Getting Bored And Walking Away Is How Most Games End For Me Now

Last week, I realised I have a problem. I'd just finished browsing the Nintendo Switch's entire eShop for a second time in search of a new game. That's a weird thing to do, especially considering that I still haven't finished Breath of the Wild. I should finish it, but I can't bring myself to do it. Hours and hours and hours later, I'm bored.

Around the same time, I came across a tweet that seemed as though it was about my situation.

"The reason I hate modern open world games, and especially ones that can theoretically 'keep going forever' with meaningless spawns like in Skyrim, is because the game's 'end state' becomes 'when you get bored'," said @aSpaceCadette on Twitter.

I have a teetering stack of great but never-ending games: Breath of the Wild, Persona 5, Far Cry 5, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, every Grand Theft Auto, and yes, Skyrim.

I'm about to finally start Assassin's Creed Origins, and despite the good things I've heard about it, I'm worried that it will end up on my attention span's cutting room floor as well.

This isn't another piece complaining about how Games Are Too Long These Days. Rather, I want to talk about what happens when our personal endings for game after game are a tepid, non-committal, "Well, I guess I'm done with that."

No fond farewells, no heroic final acts, not even a satisfying credits sequence. Just the nondescript silence after you turn the television off.

There's certainly an appeal to games that refuse to end no matter how much you yell at them that you have a life, friends and a houseplant to attend to. Most obviously, the gamerly masses want bang for their buck - raw content piped directly into their audiovisual orifices.

But there's more to it than that. Endings can be hard. Sometimes they subvert expectations, or "ruin" the way we perceived a game and its characters. At the very least, they signal, well, an end. The adventure's over. It's time to say goodbye.

I remember, when I was a kid, I purposefully held off on finishing games such as Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X-2, and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for months after getting within spitting distance of their final encounters.

Similarly, I hated things such as the ending to Cowboy Bebop - which is not a video game, but which had an ending so definitive that it made it hard for me to fantasise about more adventures happening afterwards.

Even now, I still feel overwhelmed with sadness when I'm about to finish a good book.

There's something decidedly youthful about an aversion to endings. When we're kids, we have so much more capacity to immerse ourselves in things, to obsess over them and explore their most obscure depths - to think about them endlessly even when we aren't directly experiencing them.

So of course we don't want those things to end. Letting go is never easy, but it doesn't descend below the difficulty level of "basically impossible" until we've been forced to do it a few times.

Who didn't, as a kid, search for Missingno in Pokemon Red and Blue, or try to find the triforce under the castle in Ocarina of Time? For me, those things served as "proof" that those games went on forever - that they were real, magical places and not just digital constructs with finite bounds.

Nowadays, there's a much higher level of general game literacy, and people datamine the crap out of games to discover their exact limits. It's harder to believe that games are portals to other universes.

Even now, though, the desire for games to stretch on forever persists. YouTube channels such as The Game Theorists have found massive success in analysing the lore of games such as Five Nights At Freddy's, Fortnite, and Undertale - replacing the traditional notion of video game "secrets" with infinite speculative breadcrumb trails.

The older I've gotten, though, the more I've come to crave closure in games. Great endings give you just as much to chew on as stories that go on forever.

I still think about the decisions I made in Pyre and how they played out both in conjunction with and, most importantly, against my good intentions.

Celeste's conclusion will probably stick with me for years. That game did more in eight hours than most games do in 100.

Everything, a game about everything, wouldn't have hit me anywhere near as hard if it hadn't decided, practically of its own accord, to end.

I have plenty of fond memories of the times I've spent playing gigantic games, but closure isn't involved. Instead, clouds of dull grey hang over those memories, and when I think about resuming games, I find it hard to convince myself to take the plunge.

I remember first walking out into Breath of the Wild's gorgeous world. I remember trying to bypass the Lost Woods with a speedrunning trick I saw on Twitter. I remember "adopting" a dog. I remember feeling my heart pound out of my chest as I approached the Master Sword.

I felt like a kid again, like when I first yanked it from a pedestal in Ocarina of Time, and everything changed.

