So I often purport to be some kind of a gamer. Maybe not an uber-gamer who is gettin’ off headshots and topping charts, but I am a person who plays a number of (video) games, and enjoys discussing said games. So it is with great trepidation that I publicly share with you, dear reader, my horrible gamer secret:
I don’t finish games.
I’ll give you a moment to ponder that. You know the big end of games, when you get a nice chunk of plot and a little sense of satisfaction for seeing it through? Nope. Not me. In fact, I can think of two games that I have finished in recent memory, and one of them is a “casual” PopCap title. (Plants vs. Zombies, to be precise.) The other game is Portal, which is widely considered to be both very good and very short.
This means that just in the last year I have managed to play and yet NOT finish Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins, Borderlands, Mass Effect, Zuma’s Revenge, and Torchlight. I enjoyed all those games! A few of them even consumed all my spare time for weeks, and then something happened, I wandered away from the computer for a bit, and I’ve never loaded the game up again. So what is it? Why am I incapable of finishing games?
I Like to Watch
I am one of the (apparently few) people who genuinely enjoy watching someone play a game. I’m not an entirely passive viewer, but more of a navigator, like the dude in the passenger seat during a rally race. I mentally keep track of quests, look up walkthroughs and spoilers (but withhold the information until requested!), help with directions, give opinions. I also like seeing the plot advance, and admire other people’s elegant gameplay.
Being a constant gameplay companion gives me a good 75% of the satisfaction I would get if I completed the game myself. Did I actually finish Parasite Eve or San Andreas? No, but I was the dude with the map, guiding the person at the controls when there was a sharp turn coming up.
I Don’t Like to Die
In games, dying happens a lot. It’s a constant in almost every game ever made, and the foundation of the worshiped save/load game features. Unfortunately, I generally hate to die. Sometimes I love my RPG character too much and feel bad about getting her killed, while other times the game just seems to be mocking me.
The exception to this rule is World of Warcraft. For some reason while dying all by myself makes me feel like a loser, leading 24 other people to their imminent demise is just good clean fun.
The Medium is the Fun Bit
I think at the end of the day I enjoy learning HOW to play a game just as much as playing it successfully. (Thus far I’ve spent more time reading up on Mass Effect gameplay than actually playing.) Show me a game that has its own jargon, an indecipherable UI, and a bit of strategy, and I will show you a happy Jessica. Once I’ve mastered the how and why of a game, though, and my interest tends to wane quickly. Blah blah more of the same and then there’s probably a boss fight and you probably save the world. I could do that, or I could continue to research optimal builds! And god help me if a game has its own wiki. Seriously.
I prefer to call this “interested in systems” rather than “has terrifyingly short attention span”, and I’d appreciate it if you would as well.
You would think I would have learned something of a lesson — or at least become more self-aware — after writing this post lamenting my inability to finish a game. In actual fact, the whole reason I took the time to write is because Mass Effect 2 is downloading in the background as I type. I put a huge 10 hours or so in on ME classic, but now I want shiny graphics and updated interfaces, and new stat weight systems to pour over. I’m totally going to finish this one though. For real! I mean it.