When are you done with a game?

Spelunky Complete

Some games can be finished, completed, defeated or beaten. They have an end-point, even though they might be replayable. Others have the potential to go on forever. Whatever the case, there always comes a point when you’re done with a game, and it might be long before the credits roll, or it might be after that one update that breaks a habit that has lasted for years. Why do we stop playing?

Let’s get one potential answer out of the way: ‘when we stop having fun’. While there’s definitely something to that idea, it doesn’t take into account temporary frustration caused by difficulty spikes, or the satisfaction – a related cousin of ‘fun’ – from seeing a narrative through to its end. It’s a sentiment that might work for multiplayer games, but I’m not convinced it can be applied more broadly than that. With a look at Shadow of War, Spelunky and Caveblazers among others, here are some thoughts on the end of play.

It also doesn’t quite get at a specific problem of mine, a psychological barrier that stops me from playing more of a game even when there’s still fun to be had. Let’s take Shadow of War as our first example: when I look at what I choose to spend my time doing in the game, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I’ve been running merrily around Mordor, hoovering up every artefact and poem, leaving no collectable in my wake. But why? It’s partly because picking them up rewards me with a steady stream of skill points – and the game does a good job of making those interesting and valuable for a long time – but there’s more going on than that.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a completionist, though there’s a bit of one sitting somewhere in my brain. Maybe there’s an evolutionary explanation there, to do with humans wanting to make their environments as orderly as possible to reduce the possibility of a tiger hiding nearby.

ShadowofWar

The thing is, I know that once I’m done with the main story missions I won’t care one jot about the collectables, or any of the other activities you can get up to. I’ve noticed a similar thing with almost everything I play: once I’m done with the ‘main event’, it’s like a flick switches in my brain and everything else a game has to offer stops holding my attention.

It really is very silly. After completing the main mission chain in Mass Effect Andromeda, I stopped playing for several months. Something (I can’t remember what) eventually made me go back, and those final hours I spent with it – completing all of the companion quests – might have been the ones I enjoyed the most.

Even worse, and sorry to stray briefly into console territory, I found that once I’d killed Ganon in Breath of the Wild I couldn’t bring myself to launch the game again. That’s despite the fact that I had the most fun with it when I was just exploring – I even told myself not to head to the central castle until I was absolutely satisfied I’d seen everything I wanted to in that beautiful world. I knew what was likely to happen – that I might turn away for good – but still couldn’t muster the willpower to delay that final confrontation.

Before I go on, I should acknowledge that I do sometimes start completely ignoring collectable nonsense before I’m done with the rest of a game. I’ve just reached that point in Shadow of War actually, after loading into a new area and being confronted with the amount of stuff on this map:

20171018210130_1

It’s for the best. I’ve already spent dozens of hours with the game, and judging by the percentage of missions it says I’ve completed I’m probably not even halfway through. I’m still enjoying those story-based missions, and I’ll likely keep playing up until their end. Whether I’m going to get involved in this ‘Shadow War’ business is another question. The fourth act of the game is a series of escalating fortress battles, which will be very similar to the ten or so I’ll have already done by then. That brings up another issue – how much do I value seeing the ‘true’ ending of a game?

Playing the final stage of Shadow of War might be like sitting through the credits at the ‘end’ of a Marvel movie – only it will require hours of my time rather than a couple of minutes, for a similarly sized reward. Which I could just, you know, look up on Youtube.

I think my habit of abandoning games can’t be explained away as me only really caring about their central narrative. I play most roguelikes until I’ve beaten them once – not to see their endings, but because I enjoy feeling like I’ve mastered their challenge. Of course, beating a roguelike once hardly constitutes mastery over it. Even when I know that feeling is illusory, however, it can still drive my behaviour.

I remember playing the excellent Dungeon of the Endless, and having a lucky run during my first few hours with it where I managed to beat the final stage. I knew what was happening even then, with part of my brain genuinely hoping I’d fail so that another part would want to stick with the game for longer. More recently, I haven’t touched Caveblazers since I killed the final boss – though that’s largely to do with being blindsided by its bizarrely misogynistic ending [I had not seen that ending and wish I hadn’t looked it up just now – ed].

spelunky

I can think of one exception. After spending nearly 300 hours in it, I’ve reached the end of hell in Spelunky more times than I can count. That’s because each run in Spelunky manages to feel fresh and exciting long past the point where I’ll be bored by repetition in most other roguelikes. The fun of the game itself underpins that, but the real secret behind its longevity for me were its achievements. The last time I launched Spelunky was when I finally got the last one of those, the ludicrous ‘low scorer’ achievement where you have to beat the game without collecting any treasure. It effectively turns every speck of gold into a spike trap.

Getting that achievement seemed to flick the same switch as my first victory normally does. Whatever psychological mechanism is at play isn’t concerned with the number of hours I’ve invested, but satisfying a condition that’s tied to something other than how much fun I’ve had or could yet have in a game.

For Spelunky, that drive resulted in hundreds of enjoyable hours that I might not otherwise have experienced. In most other cases though, it curtails my amusement. It can also result in me continuing to play something I’m not particularly enjoying – if I stop appreciating Shadow of War’s story missions, I’ll probably still finish them. I wish I was free to decide when I’m done with a game, but it seems my brain won’t let me.