But I also remember the moment I got bored, the bummer ending to my personal adventure. I remember when Breath of the Wild told me I needed to collect more hearts before I could pull the Master Sword. And after 50-some-odd hours doing all sorts of other stuff, I felt a familiar malaise creep over me.

"You know what?" I said to myself. "I'm not really feeling this any more."


Comments

    I kind of agree. But what do you consider 'completing' a game. Getting the ending? Or collecting everything?
    I'm bored with BOW, but I got the ending. I certainly haven't done everything in the game, nor do I feel like I need to to 'complete' it, and I don't see it being too much different from any of the FF games with their mass of optional side quests.

      For me, completing a game means finishing the main storyline, if there is one. Everything outside that is icing on that cake.

      Games should be structured around that specific goal, and the ones that force you into sidequests (to level enough for content) usually piss me off enough that I walk away earlier. The games pared back to the bare essentials though tend to get more traction with me.

      Having said that, there are games with no storyline that drag me in for lengthy periods. MMO's for example. But their attraction is that the good ones don't stand still, so coming back months or years later is still an option, and one that usually finds the game has evolved. Hence, a new experience.

      Personally, I'm more a Getting Bored sort of gamer than not though. Games are entertainment, so if they aren't entertaining me, I go find something else. Usually not to return, because whatever wasn't entertaining me is still probably there waiting to annoy me again.

    Depends on the game. Some games I will finish every skerrick of side-content (including DLC) that's available before I shelve it, but some games I'll just play the main story, sometimes grudgingly at that.

    But I'll always finish a narrative-driven game if I can. To date, I've only noped out of two games, and those were I Am Alive (too dark and tense) and Dragon Fin Soup (too awful a UI on Vita).

    Getting bored with a game has become the default ending for all the games that I play lately.
    By lately, I mean for years.
    Looking over my Steam and GOG lists, the only game that I have completed in the last 2 years had been The Witcher 3 & Pillars of Eternity. The latter was because I pushed myself to do it before Pillars 2 came out.
    I have current games going in Stellaris, GTA, AssCreed Rogue, Skyrim, Stardew Valley, Sims 4, Pillars of Eternity 2, X-Com 2, Mass Effect Andromeda, Mass Effect 3, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Fallouts 2, 3, 4 and New Vegas.

    I think this is because we are spoiled for choice. Half of this is that there are so many games available for us to choose from.
    The other half is that I am now the one in charge of my gaming.
    As a kid, my parents had the final decision on whether I had a new game to play, or if I simply had to stick with what I already had. They either paid for new games, controlled access to the gaming device, or both.

    Last edited 27/06/18 12:37 pm

      Good point on the age thing. As a kid, you usually had one game to play maybe 2, and by the Gods you got your money's worth knowing it might be next Christmas before you saw something new.

      Today, you're only a GoG or Steam sale away from something good to fill your time (or a 2 for $40 trip to JB), and the range of good stuff out there is so big you're never without an option.

      Yeah I reckon that is a big part of it for me nowadays.
      If you only have one game you inevitably play it until a new one finally comes along. And if that's at a rate of one per birthday and one at Xmas, you are likely gonna play the shit out of something, even if it isn't that great.
      I don't think that's all of it, but it's a huge part.
      If you'd told 12 yr old me that 40 year old me would have forty consoles and buy more games every fortnight than I can even start, I would have wet my pants with excitement.
      If I'd even believed 40 year old me then!

      You're right, we're spoiled for choice - except for me the problem isn't money, but time. I work long hours so I can't spend much time playing games (even if it's the main way I de-stress), and if a game doesn't grab me quickly, I'm not going to play it when I could be playing something else. I also can't play games I used to enjoy - 30-45 minutes of CK2 or some other grand strategy game every so often feels pointless and unenjoyable, and I don't have the time to learn the complex simulators I used to like mastering.

      As a side effect I tend to spend more time playing on a console these days, and I skip a lot of indie games that I'd otherwise have tried/stuck with if they were of questionable quality. There's so many games I can buy, but not much time to play them, so I'm going to be very picky. I've stopped buying shit on sale for the sake of it too.

        Plus one for all of this!

        Im finding the switch, because of its portability, has helped me find more time playing games. On the toilet for 10 mins, in the kitchen for 10 mins, on the couch for 20mins. Im actually finishing SOME games now.

