Blog > 22 May, 2023
A beginner's guide to death counters in video games and streaming platforms
Have you ever watched a live stream of a notoriously difficult game, like Dark Souls or Cuphead, and noticed a number ticking up every time the streamer's character met their untimely end? That what we call a 'death counter'.
In the simplest terms, a death counter is a tally or tracking system used in video games, streams, or other similar platforms. It counts the number of times a player character has died.
Death counters are not just about adding a dash of morbid humor to the gameplay. They serve multiple purposes. For one, they add an element of challenge and competition, pushing players to aim for fewer deaths in each subsequent play-through.
They're also self-assessment tools. By keeping track of the number of deaths, players can identify areas of improvement and devise strategies to overcome those troublesome sections of the game. Additionally, they serve as an entertaining element for viewers, often bringing about playful banter and engagement in the chat during live streams.
Death counters aren't one-size-fits-all. Their display can vary significantly from one platform or game to another. Some might choose a simple on-screen tally, others prefer a more elaborate graphic, while some streamers might opt for an overlay or a pop-up message. The choice lies with the player or the streamer and can often be customized to their liking.
Typically, a death counter increments each time the player character faces death in the game. Some games have automated death counters, while others require manual input. In live streams, certain bot systems allow viewers to use commands in the chat to increment the death counter or display the current count.
Here are 2 ways to create you own death counter for use in streaming.
Go to this tutorial to learn how to download and set up a small desktop tool. It allows you to set up multiple counters that you can increment easily. The tool creates and updates a text file on your computer that OBS can read.
You can create fully-customizable death counters using Keepthescore.com. It allows you to create multiple counters too which are then added to your streaming software as a browser source.
The advantage of this solution is that you can delegate incrementing the counters to somebody else by sending them a link.
The steps to create a counter are as follows. Begin by clicking the button below
Death counters are most commonly found in games where death is a frequent part of gameplay. Games like Dark Souls and Cuphead, known for their extreme difficulty, are popular among streamers who use death counters. However, any game featuring player death can use a death counter.
Games where death counters are often used:
Dark Souls series (From Software): The Souls series is known for its punishing difficulty and intricate level design, with players often dying many times as they learn the game's mechanics and enemy strategies.
Cuphead (Studio MDHR): This run-and-gun indie game is notorious for its high difficulty and beautiful hand-drawn art style, leading many players to rack up high death counts.
Celeste (Matt Makes Games): A precision platformer where death is frequent but quick to recover from. The game even encourages players to view their death count as a sign of their learning and perseverance.
Roguelikes (Various Developers): The roguelike genre, which includes games like "The Binding of Isaac," "Enter the Gungeon," and "Spelunky," is characterized by procedurally generated levels and permadeath mechanics, leading to high death counts.
Kaizo Mario Games (Fan-made modifications): These are fan-modified versions of Mario games known for their extreme difficulty. Streamers often use death counters when playing these games to highlight their challenge.
Super Meat Boy (Team Meat): An indie platformer known for its difficulty. Levels often result in many deaths as players attempt to navigate the game's many obstacles.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (From Software): From the same developers as Dark Souls, Sekiro is another challenging game where players often die many times as they learn to master the combat system.
Hollow Knight (Team Cherry): A challenging Metroidvania-style game where players are likely to die frequently as they navigate the game's intricate world and tough bosses.
Remember, while these games might lend themselves naturally to the use of a death counter, any game where player death is possible could theoretically use one.