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10/20/2004

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Foopy

Since when was a neverending story the Holy Grail of gaming? Fristrom's blog notes:

The Sims 2, even more so than the Sims, comes the closest I've seen to being a Holy Grail of games - the neverending story, where the player is part author, part participant.

I don't see how "neverending story" has anything to do with the player being part author, part participant, and it's that latter that I think is the Holy Grail of gaming; whether it's a 5-minute game or one that can go on forever, what makes it worthwhile depends on whether the interactive elements of the game have been put to good use. In fact, I'd rather have a very short game that uses interactivity really well--take Emily Short's Galatea, for instance--than a game that goes on forever and fades into memory of repetitiveness and boredom. I think that most of today's games fall into the latter category, unfortunately, which is why I've become increasingly irked when game reviewers actually think it's a bad thing for a game to be short. The length of a game has nothing to do with how worthwhile it is, and I'd much rather play a really well-designed 10-hour game than a 40-hour game that consists of the first 10 hours repeated over and over.

The only problem I see with the Sims (and MMOGs, for that matter) is that people expect to play it forever, just because it has no defined end. What's wrong with playing a game until you get bored of it? In the old days, Maxis always called their games "software toys", and I think that's really the best description for them. Just because I bought some Transformers action figures when I was a kid didn't mean I was supposed to be endlessly entertained playing pretend with them for the rest of my life; after a few days or weeks, I had my fill and didn't use them much anymore.

Similarly, I don't see what's wrong with playing the Sims (or any other game) for a week or two, getting bored of it and putting it aside. That's what I did when I bought the first Sims, and I don't regret playing it at all.

Bowler

Well, I for one require some sort of ending or resolution or story. Sandbox gaming is great, but everything from Maxis has always started out with a euphoric rush, and then left me feeling ill by the end of it.

I want closure in my games. I can look back fondly on games I've finished. I don't have the same emotion for games that cannot be finished.

Foopy

I can definitely relate to that, although I'm not sure if it has to do with the game having an ending or not. Everquest, which I played for two or three months in 1999, was a game that had no ending, yet it is an experience that I remember quite fondly--despite the fact that it did end in a slow crawl to boredom, it's that euphoric rush at the beginning that I remember the most.

And there are definitely games that had endings that I don't remember fondly; it's often because I got bored of them far before the ending, and only really finished the game out of a sense of obligation. The absence of that sense of obligation is something I definitely appreciate from the sandbox games.

I generally agree with what you're saying, though; I think it sort of has to do with the fact that, because sandbox games have no closure, we have to figure out for ourselves when we want to stop playing. There are times when I've played such games to the point where they are joyless obsessions, and it takes a while for me to realize that I'm just not having fun anymore, and that I really need to put the game down.

paul haine

Although I appreciate the concept of the open-ended game, I've found shorter, finishable games to be far more satisfying. Pikmin, or Beyond Good and Evil, for instance, were criticised by some for being so short, but I thought they were excellent - they leave you wanting more.

Conversely, I ended up getting bored with Animal Crossing. I had told friends of it, about how there was no real purpose to the game, you could just go about your day, fishing, running errands, decorating your house, but then I realised I had been playing the game with a purpose - paying off my mortgage. Once that was done, all these other tasks in the game became somewhat meaningless.

defenestrati

Keep up the posts, Clockwork Grue-- a silent contingent of readers absorbs and admires your work. Thank you.

Robyn

Alright, maybe i will get flamed for this, i dont know. But i if you build off of the idea that this game started as 'the dollhouse', perhaps that's why it appeals to girls... i love the sims... i never want it to end, it's just like having dolls, only so much better. The generational thing is awesome, so unlike the first sims, where i can see getting bored, cuz your sim has been thru every career, has 45000 kids and a bazillion dollars.
I want my dolls to always be there so i can play with them. And i want them to be the way that i left them.
I'm a girl ;)

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