Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Finishing Games

I just read an interesting article on Gamasutra, about why we're not finishing as many games as we used to. Initially I thought that it was talking about developers not finishing as many games, but the article was actually about players not finishing as many games. The author speculated on a variety of reasons for why this might be, some of the big ones were time, attention or game difficulty. For me time is obviously the 800 lb gorilla, I don't even have time to start games let alone spend the 60 hours required to finish them. But that wasn't always the case, and as I look back to a day when I did have the time to finish a full video game I still, very often, didn't. So once the gorilla is removed why didn't I finish more games?

Well when I look back at the types of games I really enjoyed they fall into basically four categories: 4X, RPG, RTS and MMORPG. And of those four categories I basically have problems finishing all of them. I think I've probably done the best with the 4X category, probably because those games are the shortest of all. But even so, as I think back there were probably more games quit (and immediately restarted, that will be important later) then there were that I finished. RPGs are (with the exception of the MMORPGs) the most time consuming of the four categories, but also probably my favorite. I enjoy them so much that you would expect me to finish every one I start, but instead there are many I never make it to the end of, though I can't think of any that I didn't restart several times.

Moving on to RTS's. I can only think of one game I've ever finished in this category (Warcraft II for the curious.) Now of course I'm only talking about the single player campaigns, I've also played multiplayer though generally my fast-twitch reflexes aren't up to the task of being competitive. As far as the single player campaign goes, at some point the repetitiveness of the core gameplay overcomes my desire to see how the story turns out and I stop playing. Turning to MMORPGs, well for one thing you can't really win a MMORPG, but I haven't even hit the level cap on any MMORPG (my record on WoW is 41 I believe). Of course that isn't really a bad thing.

So what is the common thread? I think it's perfectionism. Basically I want my gameplay experience to be optimal. If it's a 4x game I want to research techs in exactly the right order. If it's an RPG then I want exactly the right party that takes maximum advantage of the items in the game. If it's an RTS I don't want a single building to be in any spot other than the one that's the perfect distance from my gold mine. And finally if it's an MMORPG I will (and have) re-rolled upon discovering that the undead mage avatar looks cooler than the troll mage avatar.

Now as you might imagine this problem doesn't just afflict me when I play video games, it also affects other parts of my life, and I have made great strides in learning to accept outcomes that are less then perfect (for example it took more years of college than I car to admit before I could get any grade other than an A or an F). And although this has helped out a little bit in terms of video game play, it hasn't helped as much as you might think. Given the near omnipotent role you have as a game player (particularly when you factor in mods, cheats and character editors) there's the tantalizing illusion that maybe the perfect play experience is possible. It's not, but there is still some really amazing play experiences available and one of these days when I have the time again, I'm going to find myself one...

Could life be the perfect play experience?


Anonymous Ed said...

I've given up most games, mostly because I don't have the time to spend more than 5 minutes, usually.

Last year I found a copy of Civ III that I enjoyed for a couple of weeks, but beside that, a few short bursts of Yahoo!Games.

10:52 PM  

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