Completionists might be shocked at this, but I have a hard time finishing really long video games.
This is especially true of open-world role-playing games, such as the Assassin’s Creed series. Although I count these as some of my favorite games ever for their ability to transport me into another world, where I can live another life… I find that after about 20 hours, my interest starts to wane.
When I first launch one of these long games, I feel a rush of excitement. Who will I be? What will I do? There’s an entire world sprawled out before me, just waiting to be discovered and explored. Yet as the hours tick by, monotony sometimes sets in. (Another group of bandits? This is getting old.) Or perhaps I lose interest in the story. (How many more hours in this game?) More often, I do want to know what happens next in the story, but I grow tired of all the filler in between. (Why do I have to do this boring side quest before I can talk to the count?) In games like Skyrim where you create your own adventure, I sometimes feel like I’ve already ticked off all the important stuff. (Favorite quest line completed? Check. Bought a house? Check. Leveled up in alchemy? Check. Got married? Check.) And sometimes I simply find myself another victim of Shiny Object Syndrome when another, newer game grabs my attention and lures me away.
It’s always sad to lose that initial rush, yet it inevitably happens. And I find it typically hits when I’m about 20 hours into a game. Such a strange coincidence. So I decided to look a little more closely at the games that I do finish — especially the long ones.
An example is Horizon Zero Dawn. A completionist I am not, so I did not conquer every single quest in the game… but I am proud to say that I finished the main storyline despite it taking dozens of hours. And I loved it!
So what motivated me to complete the game Horizon Zero Dawn, when I can’t seem to make it to the end of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or the main quest line of Skyrim? I believe part of it is the incredible storytelling, which made me eager to know what happened next. Yet Valhalla has incredible storytelling too. So what’s the difference?
That’s when I remember how quickly I completed Horizon Zero Dawn. My husband was playing the game too, and both of us were mildly obsessed for a few weeks. I can’t recall exactly how long it took me to finish the game, but I know I finished much sooner than my husband, who did absolutely everything in the game to get the Platinum Trophy. Another long game I finished in just two or three weeks was Cyberpunk 2077. I look back at Christmastime 2020 and early January of 2021, and my memories include long gaming sessions on the couch, my husband playing at the same time over at his desk. We loved Cyberpunk, and it added to the color of the holiday season that year.
This made me wonder: Could that initial rush of excitement be sustainable if a game is played very quickly — for example, in a couple of weeks versus a couple of months?
Hear me out. Maybe it’s not that a game is exciting for me for a set number of hours. Maybe it’s a length of time, such as three weeks. If I can finish the game during those three obsessive weeks, then I’m golden. But if I get distracted by other things — like, say, real life — then after about three weeks, my attention fades and I may not complete the game.
An alternative theory is that maybe it has more to do with how obsessively I play the game. For example, if I’m devoting 15 or 20 hours a week to Cyberpunk 2077, then I naturally must be really into the game. I’m going through a phase with it — a fun phase. But if I decrease my hours to eight a week, and then three a week… naturally I am going to lose that obsessive love of the game as it takes up less and less of my headspace, until perhaps I forget about it entirely.
This would explain why it’s easier for me to play longer games during vacations. When I have time off work — or when I’m not actively working — I have more time to devote to video games, and so my obsession spirals. (And please note, I use “obsession” as a positive term there, such as when you are so into a book that you can’t put it down.)
This could also explain why I have played some games obsessively for much longer than, say, three weeks or 20 hours. An example is Destiny, which my husband and I played together for a block of a few months, dumping more than 200 hours into the game. Perhaps the reason we were able to stick with it for so long was that we were just so into it, we were playing for hours and hours every week. It took up a lot of our headspace at the time, in a good way.
These are just some of the thoughts I’ve had around playing long games lately. I’m sure part of why it’s difficult for me to finish some games is simply that real life seems to get in the way. Part of being an adult is splitting your time between fun and responsibilities, and that often means a little less time to game. C’est la vie.
Do you have trouble finishing long video games — or are you a completionist? What motivates you to finish a video game?