Finish What You Started
My parents always tried to enforce the "no dessert until you've finished your dinner" rule, though it was often in vain. A staple of parenting, it is an internationally recognised form of bribery that coerces children into eating their greens before stuffing their faces with cakes, ice cream and other tasty rubbish. Although my days of bowing to the wishes of the brussel sprout police have long since passed, I've retained this childhood lesson of finishing what I start and have since applied it to gaming.
Although I sometimes play multiple games side by side, I rarely start a first playthrough of a narrative driven game before finishing the last. There can be no Crysis 2 until I've cleaned my plate of InFAMOUS 2 and no Portal 2 until I grimace through the far less palatable LA Noire. I do make exceptions with trophying, second playthroughs and smaller downloadable games, but I almost always finish one game before starting the next.
I like to get the most out of my games and experience all they have to offer, though I'll never force myself to play one that I thoroughly dislike. Thankfully, due to an eclectic taste and the care I take in choosing the games I buy, I rarely find myself stuck with something I can't enjoy. There are times that I will cut a game short for other reasons, such as Mirror's Edge and motion sickness, but when I start a game I always do so with the intention of finishing it.
It would seem that this desire to reach the final credits is not shared by the majority of gamers. According to a recent feature on CNN (accessed via Kotaku), nine out of ten gamers don't finish their games. Statistics lifted from Raptr support this claim, with only 10% of those who played Red Dead Redemption seeing it through to its conclusion. I find that rather depressing, considering the quality of RDR and its thought provoking and well structured final hour.
I can only imagine how dispiriting this news must be to the people who actually make these games. The customer has paid the price of entry and there are no NPD figures for games finished, so I doubt publishers are losing any sleep over this trend, but for a developer, coming from a strictly creative point of view, it must be disheartening to know that so few people will experience the latter stages of your project. This may go some way to explaining the countless quality games that suffer from sub-par, premature and terrible endings - a malady which I've moaned about before. Why take the trouble to create a memorable ending if it is destined to be seen by so few?
The CNN report also touched upon the increasingly limited time that gamers can spend on video games. This is partly due to the surprisingly high average age of gamers - age going hand-in-hand with more responsibilities and less free time - and the prevalence of digital distractions such as Twitter, Facebook and other social media that are vying for our attention, whilst demanding far less time and effort than a 20 hour console title. It is not difficult to see the appeal of iphone, tablet and browser games, as they are so easy to pick up and play in short bursts and their quality often belies their smaller stature. With time and money at a premium, it is clear that this segment of the industry is here to stay, even if I'm yet to embrace it.
I currently find myself short on time for gaming, but if there is an ending to be had then I will chase it. This desire for completion can probably be traced back to my youth, when I would only get a couple of new games each year - usually Christmas and birthdays. With such a limited selection, I would play the same games over and over and complete many of them multiple times. Maintaining this pace nowadays, when I often buy three or four games a month, is perhaps unrealistic but I still enjoy the sense of completion and achievement that comes from finishing a game. The extra trophies don't hurt either!
As we move forward, perhaps we will see more games without a traditional ending, or maybe even a decrease in narrative driven experiences. It is interesting that many of today's most popular console games feature single player campaigns no longer than eight hours, and multiplayer components that are ideal for short bursts of play, such as Call of Duty. Is this the beginning of the end for the 60 hour, epic RPG? I certainly hope not.
So where do you stand on finishing games? Do you always make an effort to reach the credits, or are you happy to move onto a new game, regardless of your progress in the last?