A life no longer worth playing: Some remarks on in-game suicide

Michael Nagenborg*, Christian Hoffstadt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


While references to life and death are often made in texts dealing with video games, and violence in video games is still among the most discussed issues, there are, to date, only a few accounts of the act of ‘virtual self-killing’ or ‘in-game suicide’. In fact, in most video games the player’s task is to keep his or her character alive. However, there are some very prominent examples of video games that include the suicide of player and non-player characters. By ‘in-game suicide’ we refer to any kind of self-harming behaviour with intended lethal outcome for a virtual, humanlike character in a game. This article will begin by building a typology of different modes of in-game suicide, before going on to take a closer look at several examples. One major distinction for this research is based on the motivation of the character, whereby we distinguish between ‘game-world’s internal motivation’ and ‘game world’s external motivation’. Therefore, some basic considerations on the relationship between player and character are given. In the third section we will analyze three different kinds of games involving suicide: first, we will address games where the act of self-killing is the main task of the player; this is followed by an examination of suicide attackers in video games; and finally, we will address the issue of (attempted) in-game suicide as part of the practice of playing, which includes rituals of self-destruction as well as the dramatic staging of a character’s departure from the game’s world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-95
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Death
  • Identity
  • In-game suicide
  • Life
  • Suicide
  • Suicide bombers


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