Life (video games)

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A generic character has a total of three lives, indicated as light-blue orbs. The character has currently lost 3.5 out of 11 health points - losing all would cost a life. Lives and Health in gaming.png
A generic character has a total of three lives, indicated as light-blue orbs. The character has currently lost 3.5 out of 11 health points – losing all would cost a life.

In video games, a life is a play-turn that a player character has, defined as the period between start and end of play. [1] Lives refer to a finite number of tries before the game ends with a game over. [2] It is sometimes called a chance, a try, rest or a continue particularly in all-ages games, to avoid the morbid insinuation of losing one's "life". [3] Generally, if the player loses all their health, they lose a life. Losing all lives usually grants the player character "game over", forcing them to either restart or stop playing.


The number of lives a player is granted varies per game type. A finite number of lives became a common feature in arcade games and action games during the 1980s, and mechanics such as checkpoints and power-ups made the managing of lives a more strategic experience for players over time. Lives give novice players more chances to learn the mechanics of a video game, while allowing more advanced players to take more risks.


Lives may have originated from the pinball mechanic of having a limited number of balls. A finite number of lives (usually three) became a common feature in arcade games. Much like in pinball games, the player's goal was usually to score as many points as possible with their limited number of lives. [2] [4] Taito's classic arcade video game Space Invaders (1978) is usually credited with introducing multiple lives to video games. [5] Lives were important in these games because the desire to avoid the finality of the player character's death compelled players to insert more quarters, making the maximum amount of profit. [6]

Later, refinements of health, defense and other attributes, as well as power-ups, made managing the player character's life a more strategic experience and made lost health less of the handicap it was in early arcade games. [4] Lives and game over screens became thought of as outmoded concepts and holdovers from arcade games that were unnecessary when players had already paid for the game. They also discouraged the player from playing the game fairly, with players in games such as Doom resorting to save scumming in order to preserve their lives rather than start from an in-game checkpoint with their lives depleted, and getting a game over can often cause players to permanently abandon a game instead of making another attempt at the level. Therefore, most modern games have completely abandoned the concept of player lives, instead simply restarting the player from the nearest checkpoint when they die, allowing them to undo or rewind their progress until such time as they are safe, as in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time , or making saving the player from death contingent on successfully executing a QTE, as in Batman: Arkham Asylum . [6]


It is common in action games for the player to have multiple lives and chances to earn more in-game. This way, a player can recover from making a disastrous mistake. Role-playing games and adventure games usually grant only one, but allow player-characters to reload a saved game. [7] [8]

Lives set up the situation where dying is not necessarily the end of the game, allowing the player to take risks they might not take otherwise, or experiment with different strategies to find one that works. Multiple lives also allow novice players a chance to learn a game's mechanics before the game is over. Another reason to implement lives is that the ability to earn extra lives provide an additional reward incentive for the player. [2]

Many older video games feature cheat codes that allow you to gain extra lives without earning them throughout gameplay. One example is Contra, which added the option to input the Konami code to get 30 extra lives. [9]

In modern times, some free-to-play games, such as the Candy Crush Saga trilogy, capitalize on the multiple life system to create an opportunity to earn more microtransactions. In such games, a life is lost when the player fails a level, but once all lives are lost, the player is prevented from continuing the game for a temporary amount of time, instead of receiving a game over that would entail total failure or require a new beginning, as lives will re-generate automatically after a number of minutes or hours. Players can either wait for lives, attempt alternate activities to recover lives (such as asking for friends online to donate lives), or purchase items that can fully replenish lives or grant unlimited lives for a limited time to continue playing immediately.[ citation needed ] This system works like an "energy" meter for other free-to-play games, however, lives do not deplete when a level is successfully completed, unlike energy.

