Not finishing a game is not a sin

6 min read


I don’t always finish a game, but when I do, it’s not Dark Souls. AMIRITE!? Jason VandenBerghe, Ubisoft creative director explains why it’s not a bad thing that gamers don’t always finish games and that games don’t really need endings. And if you think about it, he is right.

VandenBerghe starts off saying that as a game designer you have more freedom when creating the end of your game than any other part of the game.

“First of all, having an ending at all is your choice. Don’t want one? All good! Games are loops, and if you want to leave yours closed, you will be in good company. No one has ever “finished” poker, or football.” He writes.

“But for games that do have an ending, only a small portion of your players will ever see it. We are, as an industry and as a culture, still confused about this. We are dismayed at the low finish rates of our games, and a player who puts down the controller before reaching the end is left with a vague sense of having dissed the game team.
Yet, the ability for players to stop playing whenever they feel like it is inherent in the form! This is not a bad thing; this is a good thing.”

I’m sure taken out of context and at first glance many gamers would cry out “blasphemy!”. How can any one say that a game not being finished is a good thing?

The truth is that many gamers don’t finish the games they play, many of them like to pretend that they do, because you aren’t a real gamer of you don’t, right?

So we keep it to ourselves when we don’t finish the game every one else lied about finishing in the first place. But as VandenBerghe says later in his article, you don’t have to finish a game to have enjoyed it and appreciated it.

am I the only one

I my opinion the majority of gamers who finish games are story lovers, like myself. The only games I really finish are the ones I review and the games that have stories that I really can’t get enough of. Games like BioShock Infinite and as I’ve mentioned before, Dear Esther. A game so profound to me that I finished it twice. Not because of the gameplay, because honestly it wasn’t anything to write home about and not because of the graphics which was not at all like AAA games of today (Although, the game is astoundingly beautiful).

But because of what the story meant to me, because of how it made me feel and how it gripped my mind. How many gamers finished The Walking Dead (Telltale’s game) because you get to shoot zombies? I mean you can do that for as long as you like in Call of Duty. And then there are games that are finished purely because they are so absolutely fun to play, for example Far Cry 3 and even some RTS campaigns.

VandenBerghe mentions the article published by Blake Snow that only 20 – 30 percent of gamers actually finish the game they start. He continues to say that his beef is with the unspoken assumption in the article:

“”Let [this] sink in for a minute: Of every 10 people who started playing the consensus ‘Game of the Year,’ [Red Dead Revolver] only one of them finished it. How is that? Shouldn’t such a high-rated game keep people engaged? Or have player attention spans reached a breaking point? …Who’s to blame: The developer or the player? Or maybe it’s our culture?”
My beef is with the idea that failing to finish a game is a bad thing.
Putting down the controller somewhere before the final climactic scene in a video game is not a sin. It is an intrinsic part of our art form.”

I sat watching my significant other finish Assassin’s Creed I, I was so immersed in the story, I couldn’t stop watching, but when the time came for me to play the game, I didn’t finish it. Everything else in the game, including the combat, just wasn’t enough to get me there. I don’t for a second feel guilty that I didn’t finish it. I also didn’t finish Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a game I adored. I came pretty close to it, but never went back to finish it. I don’t know why, but I know that it doesn’t feel like I failed as a gamer. Not finishing a game is not a failure, which I believe is a point VandenBerghe is also trying to make. It’s also not a reflection of how good the game is, rather a reflection of my needs as a gamer.

This is why what VandenBerghe says makes so much sense.

“I believe that the idea has its roots in our beliefs about other media. There is an implicit rejection that is present when someone walks out of a movie, turns off a show on TV, or sets down a book unfinished. For those mediums, the message of this action is clear: “I’m not enjoying this story enough to continue.”, he wrote.

“When someone stops playing a game, however, the possibilities are far, far more varied.

These are not necessarily sins of the designer. Gaming is as much a lifestyle as it is entertainment, and if a game doesn’t fit into an individual’s life, they are going to put it down. That’s not a tragedy. That’s a feature of our design landscape.”

It’s high time [some] gamers started taking responsibility for not finishing games. It’s not always the developers’ fault; it’s not always that the game wasn’t good enough. How many games do you finish after starting them? What are the reasons that you don’t finish games?

Last Updated: July 2, 2013

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