking on a quest to save their world from impending annihilation—each with many accompanying opportunities for the player to learn about his or her backstory if the player should so desire.
From vampire stories, Code Vein borrows the legacy of deathless beings who sustain themselves by preying upon power imbalances between themselves and others. Vampire stories, through centuries of storytelling in different contexts and different media, have spun allegories for everything from a fear of infection to a fear of sin. At a structural level, though, stories of bloodsucking vampires represent existential power asymmetries: not a relationship of master with slave, but rather a relationship of a deathless entity—the vampire, who sustains himself by literally absorbing the substance that sustains the life of mortals (blood)—to those more fleeting, death-apt beings who are nothing more than food to the vampire. The former is immortal by virtue of its parasitism on the latter.
Code Vein’s overt focus on blood consumption belies the subtleties of how vampirism permeates its post-apocalyptic world. Revenants consume blood in order to sustain the BOR Parasites that control their bodily systems in exchange for transcendence from death; these blood needs are satisfied by a combination of human sources (willing and unwilling) and blood beads, encapsulated blood generated by blood springs. Yet we later learn that blood springs and their concomitant beads are sourced from the Revenant tasked with housing the heart of the deathless “Ur-Vampire” intended to govern all Revenants (Karen, bearing the Relic of the Heart)—and this sets the stage for the metaphysical vampirism that invites the player into the role of monster.
For our purposes, then, to say that Code Vein is “anime Dark Souls with vampires” is to say that Code Vein tells a story focused on a diversity of characters with robust backstories progressing slowly and meeting countless deaths in a world characterized by parasitic power relationships sustaining those who have transcended the finality of death. With this analysis in hand, we’ll be better poised to understand how this exact, unusual mix of elements from different genres of storytelling turns Code Vein’s player into the most horrifying vampire of them all.
The Red-Herring Antagonist: Cruz as a Villain and Cruz as a Mirror
In Cruz Silva, the player of Code Vein is presented with a character that looks like the game’s ultimate antagonist but is actually a kind of mirror: by setting up an uncanny analogy between the character of Cruz and the role of the player, the game lulls the player into a false sense of complacency before opening her eyes to her own monstrous nature.
To show you how the character of Cruz leads the way to analyzing the player as a metaphysical vampire, I’m going to tell you a story giving a broad overview of Cruz’s role in the story of Code Vein; then, I’m going to tell you a very similar story about the player of Code Vein by changing only a few words in the story about Cruz. By comparing three “Story Events” pertaining to Cruz and the player, the act of playing Code Vein—and, indeed, playing many video games—will become more insidious than it may initially appear.
Cruz as Villain: The Frenzied, Deathless God
Before understanding Cruz’s role as the Queen of Revenants, we need to understand what necessitated Revenants and a Queen in the first place. Prior to the events of Code Vein, the world was ravaged by a cataclysmic event called “The Great Collapse,” which introduced eldritch, violent beasts called “Horrors” into the world. This was the context within which BOR Parasites were conceived as a way of creating Revenants:
Queen Story Event #1: BOR Parasites allow hosts to transcend death at the cost of humanity, becoming flawed supersoldiers to fling against Horrors.
However, BOR Parasites introduce an unexpected problem for Revenants: bloodthirst, a craving for the consumption of blood, which, if not satisfied, will cause the Revenant to frenzy, becoming overstimulated by the BOR Parasite and ultimately, if the bloodthirst is not quelled, causing the Revenant to lose its mind and become little more than a hollow, violent shell (called “Lost”). In an attempt to free the Revenants from this crippling flaw:
Queen Story Event #2: A single, deathless entity is introduced to govern those supersoldiers and quell their bloodthirst.
The creation of this entity was the goal of Project Q.U.E.E.N., which conducted experiments and blood infusions on Cruz Silva, a test subject with remarkably strong will, turning her into a transcendent, unique kind of Revenant capable of manipulating blood and exercising an almost divine kind of agency that puts her in the desired position to govern and manage the thirst of Revenants.
This plan goes awry when Cruz herself frenzies, turning from a beneficent bastion of hope into a cataclysm rivaling The Great Collapse. The remaining Revenants take up “Operation Queenslayer” in an attempt to kill Cruz—yet, although the player’s avatar is able to defeat Cruz during this operation, the profound immortality with which she had been endowed by Project Q.U.E.E.N. prevented her from being killed with finality.
