Friday, May 9, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

Yes, that's right, i said "earnest", in the age of L33t and all that. It's an old fashioned word for a rather old fashioned thought - one that I, and the esteemed Vinay Nilakantan, have often been expressing to the founder/editor/bossguy of this blog (and many other gamers) for many years now. Which is this: If you find a game that you enjoy, for whatever reason, try to take the time and trouble to finish it.

I'm obviously referring only to games that actually have an ending. If you're one of those gamers whose only purpose is to rise to the top of leaderboards in online deathmatches and CTF and whatnot, you can stop reading now. But if, like me, you occasionally lean a little more towards the entertainment side of the games as armchair sport vs. interactive entertainment debate, you'll find playing games through to the end to be an utterly rewarding and satisfying experience.

For starters, there’s the incomparable, bittersweet, I’m-such-a-dude-to-beat-this-but- I-wish-it-wasn’t-over-now-what-will-I-do-with-my-life feeling that you get at the end of an epic quest like Baldur’s Gate 2. There’s simply no other feeling like it. Or there’s games like BioShock, with strictly middle of the road action until that one, staggering moment, 80 per cent into the game, which makes it all worthwhile and will make it one of your most memorable gaming experiences. Even in a consistently brilliant, emotional experience like Shadow of the Colossus, the most gut wrenchingly resonant moment occurs right before the very last level. And who doesn’t want to grab that cake at the end of Portal??

It’s not just about story, either. Some of the best action sequences, and obviously boss fights, occur deep into games, beyond some numbingly boring, backtracking heavy sequences (fanboys, you know what I'm talking about). And even when the ending isn’t up to scratch and seemingly not worth the effort, there’s a unique sort of in-joke kind of pleasure to be derived from discussing with fellow sufferers how an otherwise great game could slip up like that, or leave you hanging. Anyone remember Xen from the original half-life? Or played God of War 2 to the very end?

One of my greatest gaming regrets is not playing very far into any of the GTA games. The lack of a retry option for mission failure, forcing you to often get waaaaaay across the map just to pick up another thing to do kept getting to me. I’m happy to hear that GTA4 fixes this and I’m queuing up for my copy, but I’ll never experience the awe that the entire gaming world almost has felt for GTA3, and San Andreas, and now I never will. I can’t help feeling that my lack of patience (earnestness??) has denied me something, and I'm the poorer for it. It's certainly not keeping Rockstar awake at night, so who's the loser here?

So the next time you need to find your way past the occasional ridiculous level design, or reload for the umpteenth time because of an insane difficulty spike, or tear your hair out because of a seemingly unsolvable puzzle, or repeat the same actions over and over and over again because of brain dead checkpointing, try to grit your teeth, and Finish the Fight. The best may well be yet to come.


  1. It completely depends on the game i remember ditching Heroes of Might and Magic five right before the last series of mission (Also since i was graduating and end terms were drawing close it was a survival necessity). But i stuck it out in FFXII even getting the Tournesol after a whole 2 days of questing and my coup de grace came when i finished God of war in Titan mode (Man the endurance run before clotho was such a efffing pain). I did have help from Shinobier videos for TiTan mode strategies. Then my gaming world fell apart. i moved to dubai lost the gaming company i had in mumbai (not to mention cheap discs) and its been 6 months since i gamed. Need to get back ... Need to finish Okami... Ancient Nippon Depends on me. But i thought GTA sucks its just too tedious !!!

  2. ::I’m-such-a-dude-to-beat-this-but- I-wish-it-wasn’t-over-now-what-will-I-do-with-my-life

    I recently experienced this moment after finishing The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I wanted to go back and explore some isles that I might have missed or some such. Truly great feeling. The only way I could get over it was by beginning to play Twilight Princess. :P

  3. Fantastic post, koidy! But remember that I Finished the Fight before you did! And don't think I didn't notice the 'brain-dead checkpointing' and level design references!

    Look forward to more.

  4. you cant finish, you ain't no gamer, you gotta regret not finishing GTAs :)
    I too found checkpoint saves frustrating in GTA2, was so lame to go all the way to a church to save game, later it's much much improved.

  5. Hey Koidy - Awesome read. I have two things to say:

    1. I completely agree with you about the wholeness of the game experience rather than the bits n' pieces that you pick up.

    I am currently playing GTA 4 and having completely finished (the storyline) of Vice City and San Andreas, I can't tell you what a whale of a time I'm having with this game. As frustrating as Vice City was when you had to keep doing the drive, it was done for reason. The map, not being as big as San ANdreas and the GTA 4 Liberty City wanted you to get to know the map. Multiple reasons for that like identifying routes pre GPS days, identifying power up spots, stripper joints etc.

    With GTA 4, the map is way too huge for anyone to remember navigating. As a result, cabs that you make the drive invisible, GPS cars and trains. Although some of the conversation in the cabs is the most fulfilling dialogue I have ever heard.

    2. (Yes - I just came to 2). For the game academician, I'm not too sure if time would permit them to play all through an entire game. I'm sure they would rather get the flavour of a game and identify some key things about it and move on. If they happen to like it, sure they'll finish it. Look what happened to Anand and the Deer Hunter series. :) Nothing wrong with that as it does give them variety over wholeness.

    I don't know about you but I definitely don't fall under the game academician category. Someone like Sachin naik definitely would and I can see how there would not be enough time in the day to finish most games.

    However, beating something completely does feel awfully good.

    Sorry for the long two bits

    Axe out.

  6. "Look what happened to Anand and the Deer Hunter series. :) "?

    You mean Vinay Nilakantan and the 'Barbie goes Shopping' game surely?

  7. No love for Big Rigs : Over The Road Racing?