67 Comments

  1. BooleanBob says:

    Interesting to read this right off the back of another article over at Eurogamer in which an ex-Bioware dev shared some thoughts on why EA is putting so much more effort is now being put into making games that are harder to be done with and tying it to the rise of microtransactions and whale-hunting and the decline of the single player campaign.

    So this feeling you express of ‘I wish I was free to decide when I’m done with a game, but it seems my brain won’t let me’ might not be an innocuous side effect of contemporary game design trends but rather the result concerted effort to manipulate player psychology in the service of the publisher priorities.

  2. Giftmacher says:

    I like to have a definitive “end” to a game, a satisfying break point signaling that it’s time to move on. It differs depending on the game. For Wolfenstein: TNO it was when I found all the collectibles, now I feel a warm sense of closure and preparedness for the sequel! C:

    • poliovaccine says:

      This is a funny question for me, because my favorite games are the ones which manage to feel basically endless – ones with endless replay value, and/or dynamic open worlds with high detail and enough systems that I can feel like I inhabit them. My favorites are Morrowind, Fallout New Vegas, State of Decay, Skyrim, The Sims, Rimworld, The Escapists, Prison Architect, Mass Effect, the Hitman series, Far Cry 2 and 3, the Thief series (yes, even 4), Freelancer, the STALKER series, The Forest, Minecraft and Starbound. You can see my favorites span a few genres, but what I always love the best is that sense that the gameworld exists and acts without me. Dwarf Fortress would be on my list too if I played it enough.

      So when I’m “done” with a game entirely depends on what kind of game it is. I love Mirror’s Edge, Superhot, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Zeno Clash, but those are all “classic” games with narrative arcs, discrete levels, and definite endpoints. And the games I find I really love the most are the ones I’m still not finished with, whether via modding or just playing with the ingame possibilities and systems. They dont have to be huge open worlds, and in fact I didnt just forget to include any GTAs, it’s just that I don’t play any of em anymore. But I still play Morrowind, New Vegas, State of Decay, with no sign of stopping. I still have the very first Hitman installed (I have them all installed) because I still play the damn Budapest hotel mission.

      Basically, when it comes to my favorite games, I’m never really done, haha.

  3. Doogie2K says:

    Just this morning, I saw an Extra Credits video on a related notion: the ways our brain tricks us into doing stuff past the point where we’re having fun or whatever in order to tick arbitrary boxes (frequently entirely made up). It ends by noting how the F2P market is loaded with ways of manipulating this, and I wonder if this is now coming to AAA, hot on the heels of other F2P gimmicks (microtransactions, gacha/lootboxes, etc.)

  4. Viral Frog says:

    Hard to say for certain. If it’s an “endless” type like, say, Enter the Gungeon, then there probably is no end for me. Sure, it has a beginning, middle, and end, like any other game. But the variety of each new round is enough to keep me coming back for more. I have 102 hours in Gungeon, 20 of which were added in the last 2 weeks. No signs of stopping there.

    Then there’s games like Divinity: Original Sin 2. I enjoyed every second of my 23 hours played, but I’m done. No reason. Nothing wrong with the game at all. I was actually really interested to see where things went. But I’m done with it. For now, anyway. I may dip back in occasionally.

    • Gratuitous_Algorithm says:

      I frequently stop playing games I’m still enjoying. It’s a combination of time restraints, knowing the ending & not caring enough, & accepting the fact I’ve seen everything good the game has to offer.

  5. MiniMatt says:

    If there’s a story, especially a weak story, when that’s complete I’m done. AssCreeds, Mad Maxes, Mordors, all barely touched since complete – even with map icons left to clear (though I tend to map clear before progressing story).

    Decent enough branching story will likely prompt another playthrough to explore alternative narratives (the “evil playthrough”) – eg Witcher 2.

    Weak story + enticing game mechanic may prompt a repeat play till that mechanic becomes dull – Rebel Galaxy is the first example that comes to mind.

    Minimal narrative, mechanic based hooks are where I may never stop playing – the Europa Universalis’s, Kerbal Space Programs, Civilizations of this world get dipped into for hundreds of hours over many years.

    With enjoyable mechanics I find achievements are a real pull despite knowing how obviously they’re doping my lizard brain.

    • foszae says:

      I generally don’t even finish the main plot in those weak-story games from EA/WB/Ubi. AssCreed II was the last one i played through to the end. The button-mashing gameplay is only interesting until you end up overpowered and invulnerable, at which point there just isn’t enough to hold me through the rest of it.

      The 4X’s, the Minecrafts and Factorios, the X3 universe — they all suck me in. Anything where i can plot out my own destiny, layout a factory, build an empire, or just properly customise my base will keep me coming back again and again. Basically any true sandbox where i am in control of how it looks gives me more than enough reason to come back and try things differently.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    When the story is done, I pretty quickly lose all motivation… unless I feel like there might be a significantly different story on replay, in which case I’ll beat it twice (Dishonored, etc. Though… in retrospect…)

    Anyway, more open-ended stuff like, say, minecraft? I mostly just do that until I’ve either found myself bored enough to just go “wait, why am I doing this?” and dropping it, or I go until I’ve hit all the tech tree/item crafting/whatever, and then get bored and drop it.

