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Ending an Ending: You Don't Have to go Home, but...

(SPOILER ALERT: There are a lot of Lost spoilers. If you haven't seen the Lost finale, and you care about that sort of thing, move right along. As always, this is the only warning.)

Not too long ago, I wrote about ending something that is expected to lead directly into a sequel, or as I coined it, "Ending an Exposition". To sum it up for you, I said that it's important that ending something that appears in the middle (be it the end of a TV season, or the first game in an obviously multi-part series, or various other things) doesn't leave the audience with a shallow lack of resolution. Or, to really boil it down: the world needs more Mass Effect endings, and less Halo 2 endings.

What happens when something is done? We've reached the finish line. This is it. No more after this. We're packing up and going home. Ending something that an audience has invested a large amount of time into is always extremely difficult.

I'm going to assume that most of the people reading this know that Lost had its series finale recently, and the show is now gone for good. Many people have said many things about this ending. Some loved it, some hated it. Some people (like yours truly) fell somewhere in the middle. Lost was a show that thrived on a high mystery element, and many people felt slighted that they didn't get this answer or that one, be it what happened with Walt, who Sayid shot on the golf course, why did US Press Secretary CJ Cregg kill Jacob and Smokey's biological mother*, or about a million other questions that didn't get answered.

* - I joke, but I really do enjoy Allison Janney. I loved her on The West Wing, and any other show she pops up on, she does a great job. I saw a random episode of "In Plain Sight" (a show I do not regularly watch) last night, and she was on, giving as good of a performance as ever.

A bit of a primer on all of the stuff Lost did not answer. One little thing is not a big deal, but...

Of course, if you buy into the Damon Lindelof/Carlton Cuse theory of "Lost is about the characters," you probably greatly enjoyed the series finale. The show resolved everyone's time on the island, and while you don't know what happened to everyone who lived through the finale (LAPIDUS~!), you do get to watch them party in a church before Christian Shepard opens a door of light to reveal God as played by Alanis Morrisette (wait).

This all ends up boiling down to one major facet when it comes to a huge ending: you can't please everyone. Some people liked the endings of shows like The Sopranos or Battlestar Galactica, while many did not. Personally, I feel that Six Feet Under has one of the better conclusions to any story I've cared about, but I have friends who disagree.

And really, this shouldn't come as a shock. Often, I find myself not enjoying an ending just because, well, it's over. There is no more. Anything you may have wanted to see happen (like Ryo Hazuki kicking the crap out of Lan Di) no longer has a chance of happening. Particularly with Lost, that was a pretty big deal for a lot of people.

Lost's Terry O'Quinn (John Locke) had a good quote about endings on the behind the scenes look at the series that aired before the finale. Sadly, I can't seem to find the quote at the moment, but to paraphrase, he said something along the lines of "At the end of the day, you just want to be able to close that book and say, 'Man, that was awesome.'" Satisfaction is always important in forms of entertainment, but it's doubly important with an ending. The unfortunate truth is that what satisfies some will not satisfy others, so it becomes more about the message you want to give your audience at this point.

Lost ended with a message that I've interpreted to be about finding your soul mate, or whatever else. The Sopranos ended in a fashion I can only describe as, "Make up your own damn mind." To slowly walk into video games, well...

Suddenly, this gets very difficult.

It seems as though many of the games I'd want to use as narrative examples in video games suffer a pretty big, and pretty similar flaw: they all have that "it's over, but..." ending. Often, this is the kind of thing that appears after the credits, as if this is some sort of reward for watching the names of a bunch of developers scroll on your screen while you do something else for a few minutes.

Some of my go-to examples like Dragon Age resolve the present conflict, but are obviously setting up to expand the franchise (and for full disclosure, I have Awakening, but I haven't completed it yet). Mass Effect 3 is not yet a reality, but my understanding is that it's supposed to be the final chapter for Commander Shepard. Bioshock barely had anything resembling an ending (and I haven't played Bioshock 2).

It seems as though tying the idea of an ultimate resolution into video games just isn't compatible with the current culture of narrative-based video games. Everything makes room for a sequel, seemingly, and continues to do so until the franchise is no longer profitable. At that point, you might get a final game, but this feels unlikely. I can't come up with a single example of this happening.

I'd love to tie this into one of my personal favorite games from the Playstation era, Metal Gear Solid, but even that had Revolver Ocelot talking to Solidus after the credits, and that series is still going. I could go to the Final Fantasy series, but for the most part, those games tend to have the "Hollywood Ending"*

* - Which, if you are unfamiliar with this term, I'd advise you to watch Robert Altman's "The Player". Really, you should watch that movie anyway

I am at a complete loss for coming up with a game that concludes for good -- in any variation of quality -- without adding some tag on the end that makes it possible for them to keep going afterwards. This, sadly, is leaving me without a good conclusion for this essay (which I suppose is fitting), and has me wondering if any series has successfully given a message of completion. If you can think of something, I'd love to hear it.

And since I didn't properly conclude this entry, here is a Youtube video of Buddy Rich and Ed Shaughnessy playing drums on Johnny Carson. It is awesome. I hope this ending is satisfying for you, the reader.

(And just as a quick post-script: yes, Lost has plenty of room to rejoin the island, perhaps with the adventures of Hurley and Ben, but we had an actual resolution. I mean, most things have room to revisit a series unless the ending is something like "and everyone ever died, the end.")

(Also, if you haven't seen this yet, get on it. Like, now.)
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About Alakaiserone of us since 1:32 PM on 03.15.2010

The name's Tom. I used to work as an industry guy, and am currently on the hunt for my next paying gig. In the meantime, I'm working on a bunch of different projects that don't help me pay my bills. I write a lot. I'm a musician, although certainly not of the professional variety. I like trying new things and meeting new people. I'm still somewhat new around Destructoid, so sorry in advance if I don't know something I probably should.

About my blog:

I update daily (not really, but I like to pretend). Generally, my updates get pretty long-winded, but hopefully not to the point where they're unreadable. I'll wax poetic about whatever's on my mind, like current events in my life, things that are happening in the video games I like, or whatever happens to pop in my head that day. With a few exceptions, I write my entries the same day I publish them, so they're pretty fresh content-wise. It also might help explain the occasional typos. I do my best to avoid any errors, though.

About my work:

I worked at Harmonix Music Systems as a tester on a year's worth of DLC, The Beatles: Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, and Rock Band Network. Feel free to ask me questions about it, but remember: I'm still under NDA. Also, if you know of a job opening, please tell me about it. I'm flexible.

About my contact info:

Want to collaborate with me on something, big or small, related to the site or not? I'd love to. I like working on any project that I'm even remotely capable of working on, and would love to help you in whatever way I can. Feel free to PM me here, or otherwise send me an email at alakaiser(at)gmail(period)com. Even if you don't want to work with me on something, I'd love to just chat. I'm a pretty friendly guy!

What happened to that thing you did? You know, that one thing?:

I wrote an article that ended up getting promoted to the front page of the site, which is pretty damn cool. It removes it from my cblog archive, though, so I'm throwing a link in this here sidebar for the sake of an archive (and in case I lose the link myself).

The Great Escape: One Foot in Reality