Why So Many Lame Game Endings?

Posted on June 20, 2007

A post on Destructoid discusses why it is so difficult to create an entertaining game ending. Gaming Today explains that many game endings fail because gamers expectations are high and the "boss battle/epilogue ending" is a little stale.
A good ending should be "narratively satisfying" and should evolve from the actions of the player. In other words there should be some kind of conclusion to the story and the player should feel like their character actually had something to do with reaching that conclusion. However the storyteller has to be careful how he presents the ending of the game.

Why do so many video game endings suck? Gamers want big spectacular games that are fun to play. Video games usually end with some kind of dramatic shoot out, spectacular escape, or the ultimate boss battle followed by a quick bit of story and some dialog to wrap up. Although the boss battle/epilogue ending gets boring fast the alternative isn't a winning move either. Unhappy endings are rarely appreciated. Adding drama to the climax by, say... killing the character off or punishing him in some way is sure to piss the player off. It also takes the character out of the player's control which has a similar effect. Also when a player is confronted with an unhappy ending they tend to dismiss it as being unreal. They'll wonder what they could have done differently and often try to go back to fix their screwups.
Gaming Today also says many endings are written with the purpose of allowing for a sequel. The Destructoid article also says the sequel may be the reason for gaming ending mediocrity: "the state of the gaming industry necessitates that a game have the ability to spawn numerous sequels and ripoffs, meaning that a game must have a certain type of ending, which limits the dramatic and thematic payoff of a great ending." Unfortunately, gamers have to deal with the fact that not every conclusion is going to be satisfied. However, that doesn't mean we can't be hopeful for a game that is perfect from start to finish.