Courtesy photo / CD Projekt RED
Courtesy photo / Rockstar Games
For a lot of gamers, it can be hard to shake the completionist mindset once it takes hold.
For me, it means fighting against game-playing habits that have been reinforced ever since my grubby little fingers first touched a Game Boy Pocket with the original Pokemon Blue Version in 1998. Leaving no cave unexplored, no bookshelf unread and no minor NPC’s personal affairs unmeddled with was the norm, the baseline under which I approached any new game purchase.
That same course of action is becoming harder to keep up with. I’ve spent that last few months puttering through two games, “The Witcher III” and “Grand Theft Auto V.” Both have received a great deal of critical acclaim and have dedicated player bases online that routinely sing the games’ praises. These accolades are well-deserved — both games boast an incredible amount of polish and have unique and compelling stories to tell.
Alongside each game’s high level of quality comes an absurd amount of content. Both “The Witcher III” and “Grand Theft Auto V” are huge, promising hundreds of hours of gameplay from start to finish, and even more if players choose to go tinkering about in the wilderness on various sidequests or other pursuits that don’t necessarily influence the main story of each game.
And it’s here that I get lost. Both games offer the player a great deal of control as to where they can go and what they can do next, but the degree of choice often feels overwhelming. It’s much like spending 30 minutes surfing through hundreds of movie options on Netflix and failing to find anything worth watching: There has to be something good you’ve passed a dozen times by now, but it’s lost amid the scrolling marquee. What would sound appealing on its own is suddenly dulled when placed alongside so many other options — think Tinder, but with wizardry or bank heists.
When once my eyes would have lit up at the idea of a 200-plus hour RPG adventure covering a vibrant landscape that evolves based on the choice my character makes, the completionist in me — and the realist — now winces at the thought.
These games take this branching approach to creating a lively world by making the choices your character makes actually matter, but as someone who just doesn’t have the time to overturn every stone anymore, every action I take seems to be competing with another potential missed opportunity that might alter the flow of the game.
I can’t advocate that future games reverse course and start delivering less. The open-world environments, like those found in “The Witcher III” and “Grand Theft Auto V,” are an advancing trend, popping up more often and in different genres. In the meantime, I’ll be dealing another deathblow to the gamer I once was and start playing things through on the easiest setting in an effort to actually get through the sprawl. I doubt I’ll ever have the time (or the willpower) to invest in games like I once did, but I’ll be damned if I don’t at least cheese my way to an ending.
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