Tobold's Blog
Sunday, July 02, 2017
Ending a game

After 25 hours of playing No Man's Sky I decided that I had seen everything I needed to see in that game and uninstalled it. I don't regret having bought the game, I don't feel cheated because I never believed in the promise of an "endless game with 18 quintillion planets". I simply played through of what content there was (most of which was from the base building patch) to the point where anything else I would do would just be a repeat of previous actions. And then I stopped. But it did prompt me to think about how we end games.

None of us play games 24/7, we all need to lead the rest of lives full of work, study, eating, sleeping, and all the rest of it. So playing a game is always a discontinuous affair. So we don't so much "end" a game rather than coming to a point where we simply don't start the game again. We rarely reach the end of a game. And more and more games don't even *have* an end, or, like No Man's Sky, simply start over if you finish them. So we are either content with the unconscious ending of games by simply letting them rest, or we decide to make a conscious decision to stop playing a game and uninstall it.

It gets a bit more complicated with games that not only never end, but which add more content over time. Blizzard sent me an invitation to play World of Warcraft for free for 7 days, so I could admire their latest patch. So I updated my client and loaded the game. I played through a scenario that led me to the Broken Shore. And there it became quickly evident that I was supposed to visit that new zone every day, do world quests and grind reputation, to get my flying mount for that expansion. And although it's just a bit over half a year since I played last, I didn't fully remember the sequence in which I was supposed to press all these hotkeys for maximum efficiency. In short, the new content and the idea to come back to WoW didn't really excite me. But I have no idea whether I actually "ended" WoW, or whether that is just a phase and I'll be back at the next expansion.

I like the clarity of a conscious decision to end a game and uninstalling it. I own so many games that it doesn't even make sense to play a game longer than the period where it is really fun and exciting. But some games I can't seem to be able to make that decision, and they end up being installed on my hard drive for years and years, even if I don't actually play them. How about you?

Hard drives are big... And most of the games I try are relatively small. I rarely delete anything.
I haven't made a conscious decision to stop playing a game in a long while now. It just happens. As long as I have fun while playing it doesn't matter to me which game it is.

Pretty much everything I play is on or steam. Every other month I might uninstall games I haven't played in a while but they can be reinstalled on a whim.
This is a personality thing. To me there is literally no issue. I've never "stopped" doing anything since I was a child. There are things I don't do any more, that I haven't done for a long time, but I haven't "stopped" doing them; I'm just not doing them at the moment. I could start again any time.

When it comes to games, specifically MMOs, the only reason I ever uninstall anything is for reasons of space and since, as Gerry Quinn says, hard drives are big (and cheap) I rarely need to do that. I consider that I'm "playing" MMos that I actually haven't logged into for years - I keep lots of things updated even though I don't currently play.

I actually do play plenty of MMOs that I've played since launch or thereabouts. I do , actually, still play EQ. I'm still leveling my Magician, very slowly. I play EQ2, I play Rift, I play FFXIV, I play LotRO...all of them and many more as and when the mood takes me. I often start playing something I haven't played for ages, play it every day for a week or a month, then let it lie fallow again.

Why I'd need to "end" a game, ever, is something alien to my way of seeing the world. It's there, I'm there, where does the end come in? If the game closes or I die, then, sure, it ends, but not by my choosing.

A reason to "end" would be to have more time for other games. My main game still is World of Warcraft, ending that would enable me to finally get through Witcher 3 and a couple other games. But Blizzard does a great job with content in Legion, the new raid came at pretty much the perfect time for my raid group.

We had about 3 weeks of boredom with the old raid. Personally I don't mind a month or three of raid free time so I can catch up with other games, but there is always the risk of some players not coming back and you have to recruit again.
I've given up on the concept of "ending" a game. I simply "stopped playing them for the time being."

The only time a game really ends for me is when an online game shutters its servers and thus can't be played on my end anymore.

As for uninstallation, small-sized games are often left on the hard disk as convenient, to be picked up and played whenever.

Large-sized games are installed upon the desire to play them, left around if I think I might revisit them in the next couple of months/years, and only removed when clearing space for the next sizable game that needs installation. That's mostly a matter of scrolling down the Installed games list on Steam, and going after the "least favorite, probably won't play any time soon" hefty-sized clunkers.
When I upgraded my computer a while back and was preparing to backup various Steam games for transfer, I realized I had a number of games that had not been played for three or four years or more. I had not really realized I was doing this. I'm clearly still doing this as I have a few games about to hit the three years since I played them mark.

And one game I haven't played since 1970. I'm guessing that's a data glitch. :)

My biggest hurdle to going back to various games is that I do not remember how to play them. I don't remember the controls. I don't remember the strategies. A small game like Tiny Town I could just read through the instructions and be good, but many games assume that you have a level of learned knowledge at a particular point in the content, and I've simply never been good at retaining that knowledge a year or four down the line.
Games can linger on my computer for two reason:
- some games that I really did finish (the do have an end) I want to replay when there is time (e.g. Torment: Tides of Numenera right now is waiting for replay);
- some games that are meant to be replayed many times (e.g. Civilization, XCOM).
I totally love games that offer me a clear end point, but concede that I have a few darlings which really don't do this, and I keep playing them for that reason....or alternatively, they seem to have an end point so distant I'll never reach it before I lose interest in the game (Ubisoft is especially guilty of this type of design).

The example I have which is my biggest regret: Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas. Never finished either, keep them on the PC in the vague hope that one day I will, but with each passing year they grow longer in the tooth and newer games outclass them at every step.

OTOH I keep playing Destiny and The Division and suspect I won't ever stop until I'm just tired of one or the other.

WoW definitely hit the burnout mode for me. I enjoy playing the free level 1-20 bits when I suddenly feel the WoW itch, which makes me realize that I could not stomach the later content anymore and gets me the "quick fix" I need at no cost, since pretty much every time I find myself craving WoW, what I am really craving is 2004-2005 again.
I have a Steam library label "Retired" for games I don't want to be distracted by (finished, buggy, not interesting, etc). I have largely stopped playing Blizzard games and any others with daily quests, because I am susceptible to that pull and I want more control over my time. As a result I read more books. It is empowering to choose when to end activities.
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