      Kid me: Only get games for birthdays and Christmas
      Young adult me: Disposable income! Games! Games! More games!
      Married with kids me: Only get games for birthdays and Christmas (and maybe anniversary or father's day, if I'm lucky)

    Open world games are the bane of my existence. Its why I'm so excited about the new Metro, plenty of scope in the environment to make it not feel like a corridor shooter, but instanced story that keeps you moving forward.

      Just played Metro 2033 and I simultaneously felt it was too long and didn't have big enough hubs to flesh out the story and world.
      Maybe Exodus will hit a good mix of corridor and exploration but the writing and acting are going to have to really improve on the original to give me a reason to finish it.

    BotW HAS a definitive ending though, when you defeat Calamity Ganon. I mean...yeah, the game throws you back into the world after the credits roll to do whatever you want but at that point, I consider the game complete. You've accomplished the task that's given to you at the start of the game.

    While the heart requirement for the Master Sword was a bit annoying, it was meant to be a kind of late-game upgrade - and honestly after playing for 50 hours you should have had enough hearts to pull it anyway.

      Was going to say the same about Horizon: Zero Dawn which has a definite end to its story.
      If you want to keep collecting anything leftover in the world, that's an optional extra for the OCDs, but clearly one that comes after the game is "completed".

    I don't so much get bored with games as much as I'm like a labrador who just had fifty tennis balls thrown in his direction.

    I was going to say that I consume games like a smorgasbord, a buffet... where you take a sample from everything and bring it back to your table, but my GF pointed out that it's much more like I created my own buffet by buying full-price meals and only taking a bite out of each.

      This is why I self regulate myself to only buying games on sale unless I am utterly dying to have it on day 1.

      Some of my favourite games of the last few years I've picked up for not much more than a fiver.

        Except the Summer/Winter sales roll round and you pick up 20 games for a fiver each and don't have time to play them all and you forget why you bought it in the first place.
        Maybe when the sequel gets announced, you'll finally try the first couple missions in Rage before going back to the same old multiplayer you've been playing for months and still can't get a chicken dinner in... Or is that just me?!????

          I've curbed my buying habits significantly in the last few years. When my Steam account cracked the 500 game mark i knew I needed to regulate myself or my wife would be staging an intervention.

          I still manage to buy more games than I can play.

    I totally understand what you mean, i get bored half way through a game. Most times its because i feel like the game is the same to others that i have played so i get bored, but mostly i am finding games lacking in great stories, stories that i get lost with its story telling or simply i cant relate to any of the characters. AC origins was that for me, i couldn't relate to any of the story or characters so i shelved it. I am finding that a lot of games i play for a few hours and end up just stopping because my boredom sets in. We need more games like Dragon Age origins and mass effect 2, it gives a world to explore within scope, amazing characters that evolve with amazing stories and game play.

    I’m totally fine with creating my own story within sprawling games and not doing everything. When I hit ‘the ending’ I’m done. Occasionally I’ll do a second play through and make different choices and pick up quests I haven’t done.

    It is the endless feedback loop of online shooters that bores me rigid. You’ve shot one person in the face, you’ve shot them all.

    Author: "I still haven't finished Breath of the Wild. I should finish it, but I can't bring myself to do it"

    Also author: "The older I've gotten, though, the more I've come to crave closure in games."

    Also author: "I want to talk about what happens when our personal endings for game after game are a tepid, non-committal, "Well, I guess I'm done with that."
    No fond farewells, no heroic final acts, not even a satisfying credits sequence. Just the nondescript silence after you turn the television off."

    Also author: "I also remember the moment I got bored, the bummer ending to my personal adventure"

    It really sounds like you should finish the story, like that's the end of the game. you can post-game/side-quest forever if you want to, but the game has a very specific ending with all the things you want from it.

    As an aside I've never understood why people would 'purposefully held off on finishing games ... after getting within spitting distance of their final encounters. ' unless they were having fun sidequesting first and couldn't go back and do that after. Even as a kid I had no problem beating a game and then playing more of it to uncover its secrets.
    It just sounds like you're intentionally putting yourself in a position where you get bored of a game because you actively avoid finishing it. Like what other ending could you have in that case?

