I’ve finished three games already this weekend: Warlords of Draenor (where I hit level 100, at least), The Wolf Among Us, and Uncharted 3. I’m also aiming to take a big chunk out of Ocarina of Time on the 3DS, which I’ve had for a while, and I put some hours in on Dragon Age: Inquisition as well. This has been particularly fun because a) I don’t get to game for fun as much as I have been over this holiday break, and a) because beating games is something I don’t often too.

That’s not actually true — I do beat games regularly, whenever I’m reviewing them, and especially these days, I usually do stick out at least singleplayer campaigns to the end. But when I was much younger, I almost never actually beat games. I’d either rent or buy them cheap, because I was low on cash, and then I’d play what I thought was enough of them to get a sense of what was going on, of what the mechanics were. There’s a shameful list of NES, SNES, and early PlayStation classics that I’m sorry to say that I never actually beat to the finish, despite really enjoying.

It’s an interesting thing, beating games. If we pay $20 for a movie, it would be strange to walk out before the end and never finish the story. It’d be weird to buy a book, too, and never read the last few chapters. Sure, if the movie’s terrible, or the book is boring, you might be forgiven for moving on, but games require more, I think. They can be failed. You could argue that reading a book is slightly less passive, but gaming is a more active passion in general. It requires effort to figure things out, to pass the tests of skill, whether they’re just timing puzzles, finger agility, or something deeper.

Because of this, what I’ve discovered is that the ends of games are often the most interesting parts. A great game should build up its mechanics as it goes along, and by the end, should let the player bend and even break those mechanics, in the name of fun. The end of the game is when the player is finally rewarded for mastery, and finally reaches the culmination of both the narrative and the game’s basic idea in the first place.

Never play this ending, and you’re only getting part of the game’s core themes, its core meaning. Lots of endings still fall flat (usually when the developer has run out of money by the point it comes time to make the end of the game, but I’ve found that finishing a game provides a lot more satisfaction with the experience overall, even if the game is bad. Ending the game allows you to finally reach the top of the mountain, to look back on your journey up and let you judge it with the whole thing in view.

It’s tough — there are more games to play than ever before these days, and as you can see from the games I finished this weekend, it still takes me quite a while to actually reach the end. Still, it feels good to finally finish stories that I started a long time ago, and close the book on these experiences for good.

Posted on Sunday, November 30th, 2014 at 12:41 am. Filed under general.
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