James “JimJamJom Jimbo” Wallis writes about Heroics:
Of course, a lot depends on how the player views their avatar, whether they regard the game-character theyâ€™re controlling as â€˜meâ€™, as a companion who they care about, or as a disposable camera and weapon-wielding tool.
But basically players donâ€™t like risk. They like the appearance of risk, the semblance of heroism, but they really hate it when you make them feel like failures or take stuff away from them. Try telling a player that because they screwed up they broke their magic sword, or theyâ€™re going to have to sell their plasma-armour to pay for their half-body med-regen. They want to progress on all fronts, not just story and accomplishment but stats, equipment and fortune. It goes back as far as traditional tabletop RPGs: D&D lets you heal away injury and even death with cheap spells and potions; while also-rans like Runequest, T&T and Traveller were far more stingy with their cures.
Apart from making a clear and present declaration on the shitness of D&D, it’s a point well made.
When playing computer games, I get a lot of immersion. My heart pumps loudly in my ears whether I’m delivering the team flag back to my base or trying to make the shot to kill the Commandant of the camp while shells are pinging round me. The Flood parts of Halo gave me the heebie-jeebies, Doom 3 made me jump out of my skin. I love that feeling. I seldom get it with movies where I am a passive observer (notable exception being Dark Water and Audition).
To keep my attention, games have to give me a chill or make my heart burst through my chest.