The business of completing a game. Is it true that many games go unfinished?

Over at Destructoid, Colette Bennett seems to think so, and Alec Meer of rockpapershotgun (I love that title) agrees. But I have to wonder at the generalizations they throw off in that regard.

Colette writes: “Considering the average attention span is twenty minutes…”. I’d like to know where that number came from. Things must be really bad if any game grabs one’s attention for that short a time.

Of course, there are terrible games that we might look at briefly and then try to sell to some unsuspecting person. But that statement seems to be to be a bit too sweeping in scope.

And then Alex starts off with “Most people don’t finish games, even games they’re dead excited about”. “Most” is a pretty big word. It sounds like by far the majority of players are tossing aside games by the cartload.

Nonetheless, it is true, as I know from my experience over the years, that a fair number of games don’t get finished. Between them, Alex and Colette cover the major reasons.

And I think the biggest reason overall is that games are too repetitious, with “too difficult” coming in second. We’ve discussed more than once how a typical RPG tends to become tedious after a certain point; that the larger the game, the more “sameness” it has in combats and “quests”, however pretty the visuals may be.

I also suspect that’s the true reason when someone says “I don’t have time to play”. If a game really grabs you, you’ll find the time to play it. But if you know that there’s going to be a lot of boring “grind on, grind on”, not having the time is a good excuse.

Difficulty – well, we expect that as we progress, the opposition will become tougher. However, for some players, it becomes too tough, requiring so many reloads that gamers just give up, however close to the end they may be.

For that, possibly cheat codes can help, although some players take pride in not using them, and therefore the game goes unfinished. Nothing, though, can help much with the “same-old, same-old” gameplay.

Would shorter games be the answer? Not likely for the hard-core crowd; they’d complain that the games aren’t long enough, that they aren’t getting their money’s worth.

So once again, we come down to that lack of creative spark, that “do what everyone else is doing” rut. However interesting a game may start out as, in time it ends up looking/being much the same as any other in the genre.

Yeah, I can see where players become bored, frustrated, and eventually disappointed, to the point where they chuck the game aside and look for something else.

I just don’t know if that fits the majority. But I have no doubts that a significant minority of players aren’t completing games. Even with the Internet to help with tips, advice, walkthroughs and cheat codes.

For myself, there are only a few games I never finished, which is saying a lot, given how long I’ve been playing these things. That doesn’t mean I enjoyed them all, of course. There were plenty of clunkers, though I somehow managed to struggle through most of them. As for the ones that were never completed:

Moebius from Origin. That had an Oriental setting. Unfortunately, every game I started began with either a drought or a famine going on. So I was always dying from either thirst or starvation. That was frustration. Finally gave up after about three days of it.

Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerberus may have been the ultimate in frustration, though. I made it to the very end (of a tedious game) and couldn’t complete it because I lacked matches to light candles. There was only one set in the game, and I’d used those for something else much earlier. No way was I going to replay it, even if I’d had the time.

Betrayal At Krondor had so many things I didn’t like about it, that I gave up shortly after reaching town. It was a miracle I stayed with the game as long as that.

Several products from Crystalware on the Apple. Sands Of Mars, where I always died in space, however much hydroponics I created. Fantasyland 2041 had bugs, some of which precluded being able to finish the game. I don’t think anyone was able to do that. Beneath The Pyramids, where I finally found the treasure, and died on the way out because of a graphics glitch. Three losers from the same publisher. Just goes to prove that gamers are masochists ;)

Looking over that list, we see that in just one case (Krondor), I gave up out of sheer dislike. The rest were dumped because of poor design and/or bugs.

Returning to the original theme, if a large number of players aren’t finishing the games they buy, why do they continue to buy them? Hope that the next one will be “it”, the game that draws them in to the finish?

Or has buying games become a habit? An addiction, a sort of thoughtless “gotta get the latest eye-candy extravaganza”, even though most of the products won’t be completed?

Y’know, back in the days of the 8-bit machines, it was said, more than once, that most games went unfinished. There may have been some truth in that remark. Players had far fewer resources to help them along. Until the rise of the Internet, along with hint guides, there wasn’t much a gamer could do except either tough it out or put the game aside.

Now, or so it appears, despite the wealth of materials freely available for just about any game, players are still putting them aside unfinished. Yep, that’s one deep rut we’re in. Anyone have a ladder?miniscorp

The Endgame Syndrome on Destructoid

Guilty Secrets on rockpapershotgun