Extra lives

A 1-up Mushroom from the Super Mario series 1-UP mushroom.jpg
A 1-up Mushroom from the Super Mario series

An extra life, also called a 1-up or an extend, is a video game item that increments the player character's number of lives. [10] Because there are no universal game rules, the form 1-ups take varies from game to game, but are often rare and difficult items to acquire. The use of the term "1-up" to designate an extra life first appeared in Super Mario Bros. , where a 1-Up could be obtained in several ways. Including grabbing a green "1-Up Mushroom"; using a Koopa shell to kill 8 or more consecutive enemies; or jumping on 8 or more consecutive enemies without touching the ground. The term quickly caught on, seeing use in both home and arcade video games. [1]

A number of games included an exploitable design flaw called a "1-up loop", in which it is possible to consistently acquire two or more 1-ups between a certain checkpoint and the following checkpoint. The player can thus acquire two 1-ups, make the character die, and restart from the first checkpoint with a net gain of one life; this procedure can then be repeated for as many lives as the player desires. [11]

There are also rare instances where a player may get as many lives as desired in a single life. One such case is possible in Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii. In this game's Supermassive Galaxy level, there is a small disc-shaped dirt planet upon which three Koopas (enlarged, as fits the theme of the level) walk. It is possible to jump and bounce on the shell of one of them, and, over the course of a few minutes of bouncing, cultivate the maximum number of 99 lives.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Player character</span> Character controlled by a game player

A player character is a fictional character in a video game or tabletop role-playing game whose actions are controlled by a player rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Koopa Troopa</span> Fictional race of turtle or tortoise-like creatures from the Mario series

Koopa Troopas, known in Japan as Nokonoko, are fictional footsoldiers of the turtle-like Koopa race from the Mario media franchise. They are commonly referred to generically as Koopas, a race that includes Bowser, King of the Koopas, the Koopalings, Lakitu, and others.

In video games, a power-up is an object that adds temporary benefits or extra abilities to the player character as a game mechanic. This is in contrast to an item, which may or may not have a permanent benefit that can be used at any time chosen by the player. Although often collected directly through touch, power-ups can sometimes only be gained by collecting several related items, such as the floating letters of the word 'EXTEND' in Bubble Bobble. Well known examples of power-ups that have entered popular culture include the power pellets from Pac-Man and the Super Mushroom from Super Mario Bros., which ranked first in UGO Networks' Top 11 Video Game Powerups.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shoot 'em up</span> Subgenre of action game

Shoot 'em ups are a sub-genre of action games. There is no consensus as to which design elements compose a shoot 'em up; some restrict the definition to games featuring spacecraft and certain types of character movement, while others allow a broader definition including characters on foot and a variety of perspectives.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Action game</span> Video game genre

An action game is a video game genre that emphasizes physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction time. The genre includes a large variety of sub-genres, such as fighting games, beat 'em ups, shooter games, and platform games. Multiplayer online battle arena and some real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

<i>Yoshis Safari</i> 1993 video game

Yoshi's Safari is a 1993 light gun shooter developed and published by Nintendo for its Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). It is the only Mario franchise game to feature first-person shooter gameplay and requires the SNES's Super Scope light gun. As Mario and his pet dinosaur Yoshi, the player embarks on a quest to save the kingdom of Jewelry Land from Bowser and his Koopalings, who have kidnapped its rulers and stolen 12 gems. The game features 12 levels in which the player shoots enemies like Goombas and Koopas, and collects power-ups and coins. At the end of each level, the player engages in a boss fight with an enemy, a Koopaling, or Bowser. Nintendo commissioned its R&D1 department to develop Yoshi's Safari in response to the waning popularity of the Super Scope. Yoshi's Safari was the first Super Scope title to use the SNES's Mode 7 graphics mode, and the future of the peripheral depended on the game's performance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shooter game</span> Action video game genre

Shooter video games or shooters are a subgenre of action video games where the focus is almost entirely on the defeat of the character's enemies using the weapons given to the player. Usually these weapons are firearms or some other long-range weapons, and can be used in combination with other tools such as grenades for indirect offense, armor for additional defense, or accessories such as telescopic sights to modify the behavior of the weapons. A common resource found in many shooter games is ammunition, armor or health, or upgrades which augment the player character's weapons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Game over</span> Message which signals that the game has ended