      I guess I KINDA get it...

      My GF avoids finishing games when she's having too much fun but can tell it's almost over. Sometimes if the momentum is really strong, she'll get caught up in it and carried through to conclusion, but when she can tell it's impending, she'll usually jam the brakes.

      Same goes for TV series. We've seriously got a good dozen shows watched up to their last or second-last episodes. Finishing them would mean acknowleding that they are over, rather than having it there as a failsafe to come back to - a fallback option.

      Meanwhile, I've never finished watching Cowboy Bebop. Pretty sure the series ended somewhere around ep 22. Yup. Spike and his friends are kicking around the galaxy having great adventures and I've seen no evidence to the contrary. Nossir.

        dude hahahaha I think your girlfriend has some issues with moving on and things ending hahaha

        at least she will never get over you ;)

    Depends on the game, depends on the player. Some people will play a game up to a certain point and then be done with it. Some people like to be the perfect completionist and will try to achieve everything the game has to offer. It really depends on how much the game engages the player.

    Grand Theft Auto V, an incredibly popular open world game, didn't appeal to me that much. It was fun, but once I was done with the game's main story, I was done.

    While I mostly enjoyed Dragon Age: Inquisition, once I was done with the main story, I was done with it. I couldn't be bothered with remaining side quests or the DLC packs.

    The Witcher III: Wild Hunt on the other hand, I was so captivated by the story, characters, lore and setting that once I finished the game, I continued to play, exploring as much as I could and doing as many side quests as I could find. Naturally, when the expansion packs Hearts of Stone as well as Blood and Wine came out, I was all over those and did the exact same thing. It's embarrassing to admit, but I've locked in nearly a 170 hours of game play into The Witcher III.

    I took a similar approach to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Once I was done with the main story, I continued to play, seeking out shrines and exploring places I've yet to see. This came especially handy when the first DLC pack came out, allowing players to see exactly where within 200 hours, they explored. I saw so much of my map was untouched, so naturally, it encouraged me to keep playing.

    With big games like what I've listed above, the one thing they all have in common is that I can't play them again. I spent so much time with them that I honestly can't bring myself to go through it one more time. I replay shorter games all the time (I recently played and finished Batman: Arkham Knight for a second time, haven't played since 2015) but big, open world RPGs with so much to do? It's usually a one way ticket for me, but I at least remember most of these games with fond memories.

    For massive open world games, I usually try and finish the main story and storied side quests/missions while I am still interested. I do not actively pursue the optional stuff such as the corrupted zones in horizon zero dawn etc. I remember finishing all towers and outposts in fc4 because u could only fast travel to outposts. Also all the hunting missions for upgrades, which made the game boring as I approached the end. So I just did the story then. I keep telling myself i will return to the optional content later, but never do. At least I get the satisfaction of finishing the story.

      I'm the other way around. I tend to explore the world and ignore the main story, accidentally stumbling over it from time to time.

      This leads to some ridulously long play through. For example my current Skyrim play through is around 600 hours, and I still haven't collected the Horn. I am, however, the Archmage, head of the Thieves Guild, and well on my way to controlling the Dark Brotherhood and The Companions.

        I'm also a compulsive 100%er, so I've a long way to go.

    I tend to need to space out my open world games as I get burnt out otherwise. I try to at least finish the stories/campaigns. Fallout 4, Monster Hunter World, The Witcher 3. All great games and worth the time. After the campaign is done however, I seldom go back in to finish all of the side quests.
    The open world games I struggled with to finish the stories with have been Horizon: Zero Dawn, Metal Gear Solid V and GTAV. They never grabbed me the way the others did. I usually hit a wall with a mission, put them away and never go back.

      MGSV really pushed my patience. All the goddamn flower picking and repeating very samey missions again and again.

      GTA V as well. It's just too big. Just too much to do. When I was in my teens and early 20s I would just stooge around in games for hours doing nothing, but now closing in on 40 I'm less interested in sand box experiences.

      I like Horizon though. It's so beautiful. Robot dinosaurs!

