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Gamasutra - On 'Completion Anxiety Disorder'

by Magerette, 2008-03-11 17:25:44

Gamasutra has posted an article exploring some of the reasons why fewer and fewer games may be getting finished these days:

Rising retail costs mean that for most, it's damn near painful to crack the wallet open at the game store, and yet implausibly, despite the larger financial investment, it actually seems like we're finishing fewer games than we once did.

We demand more engaging, immersive and enduring game experiences -- and then we don't finish them. What's wrong with us?

Some reasons given:

It's quite possible that...modern games have outgrown the available free time of the average player in all of these areas. And a core portion of the gaming audience has begun to age, meaning time is even more at a premium.

To be fair, games are now much bigger and larger than they used to be. 16-bit veterans who used to spend months at a time whittling away at a platformer in their clumsier youth can now buy it on Virtual Console and knock out a victory in a handful of hours. Nonetheless, we've demanded deeper experiences for years -- those old games are generally a nostalgic snack, not a long-term project.

If is isn't time, perhaps it's frustration:

  Maybe it's more persistence, better problem-solving skills we need. Are today's games too difficult for us?

...How many, of the past several games you left unfinished, were either too hard for you to finish or too easy for you to remain engaged with? If you could have had control over the difficulty level, would you have finished the game?

I'm still not convinced that dynamic difficulty wouldn't result in a few too many hollow victories for my taste -- what's the point, after all, of overcoming a challenge that you've set precisely in your comfort zone? But then, that's assuming that difficulty level is the issue at all. I'd say, in fact, that today's games have gotten much easier.


Now, the tricky one: Maybe it's just that a lot of these games aren't very good. You didn't finish them because you were bored. You weren't frustrated because it was too hard, but because it was too unwieldy, difficult in the wrong way, or you just hated the characters.

We talk a lot about the promise and potential of games as an engaging storytelling medium -- but words like "promise" and "potential" are words we use when something could be there, but isn't there yet. Game design is trying every day to raise that bar, and what "does it" for some players won't do it for others.


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