The Art of Games: In games, the end is not always the end

Just like everything else in life, all games must end at some point. And just like other aspects of life, the manner in which they end can differ drastically from game to game. Although I will be discussing the end of games in this column, there won’t be any story spoilers. I will focus on how games handle the ‘end’ of their stories, rather than how their stories end.

In a linear game, such as “Portal,” when the player completes the story, the credits roll and the game simply ends. Sure, you can play it again, but you already know the story, you know how to solve the puzzles and you have heard all the jokes. It just isn’t the same the second time around.

In spite of this limited replayability, “Portal” is an absolute masterpiece. Not all games need to be replayed. Some can simply exist as fond memories. Just like in life, some of the greatest moments are one-off experiences that will only be happy memories. You will likely never return to college, but your fond memories will always remain.

Other games are more open-ended and never truly end. In “Skyrim,” when you finish the main quest, you just keep playing. There are more quests to do, places to see and people to meet. Outside of the main questline there are still hundreds of hours of content left to experience. In my play-through of “Skyrim,” I played dozens of hours and beat the main quest before I made the trek to Falkreath, one of the nine cities in the game.

While “Skyrim” may fail to simulate most aspects of real life, this is one area where it succeeds. Life doesn’t stop when you graduate college. There are still ‘quests’ to do. Be it grad school, job hunting, relationships or something else, credits don’t roll when you graduate. Life goes on.

But perhaps the most apt metaphor for graduation is “Dark Souls.” For those of you who don’t know, “Dark Souls” is renowned for being a hard game. Really hard. But just like college, most who play through “Dark Souls” will make it through with a sense of accomplishment. They made it through something that was both fun and grueling at the same time.

But when you finally beat “Dark Souls,” the game immediately sends you back to the beginning of the game. Only this time it is even harder. There may have been more things that you had hoped to do in the game, but instead, you have to start over. But you have all the things you learned and skills you picked up while playing the first time.

When you graduate, you are immediately flung into something new, almost as if you are starting over again. But just like in “Dark Souls,” however, even if it is something harder, you have all the things you learned and skills you picked up to help you in whatever is next.

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