When does a game end?

When the ending credits roll, you dumbass calls the hardcore gamer in the crowd. It’s true that extremely vast majority of video games have an end these days, and in most cases the game ends with the ending credit roll. However, there was once a time when it didn’t matter whether or not the game had an end. Le Impossible says a ruffian of the 90’s. Welcome to the golden days of video games when arcades had Pacman and Donkey Kong.

The notion that video games should have a comprehensive narrative is misleading. Video games are not, and have never been, a storytelling medium. They’re games. A soccer game ends after certain amount of time, but Pacman never ends truly ends; it gives out a Kill Screen. A Kill Screen is when a game goes over certain amount of numbers in the game, eg. Pacman Level 256. In Pacman after the level 255 it’s level address goes over 255, it causes garbage, and the game tries to draw 256 fruits on the screen,initially drawing them on the bottom of the screen, and the on the right side of the screen. The fruits are marked on a table in the screen, but because it draws them beyond the table, it causes glicthed results.
While these Kill Screens do prevent the player from advancing any further, it’s not really the end. It’s an end to the game, mostly caused because of technology of the time. With some trickery people have managed to circumvent these Kill Screens, but I’m not going to go into that.

I have games that I have no finished in my shelves. Most likely bulk of these games will never be played through and through. While I agree that it would do justice to finish these games, what makes us think so? Nowadays I could argue that it’s the narrative, ie. to see the finish of the story, but more sound argument is the challenge that games pose. You can finish Super Mario Bros. and the like and move on without thinking much, but finishing something like Ys – the Oath in Felghana doesn’t just end; it gives an ending to marvel and remember softly.

I lied. Every game ending is unique and depending how much you’ve been invested in the game, beating it will most likely give you a catharsis. Then again, there are games that are enjoyable to play, the ending then leaves a lot to desire.

But ask yourself whether or not the game ends in the words The End, Game Over, or does it end when you want it to end? Then ask yourself when a fighting game ends. When is a Street Fighter II finished? When you’re finished with the arcade mode? No, a tournament fighting game is at the end when you’re truly mastered all the characters and can Perfect every round without a fail.

However, a multiplayer game never really ends, and tournament fighters are the proof of this. You can, quite literally, have endless amounts of matches between you and your friends. For example, there are Guilty Gear tournaments to this day. Well, with fighting games we could argue that the game is over when a new version of the same game is released, like when Street Fighter IV got Super Street Fighter IV. You don’t join SFIV tournaments any more, as they’ve moved to SSFIV.

Another good example of a game with no real end is Bloons Tower Defence from ninjakiwi, or well designed tower defence games in general. A well played Bloons Defence can last hours. The end comes when either your FLASH crashes or when your own wits come to an end. Bloons Defence is interesting in this sense that most of my sessions have ended in the fore mentioned FLASH crashing. Too many balloons on-screen at the same time. The point is that there really isn’t an end to the game as such; the game forces you to stop. In similar sense where arcade games have Kill Screen due to overflow, Bloons Defence has a point where the player’s resources can’t stand to the amount of Bloons charging in. It’s a forceful way of stopping the player. Is this the end of the game?

Granted, every example given is practically and end of the game. They literally stop the player from continuing the game until the players himself starts a new session.

So ok, let’s be realistic for a second. Every game has an end. However, the end I’m talking about is when the game is completely at it’s end, when it can’t offer anything new. You could argue that Pacman has no end before you reach the maximum amount of points before getting into the Kill Screen. Similarly Super Mario Bros. comes to an end when you can go through the game without any warps and clear both A and B quests. It’s not really about challenging yourself in the most insane ways possible, or collecting tons of trophees or the like to show your e-dick around. It’s more about how much the game itself can take take before it’s end. In this sense some games are almost endless, eg. Arcana Hearts 3 has insane amount of variables depending on the character and arcana setup chosen without trying to do anything outside the norms. This is why I use Pacman as the primary example; it’s simple enough to understand what almost never-ending game is. A Final Fantasy game has reached it’s end when you’ve seen all of the story and acquired all the items. To that game, inside the normal gameplay, there’s nothing more to offer.


One thought on “When does a game end?

  1. May I give some examples of my opinions?

    Minecraft – You can’t end that, either your flash crashes or you go nuts in about 1% through using all the blocks.

    Call Of Duty serie – Story has been emphasized atleast in the later games and they have endings, but that’s only for the single player “campaign”. In multiplayer, of course, there is no end.

    Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Uu, role-playing game, you do the assignments, you do side quests and main story quests. After completing quests, you can stay to roam wilderness and kill endless amounts of “game” or you can collect every collectable the game has to offer, but eventually you get bored and that, THAT is the end of role-playing games(IMO of course)

    Any racing game – Quoting you: “Then again, there are games that are enjoyable to play, the ending then leaves a lot to desire.” Yep, racing games in a nutshell, you play because of the drive, not because of the end.. erm I mean finish. Well finishing in first-place is the goal. But for me, the drive is why I play racing games.

    ——————————Shit, that’s why I play every game, to play it, not finish it. If I just want to finish the game or get “the end”, I’m not going to even bother starting it.—————————

    But damn we are same in this weird way, you can write so much stuff about so simple thing: “Arcade”- you may get points, but if you die, you get back up, if you win the round, you prepare for the next round.
    “Storydriven singleplayer games” – If there is a story, there is an end. It differs if you end up bored in midway through> You don’t get “the end” but it still is an end if you stop playing it.

    Woah, lots of text 😀 …These are all my opinions, everyone is able to have other opinions, and I kind of don’t want you to quote me on these or reply since I know you’re maybe even more opiniated guy than me.

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