Gaming isn’t all fun and games perhaps ironically. In fact gamers are often pressed for time, having to juggle life admin and professional obligations on top of their gaming habit. It’s fair to say we rarely have the time to complete many games, and if we do, more often than not we’re ‘rewarded’ with really polarising and unsatisfying endings. Which is why some games are so notorious amongst the uninitiated: because we can’t stop bitching about that unsatisfying ending.
Honestly, an ending shouldn’t make or break a game for someone. It might have been unfulfilling, unhappy, or have failed to set sail to your personal ship (which is why we have so much fan fiction), but just like in real life, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. You’ve sat through most of an engaging story, you’ve immersed yourself in the gameplay and you’ve button-mashed your way to victory in every boss fight. And that was fun, that was enjoyable. That was the real gaming experience, not the ending. Maybe Mass Effect 3 totally disregards all your prior choices, but at least they felt relevant when you made them.
By extension, you shouldn’t get so hung up on the games you can’t finish. Real life gets busy and can throw all sorts of stuff your way. Some games have ridiculously long play times which may or may not be worth the investment. And besides, there’s so many new titles coming out each year. Some people, somehow, are able to balance everything (or maybe playing games is all they do, who knows). But it’s fine if you personally can’t entirely complete your ten-part adventure series. There’s decades worth of games that you can play and enjoy. In the same vein, I believe the only reason you should try and unlock every achievement is if you really, really love a game and can’t bring yourself to stop playing it. Why bother slugging your way to 100% completion when you can enjoy so many other titles?
Games are fundamentally about having fun. The idea of thinking of the ending as the sole reward, something that’s meant to compensate you for the time spent playing, seems to kind of imply that the time spent playing was, well, actually wasted. But it wasn’t. The act of playing is a perfectly valid form of artistic expression whether you’re shooting ink in Splatoon or complementing froggits in Undertale. This will be a controversial opinion but I think the ending of a videogame is as meaningless as the end score of a friendly game of football. No one cares who wins so long as everyone’s had a good time. Having said all that, I don’t mean to detract from the importance of a good story. A powerful and engaging storyline in a videogame is what makes the gaming experience that much more unforgettable. Games employ a variety of mechanisms to immerse their audiences in their artificial worlds. Some use intricate detailed graphics, others create beautiful soundscapes, but some games are able to draw the player in simply by the power of narration. A good story can create a tranquil oasis where gamers can for a moment become the leading character, swept away in the artifical drama. I’ve always felt this way about video games and I’m personally pleased about the trend of games becoming more story-driven these days. Let’s look at a favourite, Life is Strange for example. SPOILER ALERT While it nded with a binary choice (only one of which was actually good), the story and adventure elements were more than enough to make up for the lacklustre finale.
No matter what kind of gamer you are, you shouldn’t forget: it’s all about enjoying the journey. Don’t be so focused on being a completionist, trying to get every unlockable (unless that’s your thing in which case, you do you). Don’t let an abrupt and messy ending ruin an otherwise superb game for you. Play what you can and enjoy things at your own pace. Whatever the ending may hold, whether you even reach it or not, just ride the current and see where it takes you. While a perfect ending is great, a few terrible minutes can’t and shoudn’t take away from over 30 solid hours of immersive fun.