In the absence of the possibility of permanently annihilating Cruz:
Queen Story Event #3: The only way to quell that entity’s own madness is to distribute her being across strong-willed entities from that world.
The best that the surviving Revenants can manage is separating the body of Cruz into discrete “Relics” and binding those Relics to individuals who have sufficient willpower to resist their influence (called “Successors”), effectively becoming living prisons preventing Cruz from reconstituting herself and wreaking havoc upon the world’s population once again.
Cruz as Mirror: The Frenzied, Deathless Player
The horror I found in Code Vein wasn’t its desolate world, nor its ruthless monsters, nor even the Horrors of The Great Collapse: my horror came from the gradual realization that Cruz, for all her metaphysical and vampiric quirks, was holding a mirror up to exactly what I was doing as the player of Code Vein. The story of Cruz’s horrific and tragic transformation was quietly mirroring the player’s transformation into a metaphysical vampire.
To reach this realization, we have to tell the story of what it is for a player to tell the story of a video game.
Think first in very general terms about what a video-game story is. It’s a work of fiction representing the goings-on of characters: complex semantic objects that (typically) aim at representing humans or something human-adjacent. However, the structure of many video-game stories—including Code Vein—give these characters unusual, distinctly non-human qualities: (1) the characters are not able to act and make decisions on their own and (2) if the characters are killed by the many enemies that populate their world, they are able to “respawn,” avoiding the finality of death in one way or another.
In other words:
Player Story Event #1: The structure of video games allows characters to transcend death at the cost of humanity, becoming flawed semantic objects to fling against antagonists.
In order for this unusual sort of semantic object to successfully approximate a human, an actual human needs to intervene: someone of flesh and blood has to pick up a video-game controller and allow her own decision-making abilities to guide the character’s actions in a way that seems believably human. This player exists outside the character’s world, deathless and otherwise beyond the reach of all the hazards that threaten the character itself—and yet, the player is able to “reach into” that world through the controller and make the character whole through the act of playing the game:
Player Story Event #2: A single, deathless entity is introduced to govern those characters and impute them with humanity.
But it’s not enough to simply hand the player a controller and expect that she will commit to caring about these characters enough to treat them as humans: if the player does not genuinely care about the characters in the game she is playing, she runs the risk of viewing and using them merely as tools. The other side of video-game stories, after all, is that they are part of games: if the player is not given reason to be invested in the constituents of the story, she may revert to seeing the video game merely as a game, its characters mere chess pieces to be dispassionately used in order to achieve what is not the end of the story but rather a mere win-condition of the game.
Player Story Event #3: The only way to stoke that entity’s own humanity is to ingratiate her with the most compelling characters from that world.
This perspective on player engagement provides an alternative explanation of JRPGs’ heavy focus on exposing character relationships and motivations, which I mentioned as a key element that Code Vein integrates into its own storytelling: if a player is going to commit tens or hundreds of hours to accomplishing the mission of a party of characters, the story ought to be structured in such a way as to make her not merely interested in one character but rather invested in the stories and motivations of all the party’s members.
In the character of Cruz Silva, then, we have the haunting image of what can happen if a capricious, immortal entity with agency over an entire world—an entity structurally analogous to the player—loses any reason to treat the beings of that world as human.
Of course, the player of Code Vein might still be breathing easy at this point, telling herself that she always cares about the characters of the games she plays and that she is therefore never at risk of “frenzying” as Cruz did. Unfortunately, there’s a further problem for the unsuspecting player: Code Vein’s narrative structure goes out of its way to prevent the player from becoming invested in its characters, turning her from a beneficent, god-like entity into a metaphysical vampire.
Code Vein and Metaphysical Vampirism: Sustaining a World to Feed Off of It
Code Vein distances the player from investment in its characters through (1) punishing gameplay that encourages the player to focus more on mechanical execution than engagement with its story and (2) making it difficult and underwhelming to access the backstories that would ordinarily lead the player to be further invested in its core cast of characters. The consequence, I argue, is metaphysical vampirism: the positioning of the player in the role of maintaining the game’s world merely for the sake of playing the game, rather than for the content of its story.
The Challenge of Focus
In defining Code Vein’s relationship to Dark Souls and the genre of video-game storytelling that has arisen around it, I referred to “gameplay that emphasizes an avatar dying many times in the course of trying to progress through the world of the game before actually succeeding in making progress.“ The upshot of this from the player’s perspective is that, all else being equal, she has to allocate more focus to the operational task of progressing through the game (defeating enemies, navigating convoluted and dangerous areas, etc.) versus other potential objects of focus—for instance, investment in characters and their evolving relationships.
