I started playing Minecraft again. The game maintains timeless appeal. You spawn, collect items, and fashion the world to your design. The simplicity calms me and doles out enjoyment in small, consistent doses. Minecraft is fun.

And yet... the game lacks urgency. 

Normal survival mode wants for drive, for focus that makes me sit up and pay attention. I enjoy Minecraft's slower pace, but normal survival mode is dull. It needs something extra to kick up the excitement. 

Enter hardcore mode. 

My latest Minecraft save is on hardcore mode. When I die, the game will automatically delete my save and everything in it. There's no going back, no respawning, no mercy. Believe it or not, hardcore mode makes the game more fun.

Most people would eschew permadeath. Nobody wants to lose their awesome castle because they missed one creeper too many or fell off a cliff.

This attitude is wrong. Everybody should experience gaming with permadeath. Let me indulge my inner geek and quote an immortal robot from Battlestar Galactica who wanted to become mortal.

"We began to realize that for our existence to hold any value, it must end. To live meaningful lives, we must die and not return."

Spoken by this lady.

Permadeath works like that. It enriches every moment of game time. Life means nothing if you can simply respawn and go back to collect your items. But place a real cost on death in a game... it changes.

Playing hardcore mode makes me incredibly aware of the delicate balance of staying alive in Minecraft. You have to build a shelter, find food and avoid monsters. Hardcore mode offers no compromises.

I like that. I like that it pulls no punches and forces the player to work for every breath. Too many games hold your hand and make sure you can't wander off the path. Minecraft doesn't. It lets you do whatever you'd like and then brings the consequences. 

Permadeath has its frustrations. I spent a month building an impressive castle, only to lose everything to a stupid death fighting a skeleton. That frustrated me. No doubt it would frustrate other gamers. 

However, I'd still recommend playing on hardcore mode to anybody interested. Knowing you only have one life adds gravity to every choice, paranoia to each venture, and frantic desperation to every fight. In short, it makes Minecraft fun again. 

I recall reading a post by somebody who modded Fallout 3 to be as realistic as possible. He had to drink water every couple hours, take regular anti-radiation meds, and of course the game auto-deleted his save when he died. He said it made the game that much more engrossing for the same reasons as Minecraft's hardcore mode. 

Games are more fun when they have consequences. There's no consequence like losing every bit of work you've put into a save file. That's why permadeath in Minecraft is so appealing. It forces you to invest in every moment of gameplay. 

Look at it this way. After I lost my month-long hardcore mode save, I was mad. Mad enough to close my laptop and not reopen Minecraft for a week. But seven days later, there I was, making another save. 

When the game asked me a difficulty, I didn't hesitate.  

(image credit)