    Multiplayer do-the-same-thing-forever games like Overwatch are more of a “I had a fun weekend with it once” kind of thing for me.

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      Nauallis says:

      “wait why am I doing this”

      Yeah, so much this. This is the best and worst part of gaming for me, that it’s fun until it’s not fun. The realization isn’t always sudden, and that’s awkward.

  7. aerozol says:

    I have a bit of an issue with OCD, which leads me to play games well past the point where I’m having fun.
    For quite a while now I’ve been doing better by setting myself the goal of 50% achievements = done. Honestly though, that’s not a great solution, lots of games still make that hard, and it’s always in the back of my mind before starting something new. I think I just have to rip the bandaid off completely at some point.

    • MattM says:

      I was like you once. Every game I beat, I felt a need to get 100% completion on. Some games like FFX and the Ratchet and Clank series made getting 100% a lot of fun and reinforced this my behavior. Then I played the PS2 jrpg Rogue Galaxy. It was a cute 40-50h game with 500h of grindy dull sidequests. I got to the point where I was rewarding my self with 30 minutes of story advancement in exchange for 3-4 hours of un-fun sidequests. I had an epiphany, took the disc out of my ps2 and never touched it again. After that my playstyle changed dramatically. I’ll 100% the occasional game where that seems like a fun objective but more often I’ll consciously decide that the side-parts of a game are fun-sapping distractions from the game’s strengths.
      I recently played Crysis 2 and Dark Void. Both games included hidden notes scattered through the levels that provide some backstory and I decided that looking for them was a waste of time. “Do I want to engage in some more dynamic shooting combat or spend time sticking my nose into every dark corner of these maps?” In the case of Dark Void I didn’t even bother to read the notes that were placed on the main path. That game had one great mechanic (the jetpack) surrounded by a bunch of sub-par elements. The faster I beat it, the better the overall experience.

  8. Darth Gangrel says:

    For most games, whether it’s out of backlog duty or unexisting replay value, it’s when I’ve finished the main story. For games like Dishonored and Deus Ex, I’m never finished, which is both good and bad (gaming: good, backlog:bad). For console ported third-person action games (which I should like, but don’t, because console-ish design decisions), it’s when I’ve reached critical levels of “Oh, fuck this shit!”.

  9. fish99 says:

    I’m pretty good at holding off finishing a games’ main story until I know I’m done with the game, so I did all the shrines and quests in BotW before the end boss. Skyrim would be the one exception, where I wanted to clean every icon on the map even after the end, but then the main story in Skyrim is nothing to write home about anyway. The game has many better quest chains and it actually makes me sad when I hear someone say they ‘just did the main quest’.

    Destiny I just recently stopped playing when everything remaining was repetition.

    • varangian says:

      With Skyrim I played it in what is, I guess, the way it’s designed to be played. That is I ran around the world doing side quests and gaining XP whilst the main story lines were left to hang, as obligingly the civil war and the naughty dragon just mark time whilst I go fetch someone’s magic sword. After finally getting round to them I emerged from the spirit world – having slain the big bad dragon – with even more XP plus the new power to summon a warrior from the spirit world to fight with me. I checked my journal to see what was now on my to-do list. KILL THE WOLF. I never went back.

      • fish99 says:

        The silliness of Skyrim is undeniable, saving the world then in the next breath being asked to do a meaningless fetch quest for a farmer for 10 gold, or everyone calling you a hero while you go around murdering innocents for the Brotherhood, but it’s still a shame that you may have missed some of the best content in the game. You almost need to treat every quest line as a separate game since they make no sense together, and all the little quests you do because you’re role playing as a nice person who just wants to help everyone (while ahem… killing thousands of people).

        Having said all that if you don’t enjoy the experience of existing within that world there really is no point in playing the game. The main thing Bethesda games have going for them is pure escapism.

  10. nattydee says:

    Sometimes – when I’ve gotten every achievement
    Sometimes – when I’ve played through the story while looking in every nook and cranny. Probably I haven’t seen everything, but I’ve basically seen the spirit of everything
    Sometimes – when I’ve experienced what I think is the main appeal of the game, but the gameplay/setting/story doesn’t grab me and I don’t care about seeing any of it resolved
    Sometimes – when I love the core gameplay systems but after 100+ hours small frictions make the game a slog and I stop having fun (though I’ll probably pick these games up again later)

    If I had to guess, I’d say:
    10% of games I get every achievement
    60% of games I see the spirit of it in its entirety
    20% of games I drop after experiencing the main appeal
    10% of games I set aside after loving them, obsessing about them and then getting bored of them

    • Hoot says:

      This is pretty much me with the exception of multiplayer titles which I play until I either hit top rank, just get bored or will still be playing when I’m 70…like Counter Strike.

  11. brucethemoose says:

    In the case of Stellaris, Minecraft, and TES/Fallout, I play until the game engine grinds to a halt, taking my save with it.

