Game Overview Special Tuesday Edition: Obsessive 100%
April 22nd, 2008 by Dan

If any of you clicked over to Leigh’s post at Sexy Videogameland about obsessively completing games, then you already know where I’m about to go with this post. If you didn’t, here’s yet another link.

Call it a personality disorder, but I have an obsessive need to unlock the full 100% potential for video games that I enjoy. I know what you’re thinking, if he’s gotta include the “enjoy” caveat, it’s not really obsessive then, is it? Let me tell you, that caveat did not come easily. It took years of mental conditioning to be able to realize “Hey, I want to play too many other games to go at this pace on such a crummy game…” Once I did finally realize that forcing myself to 100% complete a game that, honestly, wasn’t worth it, I’m was able to log off of Gamefaqs and get onto another game that will eat up my time. You see, since I’m a university student, I do have more time to play than 9-5ers, but I don’t have as much time as when I was in high school because of classes, exams, homework, and trying to maintain a social life (kids, stay away from World of Warcraft).

Where do I draw the line? Mainly wherever it’s going to just take too much time to be worth it. I loved Final Fantasy X, but when the game asked me to dodge lightning something like one hundred times in a row to get an ultimate weapon, I said screw it. My party was tough enough that I wouldn’t need that one ultimate weapon just to kill Sin. If it wasn’t, I would train up and make do. There were other, less time-consumingly stupid sidequests that I could go waste my time on.

The advent of the Gamerscore on Xbox Live! has brought up some really interesting issues too. Before achievement points and worrying about increasing my Gamerscore (I know it’s low, but I don’t have the time to be a real achievement point whore), I honestly never worried about fully completing an action game or a music game. I’ll tell you which achievements I can resist though – Guitar Hero 3’s asininely stupid ones like playing through the career mode on a controller instead of the guitar (really? play through on my controller for ONLY 15 achievement points), winning 500 matches (grind, anyone?), or even playing through a song on expert with the sound settings turned down (no sound in a MUSIC GAME?). The Rock Band achievements are much less idiotic. Fully completing cities, completing career modes, achieving milestones in the World Tour mode, these are all acceptable to me.

My first Xbox 360 JRPG introduced a new dastardly trick to entice me to get full completes on games that don’t deserve it. Lost Odyssey, mind you, is not one of them, but my progress to the end of the game has been halted by the achievement point list that includes optional bosses and leveling up all the characters in my team. It’s definitely brilliant because those side quests, in other RPGs, usually include neat story details about the characters that you wouldn’t see otherwise, they give you sweet weapons and armor, and they also satisfy my need to fully complete an RPG that I love.

Just because I’m able to resist these urges more and more nowadays doesn’t mean I’m fully out of the woods. I was trying to burn through MGS and MGS2 to complete the series before MGS4’s launch in June, but now that I’m on MGS3 and June’s far away, I’ve taken it upon myself to hit up Gamefaqs to find out where all the Kerotans (strange little frog thingies that you have to shoot) are and all the different types of food so that I can get a whole bunch of sweet bonuses after I complete the game. Persona 3: FES launches today, but will be in Gamestop waiting for me tomorrow, and I have no idea what I’m gonna do about all the Social Links. After reading Leigh’s article, I convinced myself that I should just play the game naturally, but then I went and watched the 1UP show and learned that the Social Links that you max out contribute to your ending. How could I not try to max them out and get the best possible ending now?

I will admit that part of my completionist nature comes from the fact that I have a lot of games on my plate and I want to get to them all. If I can beat them all 100% the first time through, then I don’t have to play them again to see the stuff that I missed. People usually ask me about this when they see me browsing Gamefaqs or another walkthrough when playing a video game, either asking “Why don’t you just finish the game if you can?” or “Why are you looking at the guide? Why don’t you figure it out yourself?”

The answer to both has to do with enjoying the storylines of games oftentimes a lot more than the gameplay. If it’s a good game, I want to see as much of it as possible, so I bother with the sidequests to learn more about the characters. Anyone who has ever wandered through the Phoenix Cave in Final Fantasy VI knows how incredibly moving (maybe this is just me) it is to see Locke passionately search for the one thing he has heard can save Rachel. Most people, I like to think, were moved when (SPOILER ALERT) the Phoenix failed to revive Rachel (/SPOILER ALERT). It’s little touches like this that go to flesh out just why Locke is so committed to protecting Terra and Celes once he meets each woman.

If it’s a bad game, heck, I just want to be done. I don’t care about figuring out the strategy to kill a poorly designed boss with a character I don’t give a damn about. I don’t care about figuring out the proper path through a bland Zelda-ripoff temple. It’s just not satisfying since by that point I’m playing the game only because I like to finish what I start.

Adventure games are the exception to this. I oftentimes love the game, I’m just not willing to try and figure out how I’m supposed to use the chicken with the tree to save the monkey in the swamp. The game type just asks you to think too much like the designer to complete mentally unnatural and unintuitive tasks. Yahtzee makes some good points about Adventure game design in his review of Zachkand Wiki that I totally agree with.

In the end, I guess I’m not that bad about obsessively completing a game, but when the design is just so well-done as to encourage the player to do it, I honestly can’t resist. When you have a screen full of little glass windows to smash open for Super Smash Brothers Brawl, who can resist the urge to just go for the unlockables? Those trophies and stickers are also so cool…

10 Responses  
  • Eric writes:
    April 23rd, 200810:12at

    Interesting and intimate self-discovery here. Pretty awesome introspection. I find it a little shady that game designers and Xbox Live programmers seem to have to create all these little incentives to get you to finish the game or play it more.