This is fairly typical of any video game that’s coded, for better or worse, as a “Dark-Souls-inspired” game. What’s atypical in the case of Code Vein is the manner in which this focus on technical execution of game mechanic integrates with the ontology of its main characters—that is, the Revenants—in order to yield a disturbingly cohesive narrative experience of total estrangement of player from characters.
While Revenants persist beyond death by virtue of their BOR Parasites, death does not leave them unscathed: over the course of many deaths, Revenants lose their own memories, manifested physically in the form of “Vestiges” (shown above) that may be discovered and probed by the player and her avatar throughout the course of the story. In an unexpected way—particularly for a game borrowing character-driven storytelling from the genre of JRPGs—this puts the characters of Code Vein on a par with the player, for both the player and the characters tend to lose their broader recall of the story and stakes of the world in proportion to the number of times they must experience failure before making any progress.
This aspect of Revenants’ persistent yet fleeting existence already distances the player and characters from the backstories that would ordinarily bond the player to her playable subordinates, but the narrative dynamics of the Vestiges push this estrangement even further by (1) making it hard for the player to find the Vestiges in the first place and (2) tempering the reward for finding those Vestiges by rendering the Revenants to whom those Vestiges belong much more indifferent to the reclamation of their past memories than the player might reasonably expect.
In regions with convoluted paths and enemies keeping nearly constant pressure on the avatar, it can be challenging enough to reach the boss and progress further in the story without worrying about hunting down the Vestiges that are often well off the beaten path. Adding insult to injury, though, those players who do put in the effort to find and restore the memories contained within the Vestiges are met with a more tepid response than they might expect from the Revenants to whom those memories belong.
Allowing the avatar’s companion, Io, to restore Vestiges lets the avatar wander through the memories contained within, witnessing them represented as spotlit tableaus in abstract space. It is implied that the character to which those memories belong also gains access to them by virtue of the avatar committing this act, for after the experience of the memories concludes, that character reflects on the content of the memories in a conversation with the avatar. Yet despite the characters thanking the avatar for collecting their memories and often asking the avatar to collect more Vestiges if possible, the restoration of characters’ memories doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to the characters, inviting the question of why the player is going to the trouble of collecting Vestiges at all.
Davis’ memories are a particularly salient example of these Vestige mechanics. By collecting the Vestiges of Davis and Naomi, one of Davis’ old companions, the avatar is able to learn—and cause Davis to learn—that Davis went by “Tyrone” back when he was human and had a fiancée named Jessica, who was rescued from rogue Revenants by Naomi and sent to a government shelter. Davis thanks the avatar for restoring his memories and allowing him to learn about the fates of Jessica and Naomi, but he explicitly refuses to go in search of either of them, despite his once having feelings for both of them and despite both of them putatively still being alive.
This is an unusual and unsettling mode of accessing character backstories and building relationships, something that’s typically the bread and butter of how JRPGs ingratiate their players with their characters. In a game that features a perfectly realistic and playable memory from the avatar’s own past (the memory of Operation Queenslayer), the memories of other characters seem like dim gestures by comparison, and those characters, so long divorced from their memories, seem to view those memories more like stories of people to whom they bear a vague resemblance, rather than aspects of their own identity that would incentivize them to actually behave differently within the story.
And indeed, giving these characters back their memories won’t do anything like give those characters new abilities or motivate them to pursue people from their past—in fact, the most obvious “reward” for restoring Vestiges is not empowering the characters to which the Vestiges belong, but rather giving the avatar new abilities.
The avatar, by virtue of possessing the Relic of Queen’s Blood, has the unique ability to absorb and use the Blood Codes of other Revenants, each of which possesses abilities that reflect the Blood Code’s original owner. Many of those abilities are locked until the Vestiges of the Revenant in question are restored, an apt reflection of the avatar being able to better tap into characters’ powers as the avatar comes to know more about the character.
The result of these Vestige dynamics—difficulty of discovery, underwhelming character response to restoration, and material change only to the avatar—is that the player is naturally encouraged to reconceptualize the game’s primary mechanic for learning more about characters as a mechanic for improving their avatar’s ability to navigate and conquer the ruthless challenges of progressing through the story. Rather than becoming more attached to characters, the player uses those characters—including their very memories—as a means of progressing through the story.
