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Why Games Need To Remove Fall Damage Once And For All

Fall damage makes logical sense. After all, it’s possible to suffer an intense sprain or broken bone from something as simple as tripping on the sidewalk. Gravity can be one of reality’s greatest villains. So when a game is aiming to be as realistic and authentic as possible, having severe, painful consequences for a high fall is a perfectly reasonable design choice.

Here’s the thing though: reality is stupid. While it’s certainly true to life that a mistimed fall will lead to injury and perhaps death, that doesn’t mean it’s fun. Fall damage has never been enjoyable and always hinders how you can play a game. So it’s time for game developers to thumb their nose at Isaac Newton and eliminate fall damage once and for all.

Gravity Is For Losers

Now when I say fall damage I’m not talking about falling into an endless pit. That’s been a staple of gaming since the days of Super Mario Bros. While I don’t necessarily enjoy that either, I understand that’s it’s there because most game designers don’t want to recreate an entire planet’s surface. Sometimes it’s easier to put in a dark, foggy pit and leave its deadliness up to your imagination.

No, I’m talking about that annoying moment when you’re engaged in a tense battle against a formidable opponent, and just when you think you’ve gotten the better of them you miscalculate a dodge roll, tumble over a ledge, and the subsequent landing inflicts such extreme trauma to your shins that the “You Died” screen immediately pops up. All other damage you can handle like a champ. But a six-foot drop? Sorry pal, that’s instant death.

Whether you’re roleplaying as a super soldier, heroic knight, or even a cartoon bear, it can be deflating and embarrassing to see your protagonist crumble to the ground in a heap from a fall. Do you mean to tell me that this burly, super-powered character who’s supposed to save the entire world can’t handle a crash landing? Sounds like a wimp to me.

Fall damage is often added as an extra obstacle for you to worry about, but it’s never an engaging part of any game. At best, your stumble will cost you a small portion of your life bar forcing you to soldier on with what health you have left or waste one of your healing items. At worst, the damage will kill you, causing you to swear at your TV out of frustration and wait for the annoying loading screen to finish so you can painfully make your way back to where you were. No matter what it does, it adds nothing but a moment of irritation that delays your progress. In short, it makes a fun game less fun.

Realism? Who Wants That Garbage?

Realism is great and all, but the best kinds of games are the ones that say “screw it” and let you fly around without any fear of your ankles exploding. Fast-paced first-person shooters like the newer Doom games, multiplayer titles like Apex Legends, or superhero simulators like Marvel’s Spider-Man all feel amazing because you’re allowed to fling yourself into the air without worrying about how much damage you’ll take when your feet meet the concrete. In some cases, these games even give you a move that lets you collide with the Earth quicker to deliver a colossal ground pound. Any game that encourages you to fall even faster is an A+ in my books.

I can see the argument for why fall damage should be in certain games. Series like Uncharted and Tomb Raider aim for a high level of realism with their action, so it makes total sense to include it. In the real world, any of the death-defying leaps that characters like Nathan Drake or Lara Croft perform would result in a broken fibula or separated shoulder even when they landed perfectly. It would break immersion if they survived falling fifty feet onto a rocky surface without at least stubbing their toe.

But then again, these games also feature the same characters being shot, stabbed, burned, beaten, and dragged behind the bumper of a car. Yet the worst that happens is a few scratches and a drop or two of blood. If things get really bad, they might pause to apply a bandage while making a face that says “ouch, that smarts!” These are basically bombastic action movies that we get to play. When has an action movie ever ended because the main character has fallen and can’t get up? Imagine if Die Hard ended early because John McClane fell down a flight of stairs. We definitely wouldn’t be watching that film at Christmastime.

Just Let Me Fall Like A Carefree Idiot

It’s fine when games aim for realism, but that should never come at the expense of having fun. As rational as the concept of fall damage is, it never translates to anything meaningful in a gaming experience. Even FromSoftware – the master of having your character die as a result of irritating fall damage – eventually saw the error of its ways and made Sekiro, a game where you jump around like a samurai sword-wielding Mario.

So developers, stop with the fall damage already. No one likes it, and even when it makes sense, it’s not something that people look forward to. And if you’re worried about players scoffing over your protagonist’s immersion-shattering gravity defiance, just add in a storyline reason for why they can land safely. Many games have come up with solid answers to this problem. In Portal, Chell wears special shoes that reduce impact. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Adam Jenson can acquire a special ability that creates an electromagnetic field that slows his descent.

Or you could just say that your character has extremely calloused feet. It truly doesn’t matter as long as the rules of gravity no longer apply.

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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).

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