Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Elizabeth L. Cohen

Committee Member

Jaime Banks

Committee Member

Alan K. Goodboy

Committee Member

Liesel L. Sharabi


Because part of the enjoyment of video game experiences is rooted in their ability to afford players to fail but still reattempt gameplay with relatively little consequence, the appeal of playing games with permadeath seems paradoxical. This dissertation proposed that players’ motivations for playing these games with permadeath stem from an enhanced sense of appreciation garnered by players through the meaningfulness of permanent character death, rather than just through simple, hedonic enjoyment. Enhanced appreciation was expected to arise from permadeath through the grief players experienced toward the loss of their characters and through their contemplation of their own mortality. Grief was anticipated to be higher for players with stronger parasocial relationships to their characters while mortality salience was anticipated to be higher for players who identified with those game characters, and all indirect effects were expected to be moderated by players’ trait meaning making coping style. Participants (N = 394) were players recruited from various gaming subreddits on who had previous experiences playing permadeath games. In an online survey, they were assigned to either report on their impressions of a permadeath or a temporary character death that they had experienced in the past year. Two conditional process analyses revealed that players did report increased appreciation—through their grief for their characters—upon experiencing permadeaths, and this effect was strengthened for those attached to their characters and who were lower in trait meaning making. However, there was not parallel evidence of such an effect through mortality salience. Players’ mortality salience did increase their appreciation for playing—for players low meaning making players—but there was no indication that permadeath or identification with one’s character impacted this relationship. Theoretical implications from these findings are discussed regarding how they contribute to the literature on character attachments and uses and gratifications, as well as how games can serve as experimental playgrounds for players. A practical implication is also presented that recommends game developers work to implement PD mechanics within their own games based on the increased replayability and appreciation PD can offer to players.