In an article for CNN in August 2011, development consultant Keith Fuller said: “What I’ve been told as a blanket expectation is that 90% of players who start your game will never see the end of it unless they watch a clip on YouTube.” This was backed up by Raptr’s Vice President of Marketing John Lee: “Just ten years ago, I recall some standard that only 20% of gamers ever finish a game.”
In his post, author Blake Snow cites several reasons for these statistics. The average age of the most frequent game buyer is 41 – a person who is usually in the middle of raising kids and a career – so they have limited available time to play. They want stop-and-go-titles in bite-size titles rather than lengthy RPGs which take longer to start and resume, and are therefore turning to multiplayers over single-player games.
Although I don’t entirely agree with Snow on that last point, I can see where he’s coming from: the older we get, the more responsibilities we have and the harder it is to find a spare hour or two to play. But there are other, less direct reasons for not completing a video game; and there’s one series that I myself just can’t bring myself to finish despite several attempts over the years.
It’s here that I have must thank Colin from Puggy Gaming for being the inspiration for this post. After a kind nomination for a Unique Blogger Award last month, he asked his nominees: have you ever had your photograph taken with anyone famous? Well opposite you can see mine. This was snapped after I had the pleasure of chatting to Ragnar Tørnquist and Martin Bruusgaard from Red Thread Games at Rezzed in June 2013.
They were there to present a developer session on the progress of Dreamfall Chapters. I’d loved The Longest Journey since playing it in 2006 shortly after the release of follow-up Dreamfall: The Longest Journey; and while I disliked the control scheme and ‘forced’ action scenes added to the sequel, their story had sealed their place in my heart. As soon as the Kickstarter campaign for the third instalment was launched, I headed straight over to become a backer.
It may have been The Secret of Monkey Island that started my love-affair with video games as a nine-year old but it was The Longest Journey series that showed me what games could really achieve. It told the epic tale of restoring the Balance between parallel universes of magical Arcadia and industrial Stark, through characters who were inspiring and fought for what they believed in.
To this day, no other series has captured my imagination in the same way and I feel the releases are some of the finest examples of storytelling in video games. Rather than share an individual story in each episode, everything is connected in ways which aren’t at first obvious: separate elements that appear unconnected are eventually weaved together in a way where it slowly dawns on you how significant they actually were.
Zoë Castillo was different from a lot of the other female characters around at the time and provided a protagonist to look up to. She didn’t just accept what was happening or wait for a hero to come to the rescue – she became the hero by questioning the unbelievable events going on around her and then realising it was only right to do something about them. (Plus she had really cool hair.)
But I can’t tell you how Zoë’s story ends. I don’t know if she’s still alive and happy, and if she managed to achieve all she set out to do. I’m unsure of what happened to shifter April Ryan, assassin Kian Alvane and sidekick Crow. And I can’t say if they managed to restore the Balance between the two worlds and what the fate of Arcadia and Stark ultimately was.
You see, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish Dreamfall Chapters. My Steam profile shows I’ve played over 23 hours but still haven’t completed it. It’s nothing to do with any of Snow’s reasons such as not having enough time to do so or being more interested in multiplayer titles; the explanation sounds almost silly now that I’m putting it into words. It’s because once I complete the final instalment of the series, it will all be over.
That will be the end of The Longest Journey story. This feeling is something Ian from Adventure Rules picked up on in a post in January: “There’s a want perhaps to move on to a new game. Maybe there’s even a specific title you’re looking forward to. But until that next game comes along, you’re too attached to the previous and have a hard time moving on. Every game you try to revisit before the next new thing comes out feels hollow…”
Red Thread Games had planned to make a direct sequel to The Longest Journey if their Kickstarter campaign hit $2 million, sharing what happened to April during the 10-year gap unaccounted for in Dreamfall. Sadly this stretch goal wasn’t reached and the future of The Longest Journey Home is uncertain, with Tørnquist writing in a forum post in June 2016: “It’s satisfying but heartbreaking, and part of me would love to jump right into [the game] to tell a personal and soulful story about a character I care deeply about… but for many, many reasons I don’t think it will happen.”
@ponchippoi Play Book Five first! The Longest Journey Home will