    This is also why I avoid RimWorld and Factorio now. The engines are just TOO stable, and I get stuck in a never-ending loop of gameplay.

  12. second_hand_virgin says:

    – after sudden realisation – “Oh no! Another 40h long story arc and three maps? Did I buy this shit with all DLC’s?” (mostly RPGs, especially new gen like Witcher, Pillars, but also sandboxes).
    – before final boss fights. I’m not the hero, people on YT doing it better. And quicker.
    – after cathing myself thinking “I must finish my work, and then work some more in the game” (sims, grand strategies, Civ’s)
    – after radical spikes in difficulty. First: teach me proper, please, not in the battle. (not counting roguelikes)
    – after zilion bitchslaps to my ego and selfesteem (roguelikes)
    – Sometimes without clear reason, 50h and i’m done, thank you.

  13. GenialityOfEvil says:

    Depends on the game. I recently finished the story in RoTTR and just uninstalled the game despite having other things to do in the map. But I’ve never completed the first Bioshock, I go back to it occasionally (usually having to restart because I lose the save files) but never much further than the fisheries.

    On the other hand, I tend to restart Bethesda games (RPGs in general, really) as soon as I’m “done” with each save. I might not play the game for months at a time, but once I’ve reached a point where I’m bored of the character I’ll just start again.

    I’m not too bothered about collectibles, though I’ve found everything in LA Noire except for one damn car that for the life of me I can’t find. Not in 6 years! I did find everything in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, took 2 playthroughs before I cared to do it though.

  14. Turkey says:

    I wish we could go back to relatively short games with tons of branching paths. I don’t know how many times I’ve replayed Bloodlines and Alpha Protocol despite how flawed those games are.

    • Hoot says:

      I remember playing Alpha Protocol through to the end, which I wouldn’t have done if it was a bad game, but I also remember it being flawed in some very significant ways.

      If they took what the learned and made a sequel that improved upon it I would risk my cash on it, especially after their work on Pillars of Eternity.

      AP is still a great game for a once through, though.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Agreed (and same for Bloodlines). I’m tempted to replay Witcher 2-3 at some point but I already put 300+ hours into it and I still didn’t even see most of Skellige. Who was time for that? (though admittedly I did play a lot of Gwent and avoided fast travel)

      That’s one of the rare games where the density of interaction matched the scale though. Usually if I spend 50-100+ hours on a game I feel like half of it was filler and repetition.

      This is why I really hate when people complain about hours per dollar (Only 10 hours SP campaign?! *rage*rage*). Please stop encouraging developers to add unnecessary padding to games! Every game should be exactly as long as it wants to be (and no longer).

  15. itsbenderingtime says:

    I play a game until I believe I have seen everything that the game has to show me, be it characters, environments, or mechanics. Story too, but usually my primary interest in a video game story is the way it leads me to new places and faces.

    It’s pretty simple for linear games – you get to the end, you’ve seen everything! Open-world games or RPGs are much more of a judgement call, because even if you’ve wrung everything out of the mechanics, there may be more characters, stories and environments lurking out beyond the horizon. I play these kinds of games for a LONG time.

    Roguelikes, multiplayer (e-)sports, and “endless” games have very little hold over me, since most of their content is remixing what I’ve seen before and calling it a new experience. It’s not. At least, not for me.

  16. leett says:

    The thing is, I know that once I’m done with the main story missions I won’t care one jot about the collectables, or any of the other activities you can get up to. I’ve noticed a similar thing with almost everything I play: once I’m done with the ‘main event’, it’s like a flick switches in my brain and everything else a game has to offer stops holding my attention.

    I have a problem that is sort of inverse to the one you describe: In several games with a main narrative and many side-quests or collectibles or etc., I’ll do everything except beat the final boss or complete the final mission. I can’t give a uniform reason for this: In the Saints Row games, it’s because the missions are the worst part of the game, and I’d rather not do a big two-hour mission that will end the game. In Doom 2016, it’s simply because I wasn’t ready to be done… and then I moved on to other games.

    Anyone else crazy like this?

    • nattydee says:

      I did a 150-hour xcom 2/long war 2 playthrough, and dropped it at the start of the final mission chain. It was a foregone conclusion at that point (whereas nothing about the rest of my playthrough ever felt like a foregone conclusion) and I had no desire to spend 3-4 hours belaboring the point.

      • Hoot says:

        Pretty much every 4X game I’ve ever played except Master of Orion 2 gets to this stage in the late game, where you’re just too strong to be stopped and so mowing down the remaining opponents is just a matter of time.

        Once I know I’m “unbeatable”, I stop.

        Speaking of XCOM, I watched a ChristopherOdd playthrough, and fair enough it was on Ironman / Legendary, but he literally just did monthly missions until he had end game armor / weapons, 6 colonels and THEN he took care of the Chosen and THEN he did…the first storyline mission (Blacksite). At that point it was just pointless I felt. Unless he purposely played bad he was never gonna lose a single dude.

