Games with endings
Arrr, kids, Back in my days, when you got a brand new game, your goal was to start it and finish it. Some games were short and you'd finish them in half an hour. Some games were long, you'd only finish them after 50 hours in or more. Good games were replayable: I'd finish it once, and then start over: to find all secrets, do all the side quests, win on higher difficulty or make different decisions along the way, perhaps to find out another ending. Endings were meaningful and I'd stick to the game for a long time, looking forward and expecting it to be awesome. What happened to all of this?
Well, nothing! What did you think? Games of this format are still around and thriving. However, there's this new genre of games that you're, like, never supposed to complete. Let's have a look at everyone's favourite, Candy Crush Saga. Can you imagine finishing CCS? "Wow, that was the last level, you saved everyone! Now go improve your scores or play something else!" King is all like: "Nope, not gonna happen". The game is crazily long and growing, a lifetime supply of new challenges to get lucky with and eventually complete. A game like CCS expects to fill your bathroom time completely, from the time you install it, until you ultimately get bored (the moment which King goes great lengths to delay), or perhaps until we all switch to VR games or the Singularity happens.
Mobile games have plenty of examples of this trope across multiple genres, not just "well of consecutive challenges" but also "beat your previous score" or "do the same thing over and over while purchasing endless upgrades". Desktop is full of this too. Let's look at World of Warcraft, at least the single-player aspect of it. Pick a quest, any quest - once you finish it, it will either lead you into another one, or - coincidence? - take you into a new area that just happens to have a few fresh quest arcs available. The game provides continuity, so that you always have something to do.
And there's this point when your character reaches maximum level and the quests don't get any harder. But is there any "end" to be found? Oh no no, don't worry, there's no such thing as "end" in Azeroth! Here, why won't you try this other attractions Blizzard has prepared for you... Or maybe create a new character and start over? WoW has amazing replayability, but there's no closure, no moment when you're done, like "now's the time to wrap up and actually replay". Just do it when you're bored, I suppose?
I have a thing for games that end. The end can be foreshadowed and often motivates the player to move forward, keeping them engaged. Sometimes the bounds are very clear: If you begin a Pokemon game, you know from the start that your Adventure begins with you receiving a starter Pokemon, and is going to end with you as the new Pokemon Master.
Competitive games like Counter-Strike don't work like that, even though there's just as much of an adventure! You begin as a noobie, you learn the game and the metagame, you get your friends on board and have a lot of fantastic matches. But there's no end to be foreseen. Stay around for a while, have a good time... Until one day when you just finish your last match, never to return again. It might be a ragequit or a fantastic game. You might drop because you can no longer feel progress, or just run out of goals to pursue. Regardless, the game will fade away from your life without saying 'bye'.
Yeah, that's not specific to computer games, it's the same for any other pastime. Some want to become a part of your life, and others are just there to give you a glorious ride from point A to point B. Which do you prefer?
One curious observation i had was if I look at "casual" games, I mean - the ones most likely to be picked up by a wide audience of people, not just "I'm a gamer" people, I'm struggling to see any games with endings. Where you used to have Minesweeper and FreeCell, you now have Candy Crush Saga or Temple Run. These are magnificent, polished titles that go great lengths to keep the player immersed and give them a great time. But I'm sad that I don't see them attempt to take a more ambitious role than "oh, here's your new pastime, you won't be bored ever again!". This is a pity.
Once I was able to sit with my Grandma and show her "Angry Birds" on a tablet. She's not really a tech savvy person and isn't super comfortable with internets and electronics. Imagine how delighted I was to notice that she understood the game instantly and was able to share the tower-toppling, pig-squashing fun with me. In my opinion, this level of accessibility is the greatest improvement that happened in the craft of video games during the last few years. (Ssh, don't be sad Occulus, I still like you, no hard feelings after that facebook thing, okay?)
One thing I regret is that there's just so much about computer games that I cannot possibly share with Grandma. When I'm hyped about a movie or a book, I can just show it to her, but if it's a game? Na-ah. There's literally no way for me to share the experience of becoming a Pokemon Master with someone who's not a gamer themself.
I like games with ends. I appreciate that they entertain you by giving you a journey to take - in my book, this is a level more fantastic than just giving you a fun activity. I wish that they reach the same level of accessiblity and public awareness as "pastime games". Can we make this happen?
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