Notes from a Writer: On Completing Games

A very odd thing occurred the other day – I beat the final boss in an open world video game.

I play games on a fairly regular basis, and I see the end credits roll on a fairly regular basis, but when it comes to open world games—these are the games with seemingly endless side quests and where you can wander all over and choose which missions (to some extent) you’re going to take as opposed to being forced down a single path—I rarely finish them. Over the course of months, or years, I sink tons of hours into these games. I venture into nooks and crannies. I push through the majority of the main storyline and spend scads of time wandering. What I rarely ever do is play the final boss and close it out.

There is always some sort of immediate reason for this avoidance of the end, be it vacation or another game coming in or whatever, but I’ve seen it happen with so many titles that it can’t just be an accident. So, I’ve started to think about why this occurs.

As best as I can tell, it has to do with my enjoyment of them. As I said, I put in tons of time with these games, regularly hitting more than 100 hours and in some cases (like Skyrim), significantly more than that.

Open world titles, generally speaking, do allow you to keep playing after you’ve beaten the final boss. You can still go around and do all the missions you didn’t complete, but I can’t get enthused about that. When I see the credits roll on a game, for me, that’s it. There is no going back. The credits are a sign that the game is finished and it doesn’t matter how many side quests I have left, finished is finished.

I never want my trip to Skyrim to end, so I don’t think I’ll ever play the final boss. It would be heartbreaking. I actually have more than one game of Skyrim going, and that I don’t mind, but I do believe that if I were to finish the main storyline in one of those games, I’d be done with the other, and I hate that idea. It would be closing the book on this incredible thing, this full and complete world that I love.

As I said at the top of this rumination though, there is a game I just finished, an open world title into which I’d sunk hours on end and completely loved – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But, the reasons for my finishing it are unique. My children have started playing the game (actually one of them is most of the way through it). I haven’t been guiding them in what to do—and my not having to is one of the genius parts of this Zelda game, it is so very accessible—but I have been helping them a little here and there along the way. So, with their questions reaching fever pitch and their pursuit of the end credits an unquenchable thirst, it seemed the right thing to do for me to get there; not to beat them, but to better help.

I did beat Ganon. It did feel great and like the culmination of a massive effort. Now, as predicted, I do feel done with it. There are shrines I didn’t visit, fairy fountains I didn’t find, quests I didn’t take. I am both pleased with where I am and feel a great sense of disappointment. This may have been my favorite trip to Hyrule and goodness knows when I’ll get to return, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the next entry in the franchise is every bit as wonderful as this one.


photo credit: Nintendo

Categories: Random Thoughts

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