STAR T TO FINISH
Is the beginning of a game
more important than the end?
YES Hook me from the start, or
even a great ending won’t matter.
TYLER: Games are like relationships. At the end, they get more difficult, more explosive, and more memorable, but the beginning—when it’s all fresh and sexy and stuff—is actually the best part. If the first act fails to woo me, why should I stick around for the dramatic ending?
NO Save the best for last—the ending
needs to be a reward worth fighting for.
DAN: I love a strong start as much as the next guy, but
it’s wasted without a stronger finish. How many times
have you been sucked into a great game, only to walk
away with the bitter taste of a lame, BioShock-style finale
in your mouth, tainting the entire memory of the
experience? End a game with a spectacular, Mass Effect
2-style nail-biter, and you’ll forgive its mineral-mining
warts and look back on it as an amazing gaming
DAN: No part of a game should suck, but here’s the cold,
hard truth: unless you bought a game for a handful of
buttons and pocket lint during the latest Steam sale,
you’re already in for $50. Even if the beginning isn’t the
best part, you’re gonna keep playing past it just to try to
extract your money’s worth of entertainment out of it. It
doesn’t have to be anything special.
Revie ws Editor
movie is The
Never Ending Story.
TYLER: Sure, you’ll trudge forward out of buyer’s
remorse, begging the game to get better, but at that point
it has already failed. Don’t cram the best stuff behind a
barrier of blah! Introducing a universe and setting a plot
in motion is the most difficult narrative undertaking—
do it right, whet my appetite, and I’ll eat up whatever
flashy dessert comes at the end, even if it’s a profiterole. I
hate those things.
TYLER: It’s about the journey, not the destination, Dan.
My whole experience isn’t instantly tainted if the ending
doesn’t blow my brains out my nose. I remember BioShock
fondly as a whole, especially for its awesome introduction.
If it hadn’t sucked me in immediately, I wouldn’t have
enjoyed it enough to be disappointed by the ending in
the first place.
DAN: Can’t you see that people like you are destroying
everything gamers hold dear? This front-loading of all
the cool stuff is what created the four-hour game—
shooters in particular. Putting all the best gameplay up
front makes the rest of the game boring by comparison,
so the solution is to not make “a rest of the game” at all!
thinks this could be
the beginning of a
Whom do you agree
with? Be heard at
DAN: Nonsense, it’s all about escalation! What if Star
Wars had blown up the Death Star after the opening
crawl, and concluded with a Star Destroyer chasing the
Tantive IV? What if Frodo had thrown the One Ring
into the fires of Mount Doom in the first chapter, and
the rest of the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been about
walking back to the Shire? The opening should just hint
at things to come—it’s the finale’s job to actually deliver
TYLER: You’re nonsense! I’m not saying the narrative
structure should be reversed, but that the opening most
significantly impacts the overall experience. Remember
the ending to Half-Life Nope! But the incredible beginning made the lackluster conclusion worth seeing.
TYLER: Can’t you see that you’re completely wrong in
every way? You only get to make one first impression,
and if I’m not hooked, the ending is already neutered. If,
however, a game blows me away in the first hour, it only
ups the stakes for the rest of the game—I can’t help it if
the designers lazily peter out later. But hell, I’d rather play
a shorter, fully-realized game—like Portal—than a game
that doesn’t matter until the end.
DAN: As legendary showman PT Barnum once said,
“Always leave them wanting more.” Games and circuses
have that much in common: a powerful, coup de gras
ending keeps gamers thinking about it for years,
recommending it to their friends, and on the edge of
their seats awaiting the sequel.
OC TOBER 2011
OC TOBER 2011