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On Finishing Games and Why Backlogs Aren't Evil

Although it may not be something that's been in game news particularly recently, the issue of backlogs and finishing games is still a point of contention that a lot of people seem to place a significant amount of value on. It's almost universally seen as a bad thing, but I don't think it necessarily is. Having unfinished games can even be a good thing from a certain perspective.

There are a lot of points to support the idea that leaving a game unfinished is a bad thing that I agree with though. It is a waste of money to keep buying new games when they all end up only being played a little before being tossed aside for the next game to be played and dismissed just as swiftly. I can see where developers are coming from when they fear that their work has gone to waste if no one bothers to reach the latter parts of a game too.

A Bulletstorm developer most recently voiced concern on the topic.

But I think we get carried away with this attitude. It's almost as if we players have a work-like attitude to games. As if they are assignments that need to be completed before a deadline. But games aren't supposed to be that, and treating them as such can ultimately suck the fun out of playing them. They are an entertainment medium. Something that we fill our free time with by our own choice. Not something we should feel obligated to. Playing a game with the mental state that you need to get through it or else means that you're not giving the game a proper chance to show you its true potential either. You'll be more focused on getting to the end instead of stopping to smell the roses, and really let the experience sink in and to go at your own pace.

Focusing on completing every game you have can lead to another problem too. That problem of looking at your shelf full of all the games you've spent so much hard earned money on and feeling like you have nothing to play. It limits the variety of what you can be playing at one time massively, and in a sense makes most of your game library nothing more than a waste of shelf space. While it's fun to go back and replay older games you've finished years ago (something I've actually been doing a lot of lately), it makes for a much more refreshing feeling if you have a wide range of games you can pick up and have a totally new experience with, even if it's a game that has already been out for years and whose hype train ground to a halt long ago. That can even give you a valuable perspective on a game too. To be able to assess it as a first time experience, without being caught up in the hype machine that could cloud your judgement.

Even a great game can suffer from being over-hyped.

Some games even benefit from being perpetually unfinished by giving them a kind of evergreen quality. It turns games in to less of a piece of entertainment to be consumed and shelved, and more in to another world in their own right. It becomes a place you visit when the mood takes you, giving it a sense of reality all of its own. This is suited to much larger games, like open-world titles and RPGs for example. But even with smaller games with a more linear narrative, they can take on a quality of being a window in to a strange separate universe for you to peer through.

And my message to the developers who just want to share their creative work to the world in its entirety: don't worry about it. Just because a game is never finished, that doesn't mean your effort has gone to waste. It doesn't mean that the player doesn't appreciate your work. Not everyone needs to see everything to have a good time and to get what they want from a game. And as has been explained, there are situations where unplayed content can actually make a game a more valuable experience than a game that's the same length as the player ends up playing it for. And just because a player may not have finished a game now doesn't mean they won't do so in the future. And when they eventually do, you can be sure they really do appreciate your achievements, because they felt compelled to reach the end on the game's own merit, instead of racing to the credits just for the sake of it.

I've had Burnout Paradise since launch, and only got the Elite License a few days ago.

To put things simply, everyone just needs to relax and do things the way it suits them. People should play games as much as they want, at the pace they want, and developers should create the games the way they want, for the length they want. The destination isn't what matters. It's how good the journey is along the way, no matter what form that takes. In a perfect world, that's how things things should be.
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arkane9   1



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About Scrustleone of us since 2:06 PM on 04.27.2012

Hello all, I'm Scrustle. I've had a strong love for games for most of my life. The original Pokemon games and Zelda: Majora's Mask are what first got me in to gaming, but I didn't branch out much beyond that until the generation after.

Favourite genres are action adventure games in the vein of Zelda, racing games, RPGs, and action games like DMC etc., but I enjoy plenty of other genres from time to time as well.