I remember coming across a GameFAQs poll once that asked readers whether or not they finished their games. It was enough to pique my interest, so I selected the “yes” bubble and took a look at the results. Once the results page loaded up I found myself rather shocked. Most of those who answered the poll had marked “no” in their response instead of the opposite I had expected. At the time, I was someone who only played one game at a time. It didn’t matter if it was the only one I had of if there were others that could be played instead. Once I started a game, I had to finish it before moving on. I suppose I assumed that most gamers were like that too. Games are expensive after all. Why wouldn’t you want to at least get the full experience out of that $60 investment? Well, after years of steadily diminishing playtime, I believe I’ve finally come to understand the results of that poll.
Keeping up with video games is hard work. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Perhaps I should say that keeping up with video games isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy when I had plenty of time at my disposal during my high school and college days, and now it’s become even less so as I’ve settled into my life as an adult working a full-time job+. It’s fine for the most part and I’m not really complaining here; it’s just that it’s made my remaining game time that much more valuable. I’m still able to finish my games, I just have to do it over the course of weeks and months instead of a few days like I used to. What that’s ultimately amounted to for me is a newfound need to be very selective about which games I’ll choose to see all the way through to the end. If there’s nothing in it to hook me, if I’m not having fun when I come back to it on weekends, then chances are that I’m going to wind up dropping it. Not even games I’m hyped up for are immune to this. Prime example: Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a game I wanted to see through. I was excited for it before release and was even fortunate enough to receive it as a gift from a friend. Its world is vibrant, there’s plenty to do, and there seems to be an interesting story buried in there somewhere. It’s just that getting to that story is proving to be a problem.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 suffers from two flaws in my book: its combat and story. Combat has the unfortunate quality of being borderline boring. Characters all auto-attack until they can trigger an ability. Trigger ability builds a special meter that can be spent on various powerful attacks. These attacks can be combined between party members and eventually chained together. There should be enough there to keep one interested but it just doesn’t work in practice. I don’t fully understand it, even when I do get it working right it’s just a matter of whittling down a boss’ health bar entirely too slowly. It also doesn’t help that most bosses aren’t actually beaten if you bring them down in battle. They just beat your party in a cut-scene not even a second later. As for the story, I’m still waiting for it after beating a boss and making it to the second main titan landmass. I still haven’t been given a reason to care about my party members, their quest to get to some forbidden place called Elysium, or even the mystery of who Pyra the Aegis is. If the game was trying to bring me in with initial questions, then the time to start giving me some answer breadcrumbs was 5 hours ago! Ahem suffice it to say that despite my initial excitement for this game, it’s not giving me much reason to stick around to see the end. If a younger, less encumbered, version of me had received this game he would still have finished it no problem. However, 2018 me is a different story.
The working adult version of me has only a fraction of the patience of his younger self when it comes to games. Where I would have once been willing to tough it out and endure until I finally got to the good part in a game like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I now find myself resenting the game for stringing me along with the promise of something better. In the case of good games like the Witcher 3, it becomes a problem of time. If progressing through the main story requires lots of sidequesting, I’ll find myself losing interest. Witcher 3 is a good game, I’ll even call it a great one. However, it got slow. Too slow. Now I wonder if I’ll be able to make it to the end of that one as well. Finishing a game, even an RPG used to be easy. Now though, I’m not so sure about that. Years after seeing that GameFAQs poll, I think I might finally understand its results a bit better.
Do you finish most of your games? If so, what keeps you moving through them? If not, what is it that holds you back?