Back in the day, a single video game would set you back a decent chunk of change. Most people would get just a couple a year, like Charlie Bucket and his single birthday chocolate bar, and they’d have a grand old time rinsing those games of content. I’m not here to say “games these days just aren’t as good as they used to be” – if you want to read something grumpy, read me complaining about how I’m sick of ports and remakes – but, instead, I’m here to say that it’s okay to forgive yourself for not getting to the end of games.
Now we all have jobs, disposable incomes, and don’t have to schlep over to the nearest sweaty Blockbuster to pick up new releases, it’s easier than ever to build up a huge Pile of Shame – the unplayed, unopened games that sit in our Steam libraries and our Switch homepages, never getting more than “zero hours played” on their record. We’re all too busy working through the slow beginning of The Witcher 3, because someone told us that the Bloody Baron quest is unmissable, and we don’t want to get zeitgeist FOMO.
It’s absolutely okay to give up. It’s a good quest, but you’ll be fine without it. Plus, the rest of the game has fantastic moments, but it can drag, too – there’s a lot of foraging for items, opening a billion chests, and villagers who’ll pay you five money if you can rescue their dog from a well (spoilers: the dog is always a monster). Go play Hades for the fifth time instead.
I have a lot of experience with not finishing games. I wrote about not finishing Breath of the Wild back in January, and guess what? I still haven’t finished it. I’ve been playing new games – and not finishing those, either. Nyahaha!
A few of the responses to that Breath of the Wild piece were shocked – shocked – that I could consider myself a Tru Gaemr without having actually completed the game. Never mind that I spent hundreds of hours roaming wartorn Hyrule, or that I unlocked every weapon, photo, memory, location, and outfit available in the game – the only way to properly play a game, for many people, is to see the credits.
Sure, I get that. And yes, if we’re being literal, you’re right. Many of the critics in the comments (and on social media) said things along the lines of, “it would be weird to stop reading a book or watching a film before the end” – but, you see, the difference is that a film only lasts about two hours, and you can tell how much time you have left with a book by literally holding it and looking at how many pages are left. A game, on the other hand, can slurp up tens of hours quite easily, sometimes with a big, boring bit at the start or in the middle, and you can’t skip past it.
Also, I have definitely stopped watching a film before the end, and I once read a series of Twilight spin-off books that were so mind-numbingly awful that I quit reading them when the protagonist proclaimed, for the fifty millionth time, that she was just so darn special and hot that all her teachers kept falling in love with her. Ew.
There just isn’t enough time in the day for me to be bothered with things I don’t want to do in a game I choose to play. Other people can tell me it’s fantastic, if I just push past that one bit that sucks, and often, I’ll follow their advice – Dragon Age Inquisition wouldn’t be one of my favourite games if I hadn’t, after all. I used to be one of those people who would say that, too. Now, I’m more likely to tell my friends that it might not be worth the effort or boredom, and that they should pick up something that clicks with them instead.
It’s okay to quit a game before it’s through. In my opinion, at least, it doesn’t mean you didn’t play it, or that your play time doesn’t count. I never finished Skyrim, but Skyrim is about so much more than killing this one dragon (which I assume is what the ending is about). For me, it was a game about exploration, dungeon-diving, accidentally losing Lydia in a cave, and learning how to climb a mountain by jumping. Likewise, I never finished Fallout 4, the game where you’re supposed to find your son, because the game didn’t really make me want to rescue my son. I wanted to kiss mutants. So I did.
This isn’t an effort to discount the work of developers, though. The framework of a game’s narrative is a useful thing, even when you’re choosing to ignore it. While playing Skyrim, I would dabble in the plot from time to time, when I felt like advancing things; otherwise, I was content to live a live of being an overpowered thief, living in a house stuffed to the brim with stolen cheeses. In fact, if anything, appreciating a game for what it offers before its ending shows that you do really love it. Perhaps – like my Breath of the Wild run – you never finished it precisely because you never wanted it to end.
But I’m going to hop back on the grumpy train for just a second here, because a lot of the time, I quit games early because I tire of them. Too many games these days are inflated with grinding, fetch quests, and other tedious stuff that just ends up dragging the experience out into a poorly-paced design that doesn’t respect your time. I don’t always mind the grind – after all, I’m a Harvest Moon fan – but I’d love the option to just be good at the game without punching a billion slimes, too.
But you don’t even need an excuse to just…. never finish a game. You don’t need to tell people that you grew tired of the wonky combat, or that the game became an exhausting search for things in a quest to 100% it, or that your ever-growing Pile of Shame was glaring at you, begging to be completed or at least booted up after you had that wild night of spending on the latest Steam sale. You can just put a game down, and it’s okay. Really!
Check out the thread above for some examples of people who loved games, despite never finishing them.
Seems obvious, I know. It’s like telling people they don’t have to like Marvel, or that they don’t need to have an iPhone. Everyone knows this stuff! The real issue is telling yourself that it’s okay to quit. Let yourself off the hook. Don’t force yourself through an experience if you’re not having fun, just because your friend told you that you haven’t got to the good part yet. Who, in the Year Of Our Luigi 2021, has time for hours of misery in the hope that the misery will turn into joy? Not I.
As fellow games journalist Imran Khan wrote on Twitter, while I was writing this piece: A game is done when I’m finished playing it. I’m the player, after all – when I turn off the console, Hyrule, The Mushroom Kingdom, and egg (my Animal Crossing: New Horizons town) cease to exist. They are mine to summon and dismiss as I wish. I am the Queen of Games, and no one else can tell me how to rule my kingdom.
Do you let yourself give up on games, or are you a die-hard credits-seeker? Let us know in the comments!