The lights are on
I used to never put a game down until I’d completely conquered it, even if things got so ridiculous that I found myself dodging 100 consecutive randomly timed lightning bolts. Nowadays I’ve stopped going for the full-clear in games from Final Fantasy to Arkham Asylum, and I’m enjoying my gaming hobby more than ever.
[Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Game Informer #236]
Credit (or blame) World of Warcraft for my change of heart. There was a time in 2009 when interpersonal drama blew up the group I was raiding with. Without a steady crew to conquer the game’s toughest challenges with, but unwilling to quit and give up the game that had brought me closer than ever to out-of-town friends who had moved away after high school, I was left to my own devices. At first, completing challenge achievements in five-man dungeons kept me going. For a time after that, bringing my stable of alternate characters up to level cap occupied me. I checked one side goal after another off of my list – and World of Warcraft does nothing so well as providing a lengthy checklist – until I did the unthinkable. I began fishing.
Traipsing around the world and finding rare fish was fun for a time despite the brutal tedium of the fishing minigame itself. Grabbing a couple buddies and taking a shot at the ultra-competitive weekly contest in Booty Bay had its moments. Eventually, though, nothing was left but to earn my coin from the wishing well in the hub city of Dalaran.
Imagine rolling five dice every twenty seconds, trying to get all five matching for a Yahtzee – on each number, one through six. The first Yahtzee is a great moment. The thirty-third, when you get a set of threes when all you need is the sixes to finish your set, is maddening. Fishing up that damn coin broke me.
I saw too deeply into the Matrix; the process of checking off that final box was too transparent in its deliberate spacing out of rewards for performing trivial actions. I had always known it on an intellectual level, but internalizing the fact that I was a rat in a Skinner box, conditioned through a steady drip of inconsequential rewards to perform a task with no intrinsic merit, triggered a deep revulsion in me.
Ignoring the voice in my head that urges me to engage in gaming activities I don’t enjoy just for the achievement, trophy, or simple feeling of completion is now trivial. Sifting through the entirety of Arkham Asylum in detective vision, mining every planet in Mass Effect, skipping arbitrary chests to get the Zodiac Spear in Final Fantasy XII: no thanks. Those are games that I love all the more for my avoidance of aspects that have negative appeal to me.
At the same time, I happily die over and over in New Super Mario Bros. to get every last star coin and play Civilization V again and again to get the achievement for winning with each leader. The difference is that the pursuit of those goals is great fun for me, rather than being a monotonous chore endured in order to check an item off of a list someone slapped together to pass Microsoft certification.
You and I may love the same game for different reasons. My nephew adores playing Minecraft in creative mode on a server with his friends, an experience that quickly bores me even though I adore single-player survival mode. Why, then, should either of us force ourselves to slog through the parts we don’t enjoy just to say we’ve “beaten” a particular game?
I nearly didn’t complete Mass Effect – one of my absolute favorite games of this generation – because the sidequests were so awful. It took me three tries to beat Final Fantasy XII – likewise an all-star of the PS2 era – because I kept restarting after realizing I’d opened the wrong chest hours of playtime previously. Letting go of the completionism bug hasn’t just freed up more time in my schedule for a wider selection of games, it has led me to some of the best experiences I’ve had with my hobby.
Email the author Adam Biessener, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Great article! I completely agree. I am someone who is not much of a completionist, and I remember that the few times I did try to be one, I drove myself crazy. I play games as an entertainment value. If I am having a good time collecting everything (Mario Galaxy 1&2 for example), then I am okay, however the second a task becomes mundane and boring, I have to walk away.
If I wanted to be doing a repetitive chore, I would probably work in the yard or something more productive. To me, video games is a bit of an escape.
I don't mind 100% games. Never been much of a completionist until I got a PS3 and trophies got their hook in me, but I still don't let it get out of hand (Only have 3 platinums in the 3 years I've had a PS3, but I do plan on going back to some of my games to platinum them). And your right, there are some goals worth working towards. Even though getting all the Platinum medals in Kirby's Dream Collection Challenge Stages were really difficult, Smash Combat Chamber EX was a b*tch, it was very satisfying once I finally got them.