    In a certain sense, once you’ve purchased the game, do they really care that much about how often you play? Perhaps there’s some psychological aspect to it that I just don’t know about that causes the publisher to make you want to play it more. Perhaps because it increases the chances of a friend of yours stopping by while you’re playing and then picking up the game? Or maybe they just want the countless gamer websites and magazine not to mention that you can finish the game in a couple of hours.

    Personally, I think things have reached a ridiculous level now with trying to force gamers to accomplish certain things. There’s no reason why I had to first beat the 1 player mode of Wario’s Smooth Moves on the Wii before I could play multiplayer. It just made me so frustrated I wanted to return the game.

    I think it’s nice for sidequests to be included in the game and to enhance the experience. As you know, I also loved the side quests in Final Fantasy 6 and was really moved by the story of those little pixelated heroes. (Which goes to show that graphics aren’t everything.) But if I ever played a game where it became annoying required, I think it would just make me stop playing.

    I totally feel you on adventure games. As good as the original seven King’s Quest games’ stories were, it was really frustrating to try to figure out what to do and it was often not quite as intuitive as possible. And then, of course, there was the glitch in KQ 7 where they had removed part of the game that explained why you had to do a certain thing and the game was pretty much stuck without it.

    Finally, the only thing I don’t like about using the FAQs is that once I succumb to them, I end up following it for the rest of the game and I feel unable to explore any longer. I think it comes from the the fact that, especially in a game like Final Fantasy, if you’re walking in the wrong direction you’re fighting monster after monster and you’re going to have to fight them again once you figure out that you’ve gone the wrong way. And you have to get to bed, or to dinner, or your parents or wife or whoever wants your attention. So once I get on the FAQ, I tend to just follow it on through. Thus, I try to avoid it until I absolutely can’t figure out what to do.

  • Dan writes:
    April 23rd, 200812:38at

    I meant to write a little about this, but the Gamerscore emerged, I believe, to emphasize the community features of XBL and to foster a competitive spirit amongst players (AKA e-peen length).

    The new paradigm for video games revolves around franchises. The better a job that a game does in capturing the gamer and making them feel like the series is awesome, the better place the company is for the new IP.

    Not to mention that the current generation’s high definition systems feature games that cost $10 more than last generation’s games. As a result, gamers feel that they should be getting more value out of a game outside of the pretty pictures.

    Some of the guys at IGN, I think Matt Cassamassina in particular, really hate having to unlock things for multiplayer. If you were to play a SSBB match against random people, you would notice that everything was unlocked. I’m of the opinion that this is a good thing. We shouldn’t have to be penalized for not progressing as far in our game. I’m also a fan of having multiplayer content already opened. Otherwise, all you have is artificial game lengthening, which is only bad when it’s blatant. When Master Chief has to backtrack endlessly throughout the same levels in your typical Halo single-player mode, that is NOT good game design, that’s lazy game lengthening. When I’m almost to the boss in Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and they make me sail around the entire game-world fishing out pieces of the triforce, that’s poor game design. Adding hours onto a game for the sake of adding hours just frustrates me as I begrudgingly complete my tasks to get to the finale.

    In a game where I honestly don’t care and I just want to finish, I have no issue with not exploring and just following the FAQ. I’ve got things to do, like you said, so I just burn on through.

  • Eric writes:
    April 23rd, 200814:52at

    Yeah, I’ve noticed in SSBB that people are using characters we don’t yet have and I thought that was a Good Thing.

    Good point about the rising price of games. I haven’t felt it as much as the only current gen gaming system I have is Nintendo and they’ve kept their new releases at $50.

  • It’s A Binary World 2.0 » Final Fantasy IX Completed writes:
    August 17th, 20090:04at

    […] Took me a little over 30 hours.  I didn’t do all the side quests, but that’s more of Dan’s thing.  The characters I played with the most ended up at about level 52 – if that tells you […]

  • Eric Mesa writes:
    February 25th, 201010:53at

    Some new thoughts.

    The Guitar Hero achievements seem to Echo Tim’s sentiments in his latest post on Kotaku about how these games aren’t really about music.

    Also, at first I was pretty opposed to achievement points. But, well done, I think they enhance the game. With Fat Princess they made me try out all the classes and I ended up liking some that I wouldn’t have otherwise. With Uncharted it makes me search just a little bit harder for the treasure. Without the trophies, I wouldn’t see the point of searching for them. If the score was only for me to see, what’s the point?

    • Dan writes:
      February 25th, 201010:55at

      I’m so glad that Rock Band beat the tar off of GH3. Those achievements were absurd.

      Good achievements/trophies enhance the game like you’ve stated and really improve the way its played or encourages alternate playstyles.

      • Eric Mesa writes:
        February 25th, 201010:59at

        I can’t believe the GH boss said they should never have spurned Harmonix

        • Dan writes:
          February 25th, 201011:04at

          Some people think that Activision is angling to buy Harmonix publishing rights when their deal with EA expires soon.

          • Eric Mesa writes:
            February 25th, 201011:10at

            Aren’t they now owned by MTv?

            • Dan writes:
              February 25th, 201011:12at

              Yeah. I think Viacom, technically, but I couldn’t say for sure without research.

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