  17. Fleko81 says:

    So I am a certified “dad gamer”, huge amount of things I would love to get into in the backlog and very little actually progressed. Everything I play has to be done in bitesized chunks so the most of hours I have sunk into games are binding of Isaac, invisible inc and duskers. In respect of the latter two I stopped playing when in my mind (and fully acknowledged erroneously) I have got a team / system which is overpowered and unbeatable. Duskers is interesting on this point because I KNOW there is more to do, a story I have just scratched the surface of but to do so I need to give up my ship and do things differently to the setup i currently have which allows me to pillage fully every vessel with zero risk. Having got here I can’t quite bring myself to go that extra step … so have just stopped! One of the reasons I love that game so much is because (from what I have seen of it which is a decent amount) it does dangle this carrot in front of you and would encourage most people (I guess) to adapt a play style to see the end… though in dad gamer style I will move onto something smaller and more digestable.

    • Orix says:

      Amen on the small/digestible front, as a fellow dad, I love games that are short and sweet. Played detective grimoire to the end, left very satisfied, tried playing Bastion and it just went on and on and on, had to uninstall it because despite neat art and narrative, the game itself was a slog.

      • Hoot says:

        I’m not a dad gamer so I might have a different perspective, but I finished Bastion in 13 hours. I spent much of that time dicking around trying to get 3 stars in the challenges or whatever and standing listening to Zia sing.

        The Witcher 3 can easily go over 100 hours if you’re talking main campaign + DLC. That’s a slog, even if it is a heroic one that I enjoyed every minute of.

        13 hours not so much.

      • fish99 says:

        Two full playthroughs of Bastion, one for each ending, took me 14 hours total, no rushing.

  18. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I also tend to abandon games once I’ve exhausted their main plot (although it’s unthinkable to me to complete a party-based game without doing all the companion quests). In my case, it’s because I primarily enjoy videogames as vehicles for storytelling, and because once I feel a narrative is complete, I find it hard to rationalize going back. Working on sidequests after the main action is complete makes it feel like I’m experiencing events out of order, and I really don’t enjoy the cognitive dissonance of that.

    Occasionally, though, a story-based game comes along that’s well-crafted enough to account for the post-game. The Witcher 3 is a fine example, as each of its sidequests feels like a self-contained story (I often liken them to episodes of TV show). It makes total sense that Geralt might continue witchering after Ciri’s Big Day, so I had no problem continuing to wander Velen and Skellige after I wrapped up the main quest. Most sidequests were fully independent of the main plotline and made sense in the larger context of who Geralt is and what he does day-to-day, so there was no discontinuity to make my brain itch.

    Obviously, not every game will be a Witcher 3, but I think that its story structure should be used as a model by future devs.

  19. merbert says:

    “once I’m done with the ‘main event’, it’s like a flick switches in my brain”…..

    Nice spin on the classic moonerspisim.

  20. Rashism says:

    You can never truly beat Dungeon of the Endless. I’ve unlocked all ships and characters, and that game still throws curveballs my way keeping things fresh and frantic. What an amazing game.

  21. criskywalker says:

    When I’m bored with it.

  22. malkav11 says:

    I often won’t even bother starting games that don’t have some sort of defined end point. I don’t usually play games for the sheer love of the actual play mechanics themselves (occasionally, but they have to be VERY good), and I have zero interest in directionless sandboxes. But even with the most rigidly linear games, the most common stopping point for me is “when some other game distracts me”. I’d like to finish games, I just…kinda don’t, usually? It may have something to do with my 2500+ title Steam library and a short attention span.

    The second most common is that I get frustrated with it, either because of some segment I find too difficult to surmount or a recurrent bug, or because I’ve just lost a bunch of progress due to either failing to save, save corruption or badly placed checkpoints. Sometimes that’s a deliberate rage uninstall, sometimes I mean to go back once I’ve cooled down but that break is enough to dislodge any compulsion I have to return.

    And hey, every now and then I actually beat the main story, at which point I generally won’t bother with any remaining non-narrative stuff like collectibles etc.

  23. racccoon says:

    I’m done with a game when its becomes either,
    1. total crap or never going to be finished…EVER
    2. its becomes a burden and a chore to keep playing.
    3. its been great & I have completed it.

  24. April March says:

    If a game has a story, it’s when I’m done with the story. Rarely I’ll go around doing sidequests after I’m done. Because the main story is the main story, right? What am I doing sidequests for if the main story is done? I’ll sometimes poke around but I tend to lose interest quickly. Of course, I also tend to do all sidequests in advance, so I’ll usually finish games with close to 100% (of things I wanted to do/see, if not the game’s own count).

    If I’m not interested in a thing it doesn’t exist. I have on occasion continued to play a game I was done with story to finish sidequests I hadn’t liked, but it must be a game I really love. The Saints’ Row series are the only ones that come to mind. SRIV had a lot of boring sidequests, but I really wanted to play more of the game.

    If a game has no ending then I’m never done with it. Eldritch, Goner, Enter the Gungeon, Spelunky, Tower of Guns, hell, even Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup are all installed in my computer ready to go. Notice all of this are roguelikes, so every playthrough is new; if a game repeats itself when it gets to the end it’s done.