Some games are fun no matter how many times you play through them or for how long you play them to get 100% completion like Final Fantasy (series), Fall Out (series), The Elder Scrolls (series), Assassin's Creed (series), Batman Arkham Asylum/Arkham City, BioShock (series), and Silent Hill (series).
Some others are less than mediocre to try and do this in like most sports games, most first person shooters, some adventure/action games, Resident Evil 5, and Resident Evil 6 to name a few.
I enjoy completing Nintendo games but not things like Assassins Creed games or Red Dead Redemption because of the way the games play. I don't really complete games 100% if I'm honest but I do get pretty close sometimes. I also think trying to get achievements/trophies on multiplayer just to complete the game kinda ruins it for the other players.
I still have games to complete, Lego LoTR, etc. I still plan to finish up a %100.
i understand and agree with everyone...as long as you complete one game all the way, i don't have a problem with people beating a game, and going to the next...some side quests or other task such as beating master ninja on ninja gaiden 2 is far out ridiculous...enjoying games on the easiest level and beating it is a joy and a lot of times i don't go for the platinum...ac3 is really making me rethink platinums because 100% sychronization and naval missions are a pain in the @$$...if you're a gamer, do what you love, and what makes you happy...if you play games for 1 hour a week, you're considered a gamer who plays for 40 hours a week...game on everyone!!
This was very interesting seeing the perspective of a completionist, I find myself on the other side of the coin - not being able to carry a character in skyrim for very long before getting distracted. I've been getting better but I have a long way to go lol :D :D :D
I like to complete games I like. My general approach is to just play it through once, whatever achievements I get along the way--cool. If I finish the game and I really like it, then I'll look at the list and decide if I want to go for the remaining ones. The thing that drives me crazy though is when I do get 100% on a game, and then a few months later some DLC comes out and adds five new achievements, suddenly I no longer have 100%, even though I haven't purchased the DLC. How can they say I haven't finished content that I don't even own?! That's just wrong. I also wish I could delete games from my list. If I played a game for an hour and didn't like it, I shouldn't have to see it in my game list forever as a constant reminder that I didn't finish it. Maybe that's just me though. /rant
I also agree. There's been games where I've asked myself afterward, "Why the hell did I waste all that time?" but I think the key difference is whether or not this completionism is tied to mere achievement or to unveiling more of an interesting story (yet are optional paths you can take). And you definitely hit on that.
Someone could play through the main quest of Skyrim without ever touching most of the sidequests if they really wanted to.
I think that's why I tend to like games with a more well-thought linear story than open world because by the end of it, I feel accomplished enough just finishing the damn thing.
Several of my friends (PSN) and I compete with both overall level and number of plats. I enjoy it simply because it drives me to get the most out of my games and being in the lead (im not currently) is a blast.
MONEY = When I was younger, in the NES era, I would be lucky to get one new game every two months or so. I would play the heck out of it, looking for every secret. NOW = I have more money, more systems, and great deals can be found relatively easily (thanks cheapassgamer.com). I don't need all the secrets, etc. unless it's FUN or strongly compelling in some way.
TIME and MULTIPLAYER = I have three kids and I don't play a lot of games when they are awake. Coupled with multiplayer experiences with friends that compete for that section of my time, and it's hard to complete something that doesn't hold my interest very well.
I'm spoiled, and I would do myself some good by purchasing less games (thank goodness I don't have STEAM).
I bought 6 new games this fall for Xbox and 4 for 3DS I might have beaten 3 total, but the time I've spent in each game was great and I plan on spend way more time with them over the Christmas break.
You had to dodge the lightning 200 times...
Nice article. I do suffer from OCD and it ends up seeping into my gaming as well. It'll be hard for myself to cut away from completionsim. But I do find it tedious at times.
You can only hope...
Great Article. The problem with so many games is that most of the extra content isn't satisfying. The reward for the side quest is usually a meaningless add on that doesn't really contribute to completing the game.