See this fantastic article from Berfrois by Jesse Miksic, “Digital Disquiet: How 8- and 16-bit Games Taught me the Power of Dread.”
Literature has examined the burdens of immortality (Melmoth, Dorian Gray, Tuck Everlasting), and films have reflected upon death’s brutal banality (Antonioni, Haneke). But film and literature can’t do this. Even the most shocking torture-porn or the most unexpected termination (Marvin in Pulp Fiction) don’t amount to the meaninglessness of a main character’s life in these golden-age electronic games. Even when they’re bizarre, or out of left field, movie-deaths at least register as events and turning points in the narrative flow. In the nihilistic early side-scrollers, your death was one of hundreds, endlessly repeatable, and the world was indifferent to it. Everyone else else came back in the appointed role in every cycle, just like you.
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