    As someone with zero time who really enjoys the story of a game, I've come to appreciate smaller/shorter games so much more these days....Telltale games are all must plays for me as they really scratch that itch.

    However, SOMA was my most recent finished game and I loved every minute of it because of the safe mode they introduced. My younger gamer self scoffs at the idea of easy modes but it opened my eyes to really enabling me to extract what I enjoy most about the games I play, without burning me out through tiresome combat or other mechanics that annoy me.

    This happened to me with Breath of The Wild. Which is really odd as I love open world games and love Zelda games. Maybe 5-6 hours in and yeah was just really bored.

    And this is why to this day ive never finished the witcher 3
    Ive started that game 5 times going "this time ill finish it" and i just get bored and wander off to shorter indie games i cam finish in a day, or replay FTL for the jillionth time in fun hour long loops of finality and closure

    Same goes for me. My attention span for video games is becoming shorter and shorter. I can only play for an hour or two per weekend before I start getting bored. It takes a long long long time to bring myself to finish an Open World Game. Short narrative driven and puzzle games are perfect for me

    For games like skyrim or the fallouts, I have several of my character saves squirrelled away which I roll out every so often for an hour or two. It's sort of like spending time with an old friend, or revisiting a nice view.

    I think alot of people do burn-out in open world games. I like to take my time, skirting around objectives for many reasons depending on the genre.
    I like seeing how accomodating a large game world is. Is it really breathing on its own? Or will I run up against invisible walls everywhere I turn? Will I be rewarded for exploration for its own sake? I was spoilt young by Betrayal at Krondor.
    The burn-out for me starts to set in when I have experienced all the mechanics and their affects. When I start to notice too many copy/pasted 'locations' that have been given a once over. When, upon completing some major objectives, nothing global (or local) really changes. OOOOooo look! The blacksmith's village is burnt! Now I'll never get to chat to those drone NPCs. Less scope more character and determination! A pond with fish I say!

    I'm about to finish the 3rd book in a trilogy that i really just don't ever want want to end (Bas Lag in case anyone is looking for a read) so I can under the "delayed completionist" crowd. If some kids imagination is good enough to prolong a game then that has to be a good thing. I definitely appreciate the shorter more closed narrative games we get these days though.

    I feel like this article fails to mention the massive increase in the number of games people are playing these days. Back in the 16 bit era, as a kid, i was owning maybe 2 games per year, with some rentals thrown in now and then. We had to make those games last. Something like BotW would have fit right in.

    Good article - Kotaku is best when it sticks to games related content imo.

    Last edited 27/06/18 10:48 pm

    A game is done when you complete the main story, simple as that. Everything else is optional icing on the cake. I know that for long games (over 30 hours) I usually need a break, a month or two intermission (sometimes a year as with Skyrim which ended up being 220 hours including many significant quest mods) to do something else, and come back to it without losing any enjoyment.

    I thought that the author was going to say that he was at the point where I am, having finished the game, only a handful shrines to discover, and wondering if he can bother to do it. But not having even found enough shrines to have the hearts required to pull the Master Sword? I'd say that the problem is not games (nowadays or ever) but simply that he doesn't have the patience for this kind of games, which perfectly alright. However, one's lack of affinity with a gaming genre doesn't mean that the genre is a mistake.

    I think that this is part of why I liked Horizon Zero Dawn so much - yes the world is pretty big but it's still manageable. Yes there are some collectibles, but the viewpoints, mugs, flowers and Banuk statuettes are only 6 to 8 of each and maps can be bought for them. The datapoints outside of the main story are just for flavour and aren't essential. And the sidequests there were only I think 21 of, each different, each adding something to the world. It told you when a story gate was about to occur (3 points) and it's possible to get a platinum on your only playthrough. Basically, it respects your time. There's plenty for the completionist, but a more story-focused player can enjoy the main paths and then eject it at the credits. I finished the story and wanted more.

    Whereas I'm playing AC: Unity at the moment and the map's riddled with chests and side quests, and I'm already getting collection fatigue about halfway through the main story... it's not a bad game (now that some of the most egregious bugs and online-only shite's been patched out) but games should make you want to keep playing. Even busywork or some grinding is fine if it's FUN. Too many games get this wrong and think that more-is-more.

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