That story through which the player progresses, of course, is one of preserving the world in the face of imminent annihilation—but if the player does not manage to truly invest herself in the characters of the world, then to what end is she really preserving that world? This is pure vampirism in the sense I specified earlier: the deathless entity of the player is sustaining herself by siphoning mere mechanical utility from others.
By establishing a haunting analogy between Cruz and the player and subtly distancing the player from the game’s characters, Code Vein turns its player into a metaphysical vampire: an entity that, rather than feeding on an individual for sustenance, feeds on an entire world in order to maintain her parasitic existence.
The story of Code Vein presents three possible outcomes, each of which sustains the game’s world at the cost of sacrificing one or several characters, and, following the ending, the player is provided the opportunity to take their avatar and start the whole story over—endlessly perpetuating the world for the sake of the player rather than those characters who actually live within the world.
The “Heirs” ending is particularly instructive in this regard: if the player proceeds through the game in as tactical and disengaged a way as possible—represented by not bothering to restore the memories of any of the Successors whose frenzying the avatar must quell, killing them rather than saving them—then the avatar ultimately absorbs all of the Queen’s Relics and becomes a reincarnation of the Queen herself.
It’s fitting that the ending that most reinforces the callousness of metaphysical vampirism literally identifies the avatar, the conduit of the player’s agency, with the Queen, the other transcendent, vampiric entity that so resembles the player. In fact, given what we know about BOR mechanics using blood to manipulate all functions of their host Revenant, it’s not implausible to suppose that the avatar bearing the Queen’s transcendent blood is precisely what allows the avatar to be controlled and manipulated by the player, a metaphysically vampiric entity that transcends yet interacts with Code Vein’s world in a way functionally similar to the Queen.
Once the rest of the party recognizes the avatar’s identity with the Queen, Louis strikes the avatar down and the party becomes the new group of Successors, sacrificing themselves to act as cages for the Queen’s Relics and thereby ensuring the perpetuation of the world.
Though the other two endings superficially seem like “better” outcomes, they don’t present any opportunity for the player to truly abnegate her metaphysical vampirism. “To Eternity,” the outcome of the game if the player saves only some of the frenzied Successors she faces, sees the avatar (along with Io, in a supporting role) sacrificed to literally take the place of Gregorio Silva and maintain the world’s status quo. “Dweller in the Dark” is the most deceptively parasitic of the endings, for it sees Io absorbing the Queen’s Relics and sacrificing herself to become an endless fount of blood beads to sustain the world; while the avatar and party subsequently set off to adventure into the parts unknown beyond the Gaol of Mists that circumscribed the game’s world, the game immediately invites the player to restart the story with the same avatar, reconceiving Io’s grand sacrifice as yet another way of maintaining the world for the sake of the player playing the game again.
The longer one stares at it, the more Code Vein becomes a delightfully deceptive puzzle box: it purports to have a more robust and narratively central cast of characters than Dark Souls and its cousins, yet the ways in which it encourages players to use those characters in order to progress makes the player into a vampire far more terrifying than any blood-fueled Revenant: the player looks in the Queen’s eyes and sees a mirror to her own role, playing the game simply to sustain the game’s world so that she may continue to play the game, with no room for direct investments in characters who barely remember their own identities beyond their function as soldiers.
Toward an Ethics of Player-World Relations
Code Vein shines for telling a horror story that makes the player the monster and makes sure she doesn’t realize this until it’s too late. Beyond this being an intrinsically compelling story, though, I’ve found myself returning to Code Vein repeatedly as a jumping-off point from which we can begin to explore more sophisticated meditations on ethics in video-game storytelling.
For many years, the storytellers of games have recognized that video games’ interactive nature makes them an apt playground for moral decision-making: at various moments in the story, the player may choose to make it the case that her avatar takes different actions with different moral valances. In many games, such as the Fallout series, those different actions are explicitly coded with different “good” or “bad” karma points; other games, such as The Witcher 3, have been lauded for offering the player decisions that have non-obvious consequences and no clear “morality value” assigned to them, encouraging the player to think more directly about the substance of her choices rather than optimizing for build an ideally “good” or “bad” avatar.
