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The Inquisitive Blogger 9/31: Why Haven't I Finished This Yet?

Note for the Above: Not MY Backlog pictured. "Get 'er done" is the phrase that most of us try to say to ourselves when meeting a challenge, yet somehow, someway, there's that something that just goes unfinished. It's all the more relevant to gamers this year with the slew of next-gen releases approaching. Some of us may still be fighting tooth and nail with Joel and Ellie to finish The Last of Us and even stellar games like Bioshock Infinite and Fire Emblem may be sitting on the back-burner. [Guilty as charged on the latter] These backlogs seem to grow like a hideous fungus of procrastination for some or a dangling carrot always out of reach. Still, the question remains, "Why aren't we able to finish more games? 

At it was reported on this site and many others a while ago, 90-80% of average gamers will never complete a game's main campaign. According to Raptr, the on-line game site tracker, only a mere 10-20% are actually coming to a game's end without cheating and looking at the ending on YouTube. That's pretty darn disappointing to developers who slave away for years at a time making a game, but it's just as sad for gamers as they miss out on more experiences they might like.

The subject especially came to mind thanks to Game Informer's latest poll of "Have you Beaten the First Super Mario Bros?" As an arguably hard-core gamer, the vote I put down was deeply saddening. I'll let you in on my dirty secret: I'm in that unfortunate 28% that haven't. You heard it here folks. I haven't even beaten my first childhood gaming classic despite the countless hours I logged into it. Looking back on my own gaming backlog to worry about this year, the dilemma of the unconquered game unnerves the completionist in me.

I love getting the most out of my games and mastering every inch of them. You can call that OCD if ya like, but I call it ambition. "What gets me starts taking me away from my gaming goals?" you might ask. The easy answer is to say it's bad. Terrible gameplay, poor framerate, game-breaking glitches, those are more straight-forward than the deeper things that irk me. There's probably no small answer for every gamer, but here are a just a few that spring to my mind through my gaming career: 

Distractions:

To say we all have distractions in our lives is an understatement, but even more so with the nature of the gaming industry in recent years. We live in an accelerated, hyper world full of technology and do-das to catch our fancy and one thing simply can lead to another. Between the rise of social networking and on-demand entertainment media taking over the living room when you want where you want, it's easy to get pre-occupied from even the best of games. Besides, of course, those important things called school, work, friends, family, and life getting caught up in the similar advancements we have today. There's always more to see and do then we have time for in a 24 hr. cycle and it can frustrate the heck out of us.

With that said, games are only reflecting the cultural shift towards our society's more latent demands for multi-tasking. More titles are being filled with side-quests and scavenger hunts beyond the main campaign and more of them are establishing a formula for being unending. Enormous worlds like Skyrim are perhaps leading the way to auto-generating tasks and quests for a virtual eternity and while far from that kind of ambition, Assassin's Creed and Batman's Arkhams are easy examples of series that go out of their way to entice you with collectibles and hidden secrets. Even Lego City Undercover's main campaign only amounts to 20% of game completion. I will say that the amount of side-activities games are dishing out is nothing but good if done on an engaging note, but it's all the more challenging to keep up with. 

It's So Hard It's a Chore:

Rage-quitting is never something that all gamers would admit to or even have done exactly, but there's no mistaking that extreme difficulty is most certainly a factor that can affect your time with a game. A game that's not only testing, but crushing your limits of patience is exhausting and it can't be something you want to put hrs. and hrs. into. I could easily never come close to finishing even the beginning of the 2006 PS3 Sonic The Hedgehog and even gave up beating Syndrome's final Omni-droid in that ridiculously hard Incredibles movie game. Despite my love for Star Wars, I would've never come close to beating several levels in Jedi Knight: Outcast without a few helpful cheats to keep poor Kyle Katarn alive in my hands. It's perhaps reasons of their inaccessibility [or at least to pathetic me ;)] that I feel that I could never return to games like them. It's thus a balancing act that games have to win to keep you engaged yet continually satisfied with a sense of progression. Games like Portal 2 kept me on the edge of my seat with its brain-teasers without overly frustrating me, giving me challenge along with ample reward. Or perhaps you're a better gamer than I and no trial exceeds your limits. In which case, I envy you. ;)

