If there’s one thing that not too many video games have, it’s a solid, well-thought out ending. In fact, many games just throw you up against the final boss, show the heroes riding off into the sunset (or helicoptering, if you’re Chris and Sheva) and ready to face another adventure in the oh-so-exciting and inevitable sequel. But is this the way it needs to be?
The dudes on the 1UP podcast had an interesting discussion about the idea of video game endings, recently. Namely, that most good stories are structured so that they have a denouement, or falling action that occurs after the climax. A sense of wrapping things up towards the conclusion. Video games, however, don’t do this at all. They build and build until a climactic boss battle, and then end within 5 minutes of the action. Very rarely do they offer any real resolution for the player, much less in a playable form.
This is interesting stuff. Check out what the 1UP guys say after the jump:
Garnett Lee: The exigency of making the game come together at the end and hitting the [development] milestones was what undermined building out the ultimate end of the game. They were working on the journey, they’re building all this stuff. And then they get toward the end and they’re like: “Oh shit, we’ve got to wrap this thing up. Let’s wrap it up, get it done and get it out…”
…If you followed a classic story progression, the end of the game wouldn’t be the climax. You’d have the climax prior to the end of the game and then you would have the rest of the run-out.
Christian Nutt: Ico had a denouement…
In a sense, this makes open world games where you can traverse the great sandbox after the game’s over a little more complete in terms of story. Fable II is an example of a game with a heavy period of player controlled falling action after the final boss battle. It was a very satisfying game to finish, precisely for the reasons raised in this discussion.
The interesting thing is that nearly all games end just after the climax, be it a huge title or a small one. Halo 3, Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy… each of these tried and true franchises are modeled the same way, and video games in general. Funny that nobody looks at changing this.
So what do you guys think? Do games climax too late with not enough falling action and resolution? What are some of your favorite video game endings and why?