While this variety of decision-making within games can be interesting, it doesn’t go far beyond fairly basic matters of practical ethics. Even the choices offered within The Witcher 3 sit well within the realm of classic-but-tired ethical thought experiments such as trolleys and murderers:
- A runaway trolley is barreling toward two workers on the track. You can pull a lever to divert the trolley to a different track where there is only one worker. Do you pull the lever?
- You’re hosting your friend at your home. A murderer knocks on your door, says he wants to kill your friend, and asks you if your friend is in your house. Do you lie or tell the truth?
What excites me about Code Vein is the fact that it shows the path to contemplating ethical questions that much more thoroughly take advantage of the special nature of video games as a storytelling medium. Forget, for a moment, about the ethics of the avatar’s actions, and think about the ethics of the player as a god-like entity who is able to manipulate the world of a video game from outside of that world—the entity whose engagement is the direct goal of that entire world. What are good and bad ways in which the player can relate to that world? What does the moral universe of a video game look like to the player who steps back from her avatar and thinks about her own relationship and responsibility to the content of the game’s fictional world?
Code Vein has shown us just one of many possible stories that can be told when we take this perspective: the player, separately from her avatar, can be the monster in a horror story, bending the video game’s entire world to her will for the sake of detached and perpetual entertainment. There are many other stories that can make the player distinctly heroic, monstrous, pitiful, and many other attributes in this light; some of these have already been published, and many more are lurking in the imaginations of storytellers and gamers.
It’s my hope that other games will pick up the gauntlet that Code Vein has thrown and allow us to explore the full range of possible roles that we can assume as players. In my experience, it’s the substance and implications of those roles, much more so than any particular action taken by an avatar, that keep the player thinking about a game long after she’s put it down.
- Thanks to Dan Hughes, Matt McGiil, Shannon Diesch, PAX South 2020, and PAX East 2020 for helping to develop the concepts of this article in their previous iterations as convention presentations. Those who would rather watch than read can find a recording of With a Terrible Fate’s panel analyzing games inspired by Hidetaka Miyazaki—including Code Vein, Hollow Knight, and Nioh—here. ↑
- For clarity’s sake, it’s worth pointing out that I am not claiming that the developers of Code Vein, as a matter of empirical fact, designed the game with the intention of making the player a metaphysical vampire in the way I specify in this article; analyses that speculate about the intentions of authors are not what interest me. What I’m interested in is the most cohesive understanding of the overall ecosystem of a game’s story and everything it implies for the player participating in it, regardless of whether or not its creator intended for the ecosystem to be most conducive to that particular understanding. It’s in that spirit that my analysis contends that this novel way of understanding the role of the player in Code Vein is one that is especially illuminating and explanatory in light of the game’s overall storytelling structure, whether or not the developers had it in mind when creating the game. ↑
- Interesting work has been done to connect the world and events of Code Vein to the God Eater corpus, another of Hiroshi Yoshimura’s works. I don’t intend to take a position on that relationship here; rather, I’m analyzing Code Vein as an artwork on its own terms. I believe that the substance of my arguments in this analysis remains the same irrespective of Code Vein’s relationship to God Eater. (More context on the relationship between these two modes of analysis, which I call ‘Narrative-Grounding Analysis’ and ‘Narrative-Event Analysis’, can be found in the “Preliminaries” section of my article analyzing the grounds of humanity in NieR: Automata.) ↑
- This isn’t equally applicable to all video games that feature avatars and party members that die frequently: in many games, the best explanation of what happens when a character respawns is simply that the player has returned to a moment in the game’s history before that death occurred, meaning the character itself isn’t really the kind of thing that can avoid death. However, many modern games—including, crucially, Code Vein—make narrative meaning out of their respawn mechanics by offering an explanation as to how and why these characters really are able to avoid death (in Code Vein, that explanation is the BOR Parasites). ↑
- Some might object that this is a hollow criticism of “Dweller in the Dark” because a video-game story simply has to provide a means for the player to restart upon the story’s conclusion, but that’s not a necessary feature of video-game stories at all: in fact, some of the most innovative video-game stories have endings that can only be achieved by the player choosing to irrevocably erase all of the save data representing her progress through the game, effectively preventing herself from further engaging with the game. Thus, the capacity for the player to seamlessly restart the story with her avatar upon the conclusion of “Dweller in the Dark” is an aspect of the game that warrants narrative analysis like anything else. ↑
- Richard Nguyen has the best analysis I’ve seen of this universe of decision-making within games. ↑