“Git Gud, Scrub!”: Disease as a Narrative, Gameplay Mechanic and Heroic Fortitude in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Congratulations to our Board Member Geoffrey Fernandez who recently presented a paper titled ‘“Git Gud, Scrub!”: Disease as a Narrative, Gameplay Mechanic and Heroic Fortitude in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice‘ at the International Medieval Congress Conference 2021 on ‘Climates’, under the session ‘The Middle Ages in Modern Games, II: Medicine, Health, and Disease in Game Narratives and Mechanics’ hosted by the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds (virtually) on 7th of July. The conference took place from 5th-9th of July and had participation from all around the globe.

This year’s conference had seven different sessions on Video games. Most of the papers in the conference targeted games with medieval content, such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Crusader Kings, Witcher 3, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and A Plague Tale: Innocence, to name a few.

Further Details-

  1. Wikipedia Page
  2. Conference Page


Videogames usually provide players with either limited or unlimited attempts known as lives to complete them. These are essential to avoid a “game over”, which stops the player from progressing further or makes him/her restart the game. This mechanic is often taken for granted in most video games to achieve a favourable outcome. 

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an action-adventure game based on a magical reimagination of the Sengoku era of medieval Japan in the 1500s. Being a game that is heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy, it incorporates the aforementioned mechanic of “lives” into its narrative as “reincarnation”. However, unlike other games, it punishes players for dying by spreading a disease known as ‘Dragonrot’ every time the player character uses up a life and is resurrected. The more the player relies on this mechanic, the worse the contagion affects the people and environment of Ashina. Many non-playable characters (NPCs) central to the plot might get infected in this way, making their questlines either impossible or much more challenging than usual to complete. Going by the game’s reliance on Buddhism, such manifestation of disease as retribution can be compared to the Buddhist concept of ‘samsara’ or suffering, that in turn is affected by ‘karma’, the universal causal law by which good or evil actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence. Moreover, it encourages human resilience and perseverance and the importance of overcoming evil without inflicting too much damage.

This paper would like to discuss how Dragonrot becomes central to the narrative of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and exhibit how the concept of disease is perceived in Buddhist religious philosophy, and explore how disease brings forth a heroic fortitude in the context of gameplay mechanics.


Videogames, Philosophy, Religion, Medievalism

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