I play mostly RPGs. Looking at a game like Dragon Age: Origins there is a big difference between beating the final boss and thus seeing the end credits once versus experiencing everything offered in the game. So many games now contain a huge number of choices. There are morality systems that make quests play out in different ways. There are companions you can bring with you through the gameplay and interactions between those companions vary and may impact how you experience a questline. In games like Dragon Age: Origins there are different starting quests based on character creation choices. Romances are possible with companions in the game and there are a variety of options within that system. In these games simply seeing the end credits does not mean you have experienced the entire game. I may have beaten Dragon Age: Origins but I have certainly not completed all that is in that game. There are many wonderful things that the writers put into that game that I have never seen.
Alan Wake is another game that came out this year. Seeing the end credits of this game does not mean the player has experienced everything in the world. There are pages of a manuscript that can be picked up as the game is played. The manuscript is part of the narrative of Alan Wake. These pages can be missed (not picked up) as the player goes through the levels. Finding all the pages of the manuscript is only possible by going through the game on its highest difficulty setting. This means that players that are not good at this genre will never see the full story. This element I dislike. In a game such as like Dragon Age: Origins a player can go through on the lowest difficulty setting and by replaying the game several times they can see the entire experience. Alan Wake locks the full game story from people that cannot pass a specific difficulty setting. This is a game I will never "finish" even if I beat the last boss. Because I cannot beat it on the highest difficulty setting I will never be able to see the full story. This is not simply about allowing players with experience to go through with more difficult obstacles, this actually locks out part of a story element for many players.
Other games, such as Final Fantasy XIII, include a lot of post credits game content. You can beat the final boss but not complete all the hunts. They are not integral to the story line, but they do exist within the game world. This post game or optional game content varies in narrative importance. The hunts in Final Fantasy XIII are not crucial to the story. They do add a large challenge to the game but are not important to the plot. It allows players to beat monsters and enemies that they would others not see in the bulk of the main game progression but this does not advance the storyline. Other games, however, contain post game or side quest content that do change the narrative flow of the experience. The side character loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 are purely optional side quests. These optional events greatly impact the narrative of the game.
Yet another obstacle to experiencing included in current generation games is the use of multiple ending options. In games such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 the choices made at the end can unlock further gameplay, giving some players a longer end game segment than others. Which ending counts? If someone only sees the "bad" ending did they beat the game? They fought a boss battle and saw the credits. But other players will continue the story beyond that battle and experience a "good" ended which adds even more narrative and greatly changes the plot implications of the game. In some games the choices made throughout the main plot drastically affect the ending narrative. In Fallout: New Vegas the choices made by the character throughout the storyline alter the storyboard at the end credits in extreme ways. The outcomes for different factions in that world are different based on how the main storyline is completed by the player. Seeing one end credit sequence is not the only narrative possible. Without seeing all possible story endings, a player does not see the whole game.
In older games it was possible to see everything made by the creators of a game in one or two playthroughs. I have always loved the little details that are put into games and I attempt to to find these small details that writers and designers placed into the game experience. One of my favorite things when played World of Warcarft for the first time was when I saw books next to the outhouses and Westfall. the little details, the side quests, the minor plot points all come together to make a game world engrossing. Many people work hard to program and write this full world and story, and I want to see it all. But as games have gotten bigger and as choice has become more important in many game narratives, it has become increasingly difficult to see all that a game has to offer. Playing through a game such as Dragon Age: Origins with every starting origin story, with every possible romance option, seeing every single quest with various companions, and hearing each possible line of banter between the companions is a daunting task that would take several hundred hours. It is not a task that I will likely ever undertake. As such, while I see many end credits and feel that I have Beaten many games, I have likely not Completed any newer game. I have missed many of the remarkable details that are included in new games despite my best efforts to be engrossed in those worlds and my desire to see it all.
*My backloggery page for those interested is http://backloggery.com/gunthera1
This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion
coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.
Yuki-Pedia: The Curious Case of the Never-Ending Backlog
Zath: When Do You Know That You've Completed A Game?
Gunthera1-gamer: I have never completed a current generation game
Silvercublogger: What Do You Mean By Gamer Banter
The Game Fanatics: Gamer Banter: To Beat a Game
SnipingMizzy: Is it over yet?
Game Couch: The End?