In games that feature perma death, by melding narrative consequence to mechanical consequence, a great deal of meaning is added to even the most routine of skirmishes. Death makes play matter.
We like consequences and death in art, they create tension and meaning in situations that might otherwise be devoid of them. This is a large reason why Game of Thrones is so massively popular. First, the permanence of character death is fully actualized multiple times in the series, meaning that from one season to the next there is change far greater than “he and she are now in a relationship” or “the detective’s investigation goes deeper.” Instead between seasons and episodes there is the backdrop of now missing characters, incomplete plot lines that may or may not be picked up as new goals and motivation for surviving characters. Second, a character’s permanent death in a series makes living characters’ lives uncertain. While watching the penultimate episode of this last season of Game of Thrones, I was earnestly worried that Jon Snow might not make it, regardless of whether this actually happens is informed by previous episodes in which major characters die and exit the series prematurely. Thus, there is tension not present in many other dramas too afraid to take out popular characters.