"Game over" is a message in video games which signals to the player that the game and an attempt of playing the level has ended. It is usually received negatively in a situation where continued play is disallowed, such as losing all of one's lives or failing a critical objective. However, it sometimes also appears after the successful completion of a game, usually ones designed for arcades. The phrase has since been turned into quasi-slang, usually describing an event that will cause significant harm, injury, bad luck, or even death to a person.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saved game</span> Digitally stored information about the progress of a player in an electronic game

A saved game is a piece of digitally stored information about the progress of a player in a video game.

A cooperative video game, often abbreviated as co-op, is a video game that allows players to work together as teammates, usually against one or more non-player character opponents (PvE).

In video games, a level is any space available to the player during the course of completion of an objective. Video game levels generally have progressively increasing difficulty to appeal to players with different skill levels. Each level may present new concepts and challenges to keep a player's interest high.

A bonus stage is a special level within a video game designed to reward the player or players, and typically allows the player to collect extra points or power-ups. Bonus stage either have no enemies or hazards, or replace the normal penalties for being struck by enemies or hazards with simply being thrown out of the bonus stage. Many bonus stages need to be activated or discovered in some manner, or certain conditions must be satisfied to access them. Otherwise, they may appear after the player has completed a certain number of regular stages. They are often much shorter than regular stages.

Permadeath or permanent death is a game mechanic in both tabletop games and video games in which player characters who lose all of their health are considered dead and cannot be used anymore. Depending on the situation, this could require the player to create a new character to continue, or completely restart the game potentially losing nearly all progress made. Other terms include persona death and player death. Some video games offer a hardcore mode that features this mechanic, rather than making it part of the core game.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Score (game)</span> Abstract quantity associated with a player or team in a game

In games, score refers to an abstract quantity associated with a player or team. Score is usually measured in the abstract unit of points, and events in the game can raise or lower the score of different parties. Most games with score use it as a quantitative indicator of success in the game, and in competitive games, a goal is often made of attaining a better score than one's opponents in order to win.

<i>Gradius V</i> 2004 video game

Gradius V is a Japanese-developed shoot 'em up video game published by Konami for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game console in 2004. Gradius V was largely developed under contract by Treasure, who had previously worked on Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga. The game is set predominantly in outer space where players control a fictional spacecraft called Vic Viper through a continuously scrolling background depicting the territories of Bacterian—an evil empire which serves as the player's enemy. Gradius V received overall positive reviews. Critics praised the level design, graphical design and "classic" revival, but criticized the game's difficulty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Side-scrolling video game</span> Video game genre

A side-scrolling video game is a game viewed from a side-view camera angle where the screen follows the player as they move left or right. The jump from single-screen or flip-screen graphics to scrolling graphics, during the golden age of arcade games, was a pivotal leap in game design, comparable to the move to 3D graphics during the fifth generation.

<i>Super Mario</i> Video game series

Super Mario is a platform game series created by Nintendo starring their mascot, Mario. It is the central series of the greater Mario franchise. At least one Super Mario game has been released for every major Nintendo video game console. There are more than 20 games in the series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Health (game terminology)</span> Gaming-related attribute

Health is a video game or tabletop game quality that determines the maximum amount of damage or fatigue something takes before leaving the main game. In role-playing games, this typically takes the form of hit points (HP), a numerical attribute representing the health of a character or object. The game character can be a player character, a boss, or a mob. Health can also be attributed to destructible elements of the game environment or inanimate objects such as vehicles and their individual parts. In video games, health is often represented by visual elements such as a numerical fraction, a health bar or a series of small icons, though it may also be represented acoustically, such as through a character's heartbeat.

In pencil and paper games and computer and video games, an item is an object within the game world that can be collected by a player or, occasionally, a non-player character. These items are sometimes called pick-ups.

This list includes terms used in video games and the video game industry, as well as slang used by players.


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