‘Tis the Season to Find a Reason
While I’ve been gaming for 30+ years, it wasn’t until a certain generation, particularly the era of the original Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64, when I started to play games to full “100% completion”. I wasn’t always someone who would strive for 100% completion in games, either. As a kid, I was just happy to be simply playing video games. Outside of a few select NES, SNES and Sega Genesis titles, not every game had battery backup/save files, let alone a password system. Aside from the handful of games that did have an internal password system, resuming a play-through was a relatively foreign idea back in the day and a luxury for the games that did provide such a feature. Generally speaking, older games were designed to be challenging and sometimes overtly cheap in order to create artificial difficulty and extend the game’s shelf-life.
Although the video game industry is still relatively young, technology has improved at a rapid pace and the industry has grown and matured in a variety of ways. Developers now have the tools and resources to create games at a much larger scale and because of this shift, design philosophies have changed and business models have clearly shifted. Many of today’s biggest publishers/developers (Blizzard, EA, and Activision, for example) are fortunate enough to be in a position to manage/maintain their most popular titles as a “Games as a Service” (GaaS). Developers & publishers alike are trying their best to keep players logged-in playing their respective title, almost indefinitely. For the foreseeable future, it seems like the landscape for “AAA” studios will be less defined by sequels and stock keeping units (SKUs), but more about updates, downloadable content (DLC), patches for bugs/glitches and general on-going services to keep its communities afloat.
Save-points, memory cards, internal storage and external hard drives (among other advancements in hardware/technology, obviously) have allowed developers to bring their grand visions to life. Players now have the opportunity to spend more time in their favorite worlds, but at what cost? No longer does one have to carve out time in their schedule to complete an (often) difficult/demanding game in a single sitting. Instead, for a lot of online-only games, there’s always “something” to do, whether that be another challenge, mission or quest that refreshes on a daily/weekly basis, there’s always a “reason” to login. The catch here, however, is that you’ll find many of these online-only games to be endless grinds begging for your time, money, and commitment more so than any other available experience.
For those on the outside, looking in, it may appear like there aren’t quite as many options for those who would rather go solo, which isn’t true! There are still hundreds of single-player focused games released each year titles you can take at your own pace, “clinging to the past”, so to speak (see some of my personal favorites from this year including, Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Judgment and Ace Combat 7, for example). For the companies that have transitioned to the GaaS model, however, it’s been an ongoing battle of work/life balance (which you can read about here…) and a commitment to unrelenting communities comprised of players who are (not always) difficult to satisfy, sometimes toxic, always wanting more…
Subscribe to My Service
If you’re a subscriber to Netflix, Hulu or any other modern-day streaming service, you’re probably guilty of binge-watching a show or two. When one series ends, another “must watch” surfaces and no matter if it’s from word of mouth/social media, discovering your “next favorite” isn’t a difficult endeavor for the vast majority of subscribers today. While T.V. shows have historically been known to end on cliffhangers, it hasn’t always been the business model for the video game industry. Outside of sequels, planned trilogies, and traditional expansions, “seasonal” gaming is a relatively new avenue for both companies and consumers alike. In addition to this, streaming services such as Sony’s PlayStation Now and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass more or less mirror the Netflix model by rotating new content on a regular basis.
While massively multi-player online (MMO) games like Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW) and Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) have introduced cataclysmic events through traditional expansions to push their narratives/stories forward (to varying degrees of success, mind you), not every studio has had the same luxuries over the years. Bungie’s Destiny 2, EA/Respawn’s Apex Legends and Epic Games’ Fortnite, for example, have had major world-changing events that have altered the game’s persistent world/landscape in real-time, but all three studios are still learning how to approach and satisfy their audiences with new seasons/updates. It goes without saying that the line between T.V., movies and video games continues to blur as each medium tries to be more like the other.
My Method to the Madness
So, how do you approach online games that have no true ending? How do you gain closure from playing games that have seemingly no end in sight? Do you play the game until the servers shutdown? Or do you only stay active for however long your friends stay interested? Maybe you have one main GaaS that you’re committed to? Perhaps you spread yourself too thin by logging into multiple online games on a daily/weekly basis? These are the kinds of questions I’ve asked myself having now invested in a handful of on-going games over the past few years. I’ve been fairly committed to Destiny 2 since launch and we’re now entering its third year (with Monster Hunter: World following closely in terms of hours invested), so I don’t see myself straying too far from these two games any time soon. I’ve also dipped my toes into Overwatch, The Division, Apex Legends and FFXIV, but there’s only so much time in the day and some have fallen by the wayside, unfortunately.
At the end of the day, I’ll always be a completionist at-heart, but as I’ve gotten older, my ability to focus on a single game has completely diminished. Unless a certain title resonates with me on a particular level (or it’s relatively short and easy to 100%), I’ve found myself simply “beating” games, jumping from one game to the next, juggling a dozen or so titles at once, but not always “completing” them. I have a relatively huge backlog of games that I’ve been wanting/meaning to play (from nearly every generation, too), so moving onto a new venture after I see the credits roll helps me tackle new games on a yearly basis. In fact, over the past few years, I’ve participated in Resetera’s “52 Games. 1 Year.” challenge, which is an annual thread on a popular dedicated gaming forum. Sharing my thoughts on the games I’ve been playing, tracking my progress and discussing backlogs with like-minded individuals has helped me stay motivated and engaged with the community.
Until next time,