"Gilgamesh, what you seek you will never find. For when the Gods created Man they let death be his lot, eternal life they withheld"
I have to admit that I like collection games. I like sidequests, too. But often there's a tension in the narrative that makes these sorts of activities a bit absurd.
My best personal example was when I remember Cloud of Final Fantasy VII traversing the main map with a huge, fiery comet looming overhead. All tension broke for me when I realized that yes, this comet would NEVER fall until I decided it would.
Yet I wasn't willing to play the whole game over again just to go pick up every little thing, so I let it hang there. The tension now was between my desire to let the logic of the world and story, which seemed palatable before, continue, and the tension of the game, which suggested a lot of content created by hard-working designers lay undiscovered.
That old saw about games giving us choices was asking me to choose between the story it had been building, and the loot and secrets it had been taunting me with, as though they were mutually exclusive.
In a recent conversation with an internet friend I figured there might be a way around it, but it would take a bit of a leap in terms of what we expect a game to give us.
What I'm suggesting is that the ending is the ending of the character. Imagine that the comet, for example, could not be stopped. Or that that giving up and going home meant death; that what you're doing with all these little quests is keeping yourself alive a little longer. Trying to collect that last thing, helping out yet another person, was a way to prolong the inevitable. That way the tension is a lot more familiar: it's what old Gilgamesh fought against, it's what most of us want to avoid for as long as it seems sensible. The ending for us as individuals is a sad one, whether or not you believe in an afterlife.
This goes against the desire for a perfect ending
that too many high profile games think is necessary for a multi-ending experience, but I think it automatically gains narrative weight in a way that stereotypical fairytale endings are incapable of doing.
In other words, it's time, finally, to revisit the central themes of the story of Gilgamesh, the ultimate collection of side quests. Whatever the distraction is, whether it's collection or busy work, as long as it's worthwhile, we'll want to do it anyway. Just let the ending be our stamp on it, the culmination of our choices, but it's also necessarily us resigning to the fate that was given us from the outset. You could even say that if you take so long to perfect everything, you may get credit for perfection, but in all that time you wind up leaving other things and people behind in your quest for the last item. How powerful that could potentially be!
Game music loops. Typing this right now I'm listening to the original soundtrack for Final Fantasy VII, one of my faves, and if the track didn't fade into silence, it could effectively loop forever. It's because games have the potential to be patient, willing to wait for us to grow tired of an area and push on. Why not capitalize on that, rather than create absurd tension, pretending the comet of the story and the sidequest of the gameplay have to be at odds?
It's all about the journey. read