308 Should You Finish What You Start?

The gaming community, it’s well known, is bad at finishing what we start.

And can we be blamed? Well, maybe. But we would be forgiven for losing interest in our games so quickly, when many new ones come out on a weekly basis.

It’s certainly a unique trait to our medium, though. People aren’t often seen bailing on a movie 1/3 of the way through it, or quitting on a TV series right in the middle (unless, of course, said TV series has gone to shite). Even most literary/readers I know won’t leave a book unfinished if they start it.

Marathon runners quitting after only 10k, a barista abandoning your crafted drink half way in, or a radio broadcaster leaving his booth mid-show. These things just don’t happen!

So why does it happen in gaming? Well, the obvious answer is that we’re a lazy, and distracted species. But, I think it goes deeper than that.

Games are extremely easy to start. Nearly all of them have some sort of tutorial, a difficulty ramp up, and many other measures in place to get the player familiarized, comfortable, and having fun as quickly as possible. And, by that stretch, they’re easy to stop playing. Save points, digestible chapters, or in the case of Minecraft, a lack of any explicit objectives, make them easy to walk away from.

And that’s just the problem. Once you walk away from a game, for a day here and there, then a week, and then a month… well, almost no game has ever been designed specifically to be played once a month, and really most of them are designed for quite the opposite. Games contain highly specific and dedicated information sets, which are, over time, forgettable. But, if a game is played for short amounts of time or gives players information in only superficial ways, we likely tend to store that information in our short-term memory, only to lose access to much of it once that play session is over.

Fire up a game like Metro 2033 after not playing it for 2 months, and you’ll quickly realize that you no longer have any idea what most of the buttons do (and all the buttons definitely do something important…). Or, on the flip side, pick up a game like Final Fantasy III for the DS after a 6 month hiatus… you’ll immediately have no idea where to go next, or likely even much of what has already happened in the story.

(Yes, both of these are examples from my own experiences…)

So, it’s really up to us to hold ourselves accountable for finishing the things we want to experience. I could probably write a book about this, and maybe I will. Suffice it to say, I will be finishing Metro 2033 and Final Fantasy III.

[ Today I Was Playing: Professor Layton and the Last Specter ]

November 4, 2015