A Slew of Games 

If there's one disadvantage in the growth of the game industry for players, it's the sheer amount of games. That simple statement would and probably still is a good thing for any avid gamer, but for completionist freaks like me, it's a chore to organize my play-schedule around new releases. I always want to stay current and play what everybody else is within my genre tastes, but whether it's a New Super Mario Bros. entry or an Assassin's Creed every year, I feel like I'm short-changing my games for not exploring my full satisfaction with them for the sake of skipping to the next one in the franchise. For that matter, many more people are merely skipping out on their loyalty to annual-release cycles. Companies keep making each game better than the last one [or not depending on who you ask. . .] and lots of folks are willing to buy every other game like the next I-phone rather than buy every one. I will say that I love my particular Uncharteds, Metal Gears, and Nintendo series games to death, but I can't keep up with those fellas all the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm knocking off my last buys off a ledge into the of uncracked entries. 

We're Playing With More People

The social crowd is one that's taking up games by storm and as far as the nature of distractions from game completion go, they're a subcategory all to themselves. Once single-player games like Call of Duty, Resident Evil, and more recent examples like God of War are now practically built around them and because of them more campaigns are watered down far from what their predecessors offered. This can be an obviously beneficial aspect to the direction games are going. If you want your games more like life, then of course you'll want to bring your friends along for the ride. Chatting and socializing with friends in the Sims as goofily [yes, I used that word] and care-free virtually as in person simply makes gaming feel closer to the game of life that never ends. At the same time, I feel like much of it's losing the appeal of enjoying honing my own skills at problem-solving. I want to figure out how to strategize my next move without a bunch of people squawking at me through a headset or a comment thread every once and a while. Further, sometimes it feels like companies are forcing the party on me in clumsy ways like The Last of Us or Tomb Raider that are poor distractions from the real core game. Don't get me wrong, I like the hubbub of the party, but too much of it seems to restrain me from what progress I can make by the skin of my own teeth.

Getting Disconnected From the Narrative

People have talked oodles about this before, and particularly through GI's very own Writers Room feature, but games have evolved into stories just as much as games and emotion's a big part of the scene. It's more games that are drawing me in with their emotional connections and it's ones that fail me in that aspect that lose me. Like I'd say about movies and tv shows, games are just when they deliver what they promised. If they advertise themselves are what they turn out as, whether it be comedy, drama, neither, or something more elusive in-between, I'm happy. When they can't find success in the goal they were intending, they tend to lose me. Final Fantasy XIII was a beautifully rendered game with a great battle system and a better use of graphics, but the long hours I spent with the grating persons of Snow and Hope along with the lackluster plot-line. More importantly, it came from a series that I treasured emotion for and losing that credibility hurt my time with it bad. It's why I never bothered to get all of XIII-2's endings and for likewise reasons I lost faith in keeping with Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones' sorry Prince development. A false sense of emotion is a deep-turn off for me and it's the reason behind too many games I put down too fast. 

I WANT to Play Everything and Can't: 

I suppose that the fundamental behind every completionist's goals are always the self-destruction they bring upon themselves: I want to beat everything. The minute I have gone into trying to conquer a backlog I've always grown it even more. It's an attitude that haunts me and can't escape me despite my best measures to be realistic about what I can accomplish in earthling hours. Whenever I go in bent on beating a game, it turns out. . . different than what I imagined. Perhaps I have too high of expectations of myself or of the games I can play in one lifetime. It's therefore wiser to only know that some games will go uncompleted, and that's not a sin if I can help it. Maybe I don't need to know the entire series lore, or have every power-up under my belt, or gain every trophy I want. Maybe I can make do with what I play to enjoy. Games are not stacks of cash [though I wish] to be saved up and locked in a vault. They're for fun. I will endeavor to view them that way for weaving my way through the 'ole backlog and might just enjoy my time better for it. . . Or not. . . ;)

Guess that was more of a personal rant time of mine than I planned on doing, but I hoped you liked it all the same. For those of you who did, there are questions to be asked and more blogs to come. What games have you never finished? Have a blogging suggestion for me? For that matter, why haven't I finished this blog series yet? Watch me do that and more in the days to come. 

Up Next on the Inquisitive Blogger: When Is Silence Golden? 

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