24 May 2018

Video games: It's all about the story

I saw an article recently where someone wrote about the fact that he had realized he wasn’t going to finish any of the half dozen video games he had started playing – and that he was OK with that.

This surprised me, so I looked for statistics on how many people finish video games. An item from 2011 suggests that 90% of the time people don’t finish a video game, but that’s based on an industry anecdote. An article from 2009 based on console achievement data shows completion rates anywhere from 23% to 74% depending on the game, with Call of Duty scoring highest. However, a 2018 article looking at the Call of Duty series shows lower completion rates, and a poster follows up with a set of lower completion rates for various single player games.

Overall, it looks like around 30-50% of gamers complete a game they start.

Me? I basically complete the main storyline in every game that has one. That’s how I’ve done it since big story-driven games became the norm on consoles.

The 13.6% of people who finished Bastion? I was one of those. The 22.6% who finished Transistor? I was one of those too. The set of games I’ve started and abandoned is pretty short.

Dragon Quest VIII was one of them. At some point I lost track of what I was supposed to be doing, and realized that wandering around the map would subject me to an endless sequence of tedious random encounters. Plus, the style of the game was starting to grate — I just don’t find slimes amusing.

One of the Prince of Persia games – Prince of Persia: Two Thrones I think – had technical problems on the PS2 that made the frame rate drop during the final battle, which involved lots of last moment leaping through empty space with unhelpful camera angles. Gave that up and watched a video instead.

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks had a difficulty spike for the final set of battles, and every time you failed you had to go back to the start of the battles. After giving it about a dozen tries I gave up.

Chrono Trigger was also great up until the final battle. At that point I realized I’d either have to wander around level grinding for a long time, or watch someone else get to the ending sequence on YouTube.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time I bought expecting an SF RPG. The first thing it did was strand me on a planet with no technology and a pointed stick to defend myself with. The combat was also real time, which never works well in an RPG. Gave that up after a few hours.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D was a 3DS version of a game I’d wanted to play on the Wii but hadn’t because it had had a limited release and was going for $100 online. Apparently it was excellent on the Wii, but clunky on the 3DS. Gave up on it after a few hours.

Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones was awesome, right up until the point where I had no idea where I should go next, and found that traversing the map to look for next steps was tedious because it meant repeating the same challenges over and over again.

I gave up on Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when I realized how the leveling system worked. Basically, they made it so that the game adjusted the difficulty of everything to your current character level. This meant that there was no point trying to level up, because it just meant that everyone and everything would level up with you. After discovering that all the wolves in the world had secretly spent their time leveling up in Wolf School so they could beat me up, I chucked it in.

Basically, broken gameplay makes me give up on a game. Not much else does. Yet at the same time, I don’t care about the trophies — I think I have two platinum trophies on the PS4, but I don’t know how I got them, and I don’t do stuff just for the sake of a trophy. It’s all about the story.

© mathew 2017