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Game Writing and Endings

by Johnathon Swift on 03/12/12 02:56:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Games are, first and foremost, interactive. That is their very definition, even before video games existed. They are interactive, and every player understands this not just intuitivelly, but it is implied by the very act of engaging with a game.

This however has not been accounted for by most people writing video games. Even those considered talented still ask why people don't finish a lot of games. As if the very act of finishing is an implied contract of engaging with a game. They (probably) then go home and, statistics tell us, not finish games themselves.

I think "finishing" a game is an implied contract most exclusively to people who write video games. Because throughout the history of humans telling stories the story has always been the main focus. You watch movies for the story, you read books for the story, you listened to your grandfather's stories, and you did all of these to the end. A story was the product, the reason, the point, if you didn't end it you were only getting part of the product, you were getting something incomplete.

But with video games this isn't so. Even if there's a story, even if there's a good story, it's probably not the reason someone is playing. There are exceptions. Indie games such as "To the Moon" or "Dear Esther" are little more than interactive stories. They're straying from what most people even think of as a game.

But most games you, whoever you are, are almost certainly there for the gameplay. That's the product, that's the point, that's the meaning.

And if the gameplay gets stale, then you have little reason to keep playing. And from a gameplay perspective, most single player, story driven games do get stale before the end. When this happens the primary reason to go on ends. Not to worry, the player doesn't feel cheated; there's no outcry of complaint that people aren't getting their money's or time worth because they got bored before the story ended.

So, what I'm saying is not too worry about it. Your players aren't complaining, and if you look at how you play whatever video games you play, well you probably aren't either. In point of fact endings usually feel disappointing, regardless of how the story ends. Because odds are that what the player really wanted was to keep playing, and youv'e just taken that away from them.

So heck, instead of taking players not playing till the end as an insult to your writing, instead interpret it as a compliment to how much stuff you put it; as there's more there than that player even felt like playing. And no ones going to complain about too much simply being on offer. 

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