Fearing Lost Could End Like A Video Game

Video games have given the world joy, joysticks and Super Mario. They've been accused of worse. Let us hope they have not inspired TV series, like Lost, to end simplistically (thus, badly!), the way so many video games do.

In the interest of not spoiling Lost for those who are not caught up - and of not getting too specific for those who don't care - just recognise, please, that the hit show Lost ends its six-season run later this month. How it may end is a subject of popular debate, at least for the millions who watch the show weekly.

Lost has been about survival: What do people who've crashed on a seemingly deserted tropical island go on living?

Lost has been about mystery - maybe there are other people and mad science experiments and even noisy monsters on this island too?

But in Season 6, Lost may also be about one of the worst storytelling sinkholes: the march toward a boss battle.

No Andross In My Lost, Please

Just as there is in Super Mario Bros, in every Zelda game, in both Bioshocks, in the Final Fantasy adventures and so many more video games, there appears to be an ultimate bad guy in Lost. And, with just a few episodes remaining until the late-May finale, it's looking like the series may end with our hero or heroes fighting one big, tough bad guy.

This is worrisome.

Video games didn't invent the idea of an ultimate enemy or a nemesis. King Arthur battled Morgan le Fay, Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Bible had the devil. The 20th century had Hitler.

Still, video games have been relying on the boss battle as the primary way to signal that their adventure is complete with scant exception. They present a final nemesis, the grim reaper of the little life they've allowed players to experience for 20, 30 or 40 hours. And they provide the chance to kick him into oblivion. An ultimate evil conquered, roll credits.

The fault of video games has not been their inclusion of ultimate bad guys, but their reliance on them. They are the default device to ending a video game adventure. To end a game without encountering one is still a modern surprise.

Video Game's Favourite Storytelling Folly

The acclaimed Bioshock, an adventure through the madness of a failed undersea utopia may sport a slower pace and appeal to the thinking man, but it ends with a fight against a chemically-empowered giant. Shadow of the Colossus is an emotional journey of a boy sent to hunt grand beasts. Climaxes with a boss battle. Star Fox is the video game equivalent of Top Gun. Each entry culminates with a boss battle. Grand Theft Autos don't end with boss battles, nor do Halos. But Metal Gears do. Resident Evils do. Prince of Persias. God of Wars. Gears of Wars. One recent game, full of suave and sophisticated action, climaxed with a boss battle: beat up the pope.

When you need to end dozens of hours of adventure, video games teach us, you do it with a boss battle.

Movies can get away with this. Compared to six-season-long TV series and 40-hour video games, they are short. Next to those baroque forms of entertainment, feature films are mere sonnets or songs, needing a final clever rhyme or a cymbal crash to end their brief run. Big-time video games and big-time TV series are a little closer to the length of life, and life ends, for most, with no boss battles. Neither do novels, whose creators know how to drift their story to completion if need be or at least just not bottleneck their portrayed evil into the shape of an ultimate man who must be shot three times and tossed to the moon.

For about four seasons, Lost did not appear to be destined for a video game ending. It had a shot of ending more like The Sopranos, with an abrupt exit, or mournfully without a heroically everyone-wins Star Wars end, a la The Wire. ABC's show seemed more likely to do those things than to identify its most evil element as a foe to be conquered, a most powerful enemy that would require, in video-game boss style, a specific plan and pattern executed by our heroes to overcome.

Should Lost end in such a way, with a boss battle, we can surely blame other influences than video games. But I won't be able to shake my fear that games did this. If Lost ends in the manner that so many games do, I will lament the nefarious influence of the medium that named the show's submarine (Galaga) and helped justify the inanity of pressing buttons mindlessly to possibly save the world (see all of Season 2).

I wish video games didn't end like video games as much as they do. I hope TV shows, Lost or otherwise, don't end like them either.


Comments

    Hang on. Lost? The show that always sucked and jumped the shark in like series 2? Why are we talking about this again?

      Cause it's the last season?

      The buildup so far has got me worried too. I hope you don't just fight smokey and then end it when he's dead a la final bosses. :(

    Wait wait wait...this shit is still on TV?!?!? God damn people go watch a GOOD TV show like Breaking Bad.

    Lost has been consistently recognized as one of TVs greatest shows and is probably the most critically praised sci-fi series to ever exist. The show is huge; raking in more than 10 million viewers each week and people actually do still care....ten million of them, including me.

      Agreed, me too - looking forward to the final few eps :)

    Does Totilo even watch LOST? He really thinks the ending will be as aweful as a video game, though LOST uses a few great video games for the storyline like those from the Half Life series, I highly doubt that a television show with an antagonist that parallels the Gman is going to disappoint. Though what can be expected from Totilo's over-indulgent articles and everyone hating on this show, whilst it may not be as great as The Wire, it is a brilliant Sci-fi story. It is better then most of the "GOOD TV" out there, if you don't like it and don't understand it then the answer is simple don't watch it as there are alot of good shows on tv.

      Totilo is indeed a Lost fan and watches it religiously. If you listen to the Kotaku Radio podcast, you would know this.

      This article is not a knock on Lost. It's about the fear of how the show might end. If you think about it, only Lost fans would care so deeply about the show's ending.

    I think the timeslot its given here (if ever) is example enough of what people think of this show. I'm sure its a big hit somewhere, but then so is Border Security and Kath and Kim. Personally I though the whole mystery sort of style was great for about a season, then when they just kept trying to make more and more mysteries without ever bothering to answer half the questions they raised I just gave up. Things got ridiculous and perhaps everything will come together in a great way in the end, but you can't tease an audience with answers for this long without a great deal of them saying 'that's enough, I just don't care anymore.'

    I read the entire article and I still don't understand why 'boss battle endings' are bad.

    And let's be honest here; the smoke monster has always been one of the pillars of the show, so it was always likely that they wouldn't have solved that issue til the last season, even before we knew the true nature of the beast.

    So I don't think any sensible person, would have imagined an ending/conclusion to the smoke monster to be anything short of epic, and if they (the writers) see fit to tie up this story thread by way of a 'boss battle' then I don't really see a problem with that --- as long as there's some sort of substantive epilogue to follow. And people love an exciting ending, that's just what boss battles do, they make things exciting.

    Somtimes, you just gotta give the fanboys what they want.

    At the end of the day LOST is an intelligent piece of sci-fi/mystery material, and would require a similarly intelligible and patient audience to enjoy. It's just unfortunate that shows like this are relegated to the niche category because the general populous seem to only enjoy whizz-bang television antics that most resemble anything Michael Bay has made.

    I mean, how else do you explain how HEROES has lasted 4 seasons??

    This article is fundamentally flawed in assuming video games all end with a boss fight. Most video games don't end with a boss battle. You fight the boss and beat him, the gameplay usually ends there but the game doesn't. Even in the Street Fighter series there was always a short storyboard for each of the character's endings.

    BTW - Nice attempt to disguise a blog about Lost, a tv show, as an article on a games on a gaming news website.

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