    These days I’m much more likely to get to a boring bit, ask myself ‘why am I doing this?’ and abandon a game I didn’t really like. Many have fallen to this, including some that would cause gnashing of teeth and cries of heresy, like Hotline Miami.

    But one think I’ve never done is replay a game in a harder difficulty. The only game I deliberately played in a harder difficulty after I’d beaten the one that I felt was fitting for me was TimeSplitters 2, and it’s the only one I recommend doing it so, as the hard difficulty is Proper Hard and does require playing it on Medium to get the hang of the game. (Especially because the very first level is the hardest; I spent six months stuck on it, which is the amount of time it took me to beat the entire rest of the game. The second level I beat on my first try, and the third within an hour.)

  25. Raoul Duke says:

    That’s because each run in Spelunky manages to feel fresh and exciting long past the point where I’ll be bored by repetition in most other roguelikes.

    I have read comments like this so many times on RPS… I still don’t get it. It’s a pretty basic looking platformer with annoying enemies, a fairly uninspired art style and responsive controls… what is actually good or exciting about it?

    • aerozol says:

      I mainly heard it over and over on the Idle Thumbs podcast..
      After playing it (giving it some hours before getting hooked) I can say that it I can think of few games that come close to it’s mechanical perfection – limited, simple and understandable systems that combine to create incredibly varied and exciting play throughs for any skill level.
      Bought it for quite a few friends, most bounced off early, the rest are religious about it now as well. Guess it’s just one of those games

  26. cosmitz says:

    This is pretty much exactly how i deal. I take my time, maybe too much, getting stuff and engrossing myself in sandbox games, not completionist, just the things that i think matter, but realistically i know that once i’m /done/ with the main story, i’m out of it.

    Same happened for SoW. Saw the end on Youtube since i couldn’t be arsed and i hadn’t planned on ‘wasting’ more time on it. Until the story is completed and the trigger… triggered, i don’t consider it time ‘wasted’, it’s in the pursuit of ‘playing the game’ and ‘normal progression’. The moment i’m done, anyhting else is time ‘wasted’.

    I have very few games i get back to on a seasonal basis, most indie darlings i check out once in a while and engross myself in for a few days or the odd 2-3 day sprout of my glory days in World of Tanks, but nowadays i really can’t explain to myself why i’d ‘waste’ my time.

    Checking out a new big game or delving in a dozen of indie games counts in my head as ‘expanding my gaming knowledge’ or such, so it’s not counted as ‘time wasted’.

    But in my hearts of hearts, the biggest strain for me is checking in and playing the game the second day. That’s the hardest. After delving enough to ‘get an idea’ about the game, if i want to return to it.

  27. Hyena Grin says:

    I have such a backlog of games at this point that I have literally created ‘2-Play’ and ‘Completed’ categories in my steam library.

    It feels surprisingly good to move a game from one category to the other. In part because of how rarely it happens. And it’s not because I keep playing the same games, necessarily.

    I wish I was the kind of person who could just sit and play the same game over and over; playing the same roguelike over and over, trying to get further, or replaying a game to try a different path or make use of a New Game+ feature.

    But I can’t. I play a game, and once I’ve finished it, I put it away. I have a hard enough time playing games to completion; a lot of the games on my 2-Play list are well over halfway finished, and remain there only in the hopes that I’ll come back to them before I’ve let them languish too long to pick back up.

    Jumping around between games is a bad habit of mine and this category thing has been an effort to stop myself from doing it too much.

    So to answer the titular question; when I am done with a game is a fuzzy thing, because it’s hard to predict where I’ll fall off the wagon so to speak. But if I complete a game – as in the credits have rolled – it’s definitely done, and put on the metaphorical shelf. If only to make room in my schedule for other games on the list.

  28. Blad the impaler says:

    Rimworld. You are never done. Just sayin’.

  29. Zhiroc says:

    I rarely even complete play-throughs of most games. I try to keep track, and it’s around 25% of games I’ve played.

  30. WildDownBiggy says:

    Hexcells Infinite I’m still playing the infinite levels and will probably never finish them. But every couple days I’ll get in a few levels.

    Tisnart Tiles I played through once then played through a second time to see if I could beat the later levels without using power-ups but came to the conclusion that you just can’t. So twice beaten but won’t return. I hope the sequel fixes some of the games other annoyances (Brown tiles and then a darker brown tile for the elements – I can’t count the number of times I clicked on one or the other, thinking it was a matching set!!!!)

    After completing Braveland I started Braveland Wizard but quickly found it was the same game with a new coat of paint so haven’t gone back.

    As much as I enjoyed Portal the puzzles that require you to jump/land on a tiny as platform (with time limits before the switches reset) just frustrate me. Nothing I hate more than time limits…

  31. WildDownBiggy says:

    Oh and can’t forget Civilization (any of them) which is always replayable

  32. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I know you said “When I stop having fun” isn’t what you’d consider a valid response, but I have found with a lot of recent, overly-large open world games I’ve played, I have stopped before the end of the main story simply because I’m bored.

