Games don’t necessarily need endings, so who cares if most players don;t see yours? That’s the argument from Ubisoft creative director Jason VandenBerghe.
“The ability for players to stop playing whenever they feel like it is inherent in the form. This is not a bad thing; this is a good thing.”
In a Game Developer piece republished on Gamasutra, VandenBerghe argued that designers are perfectly justified in choosing not to include an ending or win state in their game design.
“Games are loops, and if you want to leave yours closed, you will be in good company. No one has ever ‘finished’ poker, or football,” he said.
“There are a ton of games that don’t even have endings. Most arcade-style games and most MMOs don’t have real endings. The Sims doesn’t have an ending. Poker? Chess? Football?
“In fact, a broad majority of the world’s long-standing favorite games are specifically designed to never be finished. One game of Sudoku leads to another, which leads to another.”
The developer went on to argue that the fact that you don’t have to finish a game to have enjoyed and appreciated it is one of the strengths of the medium.
“The ability for players to stop playing whenever they feel like it is inherent in the form. This is not a bad thing; this is a good thing,” he said.
“It is part of the game-design landscape. And if you learn to worry less about insisting that everyone who starts finishes, and put your attention on the advantages this fact of gaming gives you, you will not find a more personally liberating moment in game design than in designing your end.”
Citing and agreeing with a 2011 article claiming that only 10-20% of gamers ever finish a given title, VandenBerghe took issue with the assumption that not finishing a game is a bad thing.
“Putting down the controller somewhere before the final climactic scene in a video game is not a sin. It is an intrinsic part of our art form,” he said again.
“I never finished the first BioShock, yet it remains a game I thoroughly enjoyed. Grim Fandango? Never finished it. But I sure as hell use it as an example in design discussions! I have never finished a single Z, but, man, they are fun (usually).”
VandenBerghe argued that the games industry is too hung up on being like film or literature, where not finishing a piece of content is a definite rejection. In games, he said, there may beany number of reasons why a gamer stops playing before viewing the ending and many of them are perfectly compatible with loving the game.
The full article, available through the link above, goes on to discuss games that do have endings and how to make them satisfying for the few players who will push through.