Editorial: Playing RPGs in an Age of Hoarding
How many of your games go unbeaten or even unplayed?
05.31.14 - 5:30 PM
Fifteen or so years ago, when I used to sit in front of my Nintendo 64 all day, I would play nearly every game to completion. 100 golden skulltulas in Ocarina of Time? Check. All golden bananas in Donkey Kong? Check. All badges and star pieces in Paper Mario? Double check. It's not that I've lost interest in fully exploring a game, but they've become so popular and accessible that there's always something new. As much as I'd love to sit down and clear all the extras in Fire Emblem Awakening or go back and get the true ending in Atelier Totori, it's hard to resist the call of Child of Light or, soon, Drakengard 3. Not to mention the pile of games I already have sitting around yet to be played at all!
I know I'm not alone. I suspect most of you, if not all of you reading this have a sizeable backlog of games sitting around your home. For some, I know that number will be in the hundreds. Now that games can be bought online and downloaded through services such as Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network or Steam, it's easier than ever to hoard dozens of games and never run out of space to store them.
I recently beat Final Fantasy VIII on Steam, and as I was looking through the global achievements, I saw only 4.5% of people who owned the game had beaten the final boss. I suspect many people who own it on PC also have played and beaten it on PlayStation, but this was still a pretty shocking statistic – and it's not even a particularly long game! Interestingly, Final Fantasy VII had the exact same: only 4.5% of players had beaten the final boss.
But it's not just Japanese RPGs. 14% of players have the achievement for defeating the final boss of the story in Torchlight II, and at 13%, even less have beaten indie hit Bastion. Just 14% of players emerged victorious in The Witcher II, though Skyrim fares far better at 32% beating the final story quest. Still, it's surprising that 12% of players haven't cleared the game's opening section, and 21% have never killed a dragon.
Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, console games have a far higher level of completion. 42% of players have beaten Final Fantasy XIII, 39% have seen the first ending of Nier, and almost 50% of players have cleared Dragon Age II on PlayStation 3. Even the notoriously difficult Dark Souls has had approximately 41% of players see it through to the end.
Why is this? Cost is definitely a factor. Computer games, especially on Steam, can often be bought in large numbers for very little cost during sales – not to mention those Humble Bundles! Many of these purchases will be spur of the moment, and actual interest in playing a particular title may wane. Console games are typically more expensive, so less frequently bought, and I know I want to feel my money was "well spent."
Perhaps it's the nature of hoarding games and building a library on virtual platforms that is the biggest contributor. I've been slowly making my way through my Steam games, but with daily deals and seasonal sales, there's always something new to buy. For those of us who were playing games in the 90s, the Pokémon collecting mentality likely bleeds over into other areas of our lives.
For me personally, I'm down to only around 30 games left in my backlog to beat. But that's after a couple of years of focus on what I already own, and buying less than I used to. Among the rest of the RPGFan staff, we have a couple who are fairly on top of their RPG backlogs, though others have 50% or more of their RPGs still to beat. Again, the completion rate among console games is consistently higher than on Steam.
However, let's not forget that people will play games in different ways. A friend of mine, for example, has played hundreds of games over the years, but he could probably count on his fingers how many he's actually beaten. Sometimes he'll lose interest in a title, but often he'll mess around, rather than focus on the main story, and that's how he enjoys playing. He regularly spent more time with a single game than it would normally take to clear it, but his achievements would never reflect that. So enjoying video games does not necessarily need to be associated with watching the end credits.
We all know that RPGs tend to be among the lengthiest video games, so perhaps it's little surprise that we're playing less and less of these through to completion. Sinking about thirty to forty hours into an RPG is pretty standard, but fifty, sixty or more is hardly uncommon. Other genres have higher completion statistics, so it's likely RPGs, due to their length, get forgotten or pushed aside for shorter games.
Just to be clear, there's nothing inherently wrong with buying stacks of games. It's simply interesting to see that as games have become so cheap and widely available, we're buying far more than we will ever have the time to ever play. Next time you're considering a purchase, stand back for a moment and consider if you're ever actually going to even play it. Who knows? Maybe the small savings you accrue will be enough for that fancy collector's edition you've had your eye on.
Well, I better get back to playing The Last Remnant. Poor thing has been sitting unfinished in my Steam library for a good few years...