Thoughts on Unfinished Games

Most gamers have at least one.  The game that we’ve played at least part of, then sits on the shelf, never to be touched again.  Sometimes we’ll look at it, briefly think about picking up—then decide against it.  It’s an unfinished game, and whether it taunts us with the knowledge we’ll never finish it, or maybe it continually beckons us, begging to be played again.

For me, the title that exemplifies the idea is Ōkami.  I’ve gotten around three-quarters of the way through it, but now it just sits there, looking at me with sad, doe-eyes, asking why I don’t love it anymore.

I loved the story; it was a great adaptation of Japanese mythology into an interesting and unique story, then translating it rather well for Western consciousness.  The main problem I had is that it just goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on.  I don’t mind long games, but Ōkami also fakes you out with an “ending battle”—and then more game play.  Another “ending battle”, then—more game play.  This goes on a few times.

Even the story wasn’t enough to keep me going.  I found myself dreading the battles, since they were basically all the same thing, with the only variation being in the ending “mark” you created so you could get Demon Fangs, the game’s currency.  It’s not that the battles—or any other part of the game, really—was truly bad, per se.  It was just—long, with little to keep the monotony at bay.

Every gamer has a similar story.  Every gamer has a game where one or two aspects are all that stand between the gamer and completion of the game.  Sometimes we put the controller down knowing we’ll never pick it back up again, and sometimes it just—happens.

For those of us who generally know when we won’t be picking a game back up again, we have different “points”.  Some are stubborn, some accept defeat easily.  Myself, I tend to veer toward the stubborn end.  I figure that I’ve paid good money for this, and it might make for some good blog material, so I do my best to slog through it.

Some gamers say that, sure, you’ve spent good money on a game—but why would you throw frustration after it?  I think that’s actually rather valid, really, though I tend to want to get past the “rough spot”.  Some games have tutorials that hold your hand and are boring as heck, or take so long to deal with set-up exposition that you don’t really get the chance to just run around and have fun.  If you can get past those kinds of things, the game will become great.

At least, that’s the hope.

It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, and sometimes it happens in reverse.  The beginning is interesting, but as the game progresses, the plot loses coherence, the game becomes incredibly difficult for all the wrong reasons, or the game is artificially stretched out with irrelevant but necessary grinding and forced exploration—and you just stop caring about the game enough to even push some buttons.  Assuming the game doesn’t have some wonky, unintuitive control scheme in the first place, that is.

Every now and then, we’ll pull that game down and dust it off, looking at the box art, read the blurb on the back, and try to remember why we stopped playing it.  If we’re lucky, we remember as soon as we pop it in again, perhaps even at the loading screen.  If we’re unlucky, we get into it again, enjoying the world, the plot, even the N.P.C.s, and so on.

Then you run across a boss with more health than reason would allow, or you realize that you’re hunting twenty bear butts over and over and over again, or whatever else.

I honestly think that, generally speaking, the best answer is to take the game to one’s local used game store, or perhaps trade with a friend.  That way, someone else has the chance to enjoy a game they might not have.  Of course, that only works if one is willing to part with the game in the first place.

Some of us can part with most games we’ll never play pretty easily.  I’ve certainly traded games in by the truck-load in my time.  However—Ōkami is staying with me, even though I know darn well I’ll probably never beat it.  I couldn’t easily say why.  It’s not a game you’ll easily find anymore, and every compliment I gave before is certainly applicable.  Again, most gamers have their own reasons.

What’s your game that will probably never be finished?  If you won’t trade it in, why?


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