Losing XP for dying is wrong. Game design is often a matter of style and taste. However, this is one area where I see a categorical error, as a gamer and as a psychologist. To share my thinking, I’ll unpack dying in games, describe a human capacity called resilience, and describe the problem with losing experience points (XP).
Dying in games is weird. On the one hand, in many games the death of non-player characters (NPCs) is a near-constant event, including both enemies and computer-controlled allies. This is especially true in hack-n-slash and shooter games that feature the wholesale slaughter of NPCs, such as Diablo 3, Castle Crashers, or Serious Sam. On the other hand, in many games the player-character rarely or never dies. Player-characters are often distinguished in a game world by their extraordinary abilities, including their ability to take damage and rebound from it. Even when my player character does die, I can usually resurrect on the spot or nearby, resurrect back at a recent checkpoint, or reload a recent save. Resurrection or reloading may happen so seamlessly that we could be forgiven for thinking of dying in games as something different than dying in real life.