Screenshot from IGN
Can you say you truly beat a game if you didn’t achieve 100% completion?
That’s the question I find myself asking every time I pick up the controller. One that has driven me to put in hours on collecting dreamcatchers that only give you a boost in stamina when firing a goddamn arrow. According to CNN, “Ninety-percent of gamers who start [a] game will never the see the end of it unless they watch a clip from YouTube”
In order to even try answering that question, you have to take at least two things into account: the type of game you’re playing and the type of player that you are.
I understand that time is more precious as you get older, with rent and our impending death affecting our commitment to “finish” a game. For now, let’s just assume you’re Bill Gates rich without the Bill Gates responsibilities.
Growing up an only child without an Xbox Live or PlayStation Network account almost sounds like an oxymoron, but here I am and we are real. Without online play, I obviously gravitated more towards the single-player, narrative-driven variety of games: The God of War series, the Grand Theft Auto series, Bioshock. In hindsight, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. did show me that there was more to a level then just getting to the end of the stage. But Grand Theft Auto III was the first game that I realized the concept of 100% completion.
After Claude kills Catalina, there’s a myriad of time-consuming side-quests to do, but I never cared enough to complete them after that bonkers campaign. How do you even pick it back up after all that hard work to get to the end? With time came perspective.
Single-player games are meant to be immersive. There might not be one right way to play, but single-player games tasks us with immersing ourselves in the character we embody, attaching us to the lore of the world they inhabit. It’s easy to see the many side-quests in these games to be pointless and boring, but through finding collectibles or doing stunt jumps, I found myself appreciating the effort the developers put into creating a world that this maniac is using as his playground. It adds to the depth of the protagonist; it shows that the world they live in is its own entity; it gives us a reason to be invested in our character.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best games I have ever played, period. The setting, the plot, everything about it, I love. But you know what I love the most? The grinding. Grinding for the Legend of the East satchel that gives me the best carrying capacity for all of my items. Grinding out treasure hunts to have as much money as possible at the beginning of the game (screw that gold-bar glitch, you’re trash if you use it). Those aren’t even required for the achievement, and I’m enthralled by it.
In the context of this game’s setting, the “pointless” collectibles make sense. There’s a side-quest where you have to mail the location of 30 dinosaur bones to a female paleontologist who is trying to prove their existence to a university who see her as a quack. Being a woman in a field that hasn’t been recognized as important yet will tend to do that. That quest perfectly captures the universe that Rockstar has built in this franchise: Western expansion in the American Frontier was beyond just the physical landscape; there was an expansion of concepts that gave way to an advancement of technology and sociopolitical ideals, among other things. All of that from a mission where I just have to collect dinosaur bones…freaking ridiculous.
Spending $60+ on a AAA title just to beat the campaign once doesn’t sound appealing to me. If I’m going to spend that much on a game, I might as well get exactly what I paid for; an immersive experience. If done right, the best games will force us to sit down and want to commit to fleshing out our character through hours of grinding, keeping us invested in a world where you can fall off a cliff with your horse. So if you’re aiming for 100% completion like I am, best of luck to you bro. And if not, at least you beat it. Now you can sell it back to GameStop for $5.
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