According to UrbanDictionary.com, a white whale is 'something you obsess over to the point that it nearly or completely destroys you.' The same site then goes on to provide several less savoury definitions for the same term, though for politeness's sake, I'll stick with the first one. Thankfully, no game has yet managed to kill me yet, but Arkham Knight has come pretty close.
Batman: Arkham Knight, the third game in Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy, came in for a lot of flack when it was released. Leaving aside the fact that the PC version was – and still is – horribly broken, the game received some criticism for introducing the Batmobile as a game mechanic. However, what really frustrated me about the game, and made it my white whale, was the way that you didn't get to see the game's full ending unless you collected all the Riddler trophies, all 200+ of them.
Collectables have often featured heavily in open world games, as a means of extending a game's longetivity and giving players an incentive to explore the furthest reaches of the map. Arkham Knight was different in that it locked away part of the ending until you'd collected all the trophies, the majority of which were hidden in unmarked locations. I spent hour upon hour dipping into Arkham Knight, trying to hunt down those trophies.
Every time I played, I got closer and closer to my goal, but at the last count I still had roughly a hundred trophies to go. At which point, something snapped in my brain. Maybe it was the Riddler's constant taunts that got to me. Perhaps I simply couldn't comprehend why Batman, a billionaire with access to military-grade technologies, couldn't just tunnel his way into the building where the Riddler was hiding. Most likely, it was the sudden realization that I just wasn't enjoying myself, and what had started as a game had become a tedious chore.
Whatever the catalyst was, I decided I was done. Not done with the game as a whole, that is - I still dip into it every now again, mainly because I find it disturbingly entertaining to dress as Sixties Batman and dispense spine-breaking justice. Adam West would not approve. But as for the trophies? I've broken off my pursuit of my white – or should that be green – whale, and haven't looked back.
On reflection, I do still harbour some contempt for Rocksteady's decision to block off content, albeit a small amount of content in this case. I don't begrudge their inclusion of collectables, since I know there are lot of completionists who get a kick out of hunting down every last item, seeing that glorious - to them - 100% complete stat pop up. But that's content that I, the gamer, had paid for, and was being denied, in a rather clumsy and obvious way. At least, unlike Captain Ahab, my white whale wasn't the death of me, nor did it kill my interest in gaming.