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I recently started playing Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. And it was superb, being the best pirate game I’ve ever played. But once I’d fully upgraded the ship, chased down all the sea shanties (BEST. COLLECTABLE. EVER.) and offed most of the legendary ships, interest petered out. I simply couldn’t be arsed to play for any longer. I felt I’d seen everything the game had to offer, even though I hadn’t completed the story.

    And I think that’s a genuine problem with a lot of these modern open world games. The actual content could be condensed down to much tighter, thrilling experiences, but modern publishers/developers don’t know how to trim the fat.

    And, controversial point ahoy, I think Breath of the Wild is one of the worst offenders.
    There’s a lot to do in the game, but those activities consist of the same few tasks repeated over and over until the point has well and truly been hammered home. There could have been a quarter of the temples and it would have still taken a long time to visit them all. There’s nine hundred Koroks littered about the world, with them consisting of six or seven minigame types repeated ad nauseam.
    Again, after a while, I just got bored. I have left the game with all the guardians vanquished but a distinct lack of interest in actually finishing it all off. Again, I feel I’ve seen everything the game has to offer. MULTIPLE times.

    I’m getting there with Horizon Zero Dawn as well. But its still got enough to keep me coming back for a time yet, and while yes, it’s a modern open-world icon sweeper, I find the encounters with the various robot wildlife and the wide variety of tools to approach each situation with still compelling to a degree, so much so that I’m less concerned with collecting absolutely everything and more interested in finding interesting scenarios to fight through.
    But looking at the sheer size of the map, I suspect the game’s going to have long outstayed its welcome by the time I’m finished.
    Thanks to achievements, I know I’ve now fought every type of robot in the game, which in itself robbed me of a sense of discovery. Unless the game had told me, I wouldn’t have known I’d fought all the robots.

    • MattM says:

      There is the occasional game I wish was longer, plenty that seem about right, and plenty more that I wish had edited out their weakest 20%. I also think that devs should consider editing optional content and side-quests. Even though they aren’t mandatory, by including them in the game the dev is presenting them to the player as something that they will enjoy.

      Fun game: Pick the longest game you wish was longer and the shortest game you wish was shorter. They should be games you like, cause wishing a bad game is shorter isn’t really interesting.

      For me, the for the longer games I pick “X-Com (2012)” (~25h), which I got in the form of the Long War mod and “The Last of Us” (~18h). I wanted one more big scavenger section for some human v Joel combat (I stealthed past the fireflies since I didn’t feel right about mass slaughtering them.) and a big mandatory non-stealth infected section. The last big infected section invited you to go stealth and as a result I never fired the flamethrower even once in my playthrough.
      Shortest I wish was shorter is “Gone Home” (~90m). I liked the game but I would have cut 10 minutes from the last third to improve pacing.

  33. Jack_Empty says:

    I find I loose interest when I realise I’ve seen all the twists and concepts a game has thrown at me. In liniar games It’s an issue with the last 3rd. Usually devs load ideas and mechanics at the start with a significantly reduced budget for the end as less people will see it as compared to the opening 10 mins. This reminds me of leaving Dead Space 1 on the last level as it was just throwing the same ‘morphs at me and I could then see any new twists/ideas were unlikely and it’s narrative didn’t really hold me. On open world games I’ve found I have a process: initially I’ll play them to explore the world/mechanics. Once I’ve found the limitations I’ll drift away for a time only to return months later and actually do all the quests. All the TES games and GTAs have gone like that. Initial interest (ohh new TES) gives way to mild disappointment (man that Mages Guild questline was terrible) then acceptance (what did I expect? They’re not going to make Morrowind2 anytime soon), to enjoying what there is for what it is and then shouting Max Von Sydo off a mountain for asking me to kill the ONLY half decent dragon around.

    • Erithtotl says:

      A friend of mine and I have talked about this a lot, though slightly different.

      Basically, once we can feel all the options drying up, and the path you are on is now a linear railroad with no interesting choices or character design options, we both tend to fade away from games.

      It’s made it so that despite being a hard core RPGer, I finish only a tiny fraction of the ones I start.

      Also, ever noticed how the Bethesda games usually have really well plotted opening missions and then you find out that might be the most interesting quest in the game? I think back to the first village in Morrowind as a prime example. The classic moment of waiting on the lighthouse until the sun went down and watching the thief sneak in and steal something from the cache. That was probably the most interesting quest in the whole game.

  34. Marclev says:

    once I’m done with the ‘main event’, it’s like a flick switches in my brain and everything else a game has to offer stops holding my attention.

    It’s just annoying when a game tries cuddling up to you after the main event when all you want to do is be left alone and find a new game.

    Some games just assume that they’re the only game you’ll ever want to play and long outstay their welcome even after they’ve shown you all their best bits and all they have left are the busy work like collectables and achievement hunting.

  35. caff says:

    I like open ended articles like this that encourage reader comments. Reading through has been quite fascinating, and I hope RPS will consider making this a weekly thing. It’s a bit like my other favourite, WAWAPTW.

