Why Can’t I Finish Games?

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I adore the Persona games. They’re beautiful to look at, they’re fun, they’re complex… There’s a lot to love. And I mean that literally, too. Persona games are long. On average, it takes people 93 hours to get to the ending of Persona 3.

On that note, I have a confession to make: I have never completed a Persona game.

My first exposure to the franchise was through Giantbomb.com‘s “Endurance Run”, essentially a Let’s Play of the game two of the writers for the site did because they knew they weren’t going to have time to play it at home. It’s an incredibly fun watch; Jeff and Vinny are hilarious, and watching them grow attached to the cast of characters can even be heartwarming at times.

I saw the entire game through their eyes, and I fell in love with it. It was clearly a fantastic game, worth playing on my own if I ever found the time. But I did already see the entire game. When the time came for me to buy a JRPG, I went with the previous entry, Persona 3. It was mechanically and tonally similar enough, and the slightly darker edge it seemed to have also appealed to me.

I played it non-stop for a few days. It was, in fact, fantastic. But eventually life caught up to me and I found myself spending less and less time with it. It was hard to try to play something I knew I wasn’t going to finish for a couple weeks, at least. So eventually, with about 35 hours spent with it, I stopped. It wasn’t a conscious decision, not really. I told myself I was going to pick it back up at some point, but by the time I finally got around to booting it back up, months had passed.

“It felt like I was trying to read a book while skipping every other chapter; I could suss out the plot, but it was far from the ideal way of experiencing it.”

Wherever I was in the story, I had no idea. I had a vague sense of what happened in the game up to that point, but after playing for about an hour, I realized that all of the details had been lost. I remember none of the character moments, and had no sense of what I was trying to accomplish in-game, either. It felt like I was trying to read a book while skipping every other chapter; I could suss out the plot, but it was far from the ideal way of experiencing it.

So I started over.

Once again, I found myself barreling through the early parts of the game, but slowing down as I got deeper and deeper into it. I made it to almost exactly the same point I made it to in my previous attempt when I put it down again. Maybe that’s a sign that the game has pacing issues. Honestly, though… I think it’s on me.

I have a habit of this. The list of games I’ve never finished far outstrips the list of games I’ve completed. My Netflix queue consists of almost nothing but shows I made it five or six episodes into before moving on. And I don’t drop any of these games or shows intentionally; when I leave a game or TV series behind, it’s always with the explicit intention of returning to it later. But I never do. I’ve even done this with movies, pausing the movie and switching to another tab about 45 minutes in.

It could be my short attention span. I have ADHD, and struggle to sit through meetings and classes in my day-to-day life. That would be a reasonable explanation for it, but that doesn’t feel right. That doesn’t feel like the reason this keeps happening. Why am I able to binge-watch a show for five hours in the first place? How do I manage to sit through those first five or six episodes at all?

I don’t think ADHD is the reason. I think… I think I’m afraid of finishing things. I think the idea of wrapping something up intimidates me. When I finish a game, it’s over. Sure, I can replay it, but I will never have the experience I had on my first playthrough again. You only have one “first” anything. And I think I’m terrified of denying that to my future self.

It’s not rational. But it checks out; most of the games on that “unfinished” list have save files sitting on the doorstep of a final boss fight. If I don’t finish them, then they’re still a part of my life, right?

As it turns out, not really. If I would just finish them, I’d be able to talk about them more in depth. I wouldn’t have to avoid spoilers. I could say I finished it. Right now, they’re all just floating around in my head, aimlessly waiting for me to have something to say about them. And I want to say those things. But now my list of unfinished things is so long that I’m never going to finish getting through it.

[Cross posted on my blog at giantbomb.com – I got the featured image from that site, too, but it looks like official art.]

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6 comments

  1. Great post. I also get hesitant about finishing a game if I’m enjoying it a lot. Just over the weekend I knew I was getting close to the end of The Last Guardian and part of me want to put the controlled down. If I never finished it, then it wouldn’t be over. Ultimately I caved because I was curious to see how the narrative would unfold and didn’t want it spoiled online, but I understand the sentiment behind it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it’s crazy what we do when we’re really enjoying something. I also tend to run around finishing every sidequest I can until I burn out on a game, which can also lead me to not finish something.

      Like

      • Oh yeah for sure! It’s weird, I can finish a game after finishing the sidequest, but I rarely ever feel like finishing sidequests once the campaign is over. XD

        That said, do you share your posts on any other websites? I work over at Creators .Co (we’re part of Movie Pilot and Now Loading) and this is the sort of content that makes for an interesting read. If you were open to the idea of posting your work on our Creators site in addition to also having your blog/site here, I’d be more than happy to help you get started. My e-mail and more info can be found on my page. (o^.^)b

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a ton of unfinished games in my collection. My biggest problem is that I get distracted by something new. RPGs are tough to complete because they are so lengthy. You invested 35 hours into this game for example. You could have completed a bunch of other titles in that time. I would recommend persisting with a Persona game though because they are awesome. Maybe commit to hitting the end in the upcoming Persona 5?

    Like

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