Sunday Thoughts: Gaming Series Need To End

Some series just need to end. Sometimes it’s because they’re shit, and need to disappear, but other times it’s because they’re great and simply need to just finish on a high note. I feel that if it ends with me wanting more, it’s done its job and is something I’ll remember fondly. If it ends and it sucked, I’ll be happy it’s all over. Either way however, I find endings to be a good thing.

I feel it’s the build up that makes it. Developers talk and talk about a game being in its final chapter and this drums up interest from series fans old and new. They talk it up to be as a big send off and when it’s delivered, it gets to unashamedly hark back to the very beginning of the series and give you those magic nostalgic moments that you’ll love forever.

When a series ends, it’s also a very rewarding experience for the player. Some gaming series can go for upwards of 10 years and span hundreds of hours of gameplay. It’s very difficult to not feel good after you’re given closure on a story that’s spanned such a massive period of your life.

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Let’s look at, Metal Gear Solid. When people talk about it, it’s hard for them not to reference the period of life which they were at when they did so. “That was the game I played when I was at Uni!” or “I used to play that all the time when I was little!” During Act 4 of Guns of the Patriots, it was impossible for anyone who had played the first game not to be reminded of their younger days, not just as a player, but also for the stage their life was at.

Suddenly this link of the original game with a period of your life also becomes true for its final chapter. The ending becomes an event for the player, elevating its status beyond that of a normal game. From there you think back to all the games that came between the first and last and suddenly the franchise as a whole is one that bookends your teenage years, or your newly married life, or any other stage that the games appeared between. The games become much more significant than just some standalone title you might have played once.

The benefits given to the story driven titles are massive. Not only do we get an emotional ending, but we are also given a tremendous sense of unpredictability. Whilst you know that characters can die in any title, you’ve always got that safety net that the main cast will most likely be safe in order for a sequel to be possible. If you know that your story is ending however, anything goes, and to be honest, most of it likely will. You know that the end is coming and so you’re constantly wondering just who will make it to the credits, and just what sort of event will bring everything to a definitive close.

But it’s not just the player who can get a lot out of the ending of a series, it can also be a benefit to the developer. Let’s take a look back at all the games we’ve tried to forget. Now let’s limit those titles down to those in a gaming series, and those which are sequels. Every Silent Hill after 3, every Crash Bandicoot after Team Racing and pretty much all the Sonic games after the first three. Possibly those after Sonic Adventure depending on how I’m feeling.

But the thing with most of those games is that their original developer got out of the picture before everything went pear shaped and that’s because the original developer has seen that the franchise has run out of steam and have decided to move on to something new. They get to leave with the game’s positive image attached to their name. Anyone who then goes on to produce poor sequels gets the reputation of being a bit shoddy and uninventive. So here’s the message to developers: Get out while you still can!

If you don’t, you get stuck. Enter Tony Hawk and his wonderful line of skating games. Back in the days of the PS1, Pro Skater was the game to get. Not just for the extreme sports genre, but for all games in general. It was literally the best game available to any and all consoles everywhere. Two, Three and Four just kept on perfecting and Underground mixed things up, but in the best possible way. After that though, it’s not a pretty sight. The problem is that Neversoft just kept on going as they attempted to reinvent the series one more time and return it to its former glory. They couldn’t leave it in a poor state, yet after four crap sequels they had to finally give up and hand the dying formula over to someone else. And then we got Ride, and we all know how that turned out..

The thing is that a lot of games don’t quit while they’re ahead. They just carry on until they simply whiter out, leaving with a whisper instead of a bang. When that happens, who’s there to remember them? They become unsuccessful, can’t find the budget to produce another title and everything’s suddenly finished. Just last week Heroes was cancelled because, instead of just finishing after it’s phenomenal first season, it had to keep on going whilst it’s ratings and popularity nose dived. Now we’re left with a lot of loose ends and only the possibility of a 2 hour special to wrap things up. Just now, I don’t care, but 2 years ago this would have been a criminal offence in my mind.

It can be applied to any form of media you can think of. At the end of The Return of the King, there’s rarely a dry eye in the house because people feel a sense of relief knowing that such an epic journey is over. When it comes to TV series, people get an amazing sense of closure knowing their time with the characters is finished. How many of you had dropped out of Lost and are now dipping back in because you know it’s all going to be over in just a few short weeks? People know this is an event and it’s something they want to be a part of. Harry Potter anyone?

If handled well, an ending can be unforgettable. It’s always a sad moment, but it’s one you’ll keep with you forever. Can I ask that people don’t post any spoilers whatsoever in the comments below, but let’s discuss, what games do you feel need an ending and of those that have, which will you never forget?

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