    • Fleko81 says:

      Absolutely agree. It actually restores faith in the comments section as a concept which YouTube/ bbc website / the rest of the internet is slowly eroding away

  36. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Kudos to Matt Cox for being a fellow Spelunker and No Gold Run achiever! :)

  37. Catchcart says:

    For me it’s the “resting on your laurels” thing that tends to make games hard to quit even when I feel like I’m done with them. That is games, that were at one point challenging and tough but are now routine. Sweet, sweet, comfortable routine. Spelunky and Hitman are probably the worst offenders in my case. They still require all of my attention but they’re not going to show me anything I haven’t seen before or throw anything truly unexpected my way anymore. I’ve uninstalled Hitman twice but I’ll probably go back to with today’s added content announcement. Just when I thought I was out etc.

  38. genoforprez says:

    I think I must be a rare gamer type in that I actually have zero interest in competitive online games/modes, nor do I have any interest in time trials, leader boards, or other “challenges”. A game absolutely has to have some kind of narrative campaign–even if a light one. Games are a roleplaying experience for me, and if my actions are purely competitive/mechanical and do not develop any characters or further any narrative or my understanding of it, then I don’t much care about it.

    Finding loot is interesting to me, but only when the loot is meaningful and story-bound (c.f. Zelda Ocarina of Time) and not so much when the loot is gratuitous or “gacha” (c.f. Borderlands).

    When a game succeeds in capturing and maintaining my interest, the game is over when one of two things happens:

    1) I completed the story campaign
    2) I feel that I have experienced the full range of mechanics/experiences the game has to offer and continuing to play beyond this point would just be repetition.

    There are very few games I will continue playing eternally/repetitively. Games like Stardew/Terraria I have dumped a thousand hours into just because the “campaign” takes hundreds of hours to complete and you can experience it much differently each time: live on a completely different farm, employ a different agricultural strategy on a completely different farm design, etc. Impose your own personal limits (e.g. do a run where you are not allowed to purchase any seeds). This way you are still learning how to succeed/improve under new conditions/challenges that you haven’t yet experienced, so it still feels like there is more to solve.

    “Solve” is probably the best word. The game design word. A game is over once I feel like I have seen all there is to see and “solved” all there is to solve.

  39. Nixitur says:

    I honestly don’t know when I stop playing games. The thing is that I often tend to binge on a game for a while. That “while” is usually a few days, but can be longer.
    But at some point, I just… stop. Not because I stop enjoying the game, I’ve had fun until then. I just extremely suddenly lose all interest in the game and I couldn’t tell you why.
    This has happened with one specific game (Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier on the DS) no less than four times. I always get most of the way through and then I just stop playing for no reason I could tell you. I’ve finally finished it a few weeks ago (played it from beginning to end in a few days) and was very happy about that. It’s a very fun game!
    Other than that, if it’s a game I greatly enjoy the mechanics of, in which I still have room to improve and, importantly, in which I can get from beginning to end in a single session, possibly even less, then I often play it over and over again, hunting for achievements. This is the case for Bleed 2 which you can finish in about an hour or two. I’ve put almost 30 hours into it, gotten all but one achievement and I’m certain I’ll revisit it again and again.

  40. Unsheep says:

    When a game is more frustrating than fun, or when the frustration does not pay off, that’s when I feel done with a game.

    I enjoy collecting stuff in games, doing side-quests and such. I’m not a completionist by any means, but try to do as much as possible. I like exploring a game-world, so any excuse the developer gives me to do this, is great in my opinion.

    I re-play games for a wide range of reaons, and thus I don’t feel ‘done’ with most of the games in my collection. I replay linear games as much as I do open-ended games.

  41. Rainshine says:

    I’m never done with Civilization, only resting for a time. Case in point, bought 6 recently, played through three games to victory, now setting it down for a while. I love playing through games in different ways, so in one game I went very small and techy, another I slowly steamrolled the world, the third I made enemies gradually by slowly expanding. I usually rotate between types too, sometimes going back to old favorites like Skyrim or Avernum. And then there’s games like Mass Effect (finish the ‘story’, never touch again), Bioshock (set down after five hours of boredom on the second try, never went back), or Undertale (got completely lost thirty minutes in, have never been able to figure out what to do since). And occasionally like XCom2, where I hit a wall at some point of frustration and just stop trying for a month or two.
    And there’s Crusader Kings, which keeps luring me back with “Well, try this!” “Oh, come hear this story…”.

  42. Furiant says:

    Specifically with MMOs: Over the years I have gone from hardcore progression raiding, getting all the achievements, all the mounts, all the titles, etc., to just leveling the main story arc.

    When I get to level cap and hit that end-game progression wall — usually an obtuse, exploitative, and hostile gauntlet — I just roll an alt. I level again, trying to find sidequests or alternate paths to end game, and then when I cap again I roll another alt. I stop when I’ve exhausted all the interesting things to do pre-cap.

    I find that I haven’t the reflexes, memory, or passion to slog through mastering a class anymore. I don’t enjoy the intricate raid dance, the multiple resource management, the plate-spinning, and proc watching of combat anymore. I have almost no tolerance for the rudeness and impatience that pervade end-game group activities.

    This all sounds really cynical, and I guess it is, after more than 15 years of playing dozens of versions of the same game. I think I’m finally done with MMOs as a whole for most of the reasons I’d be done with any particular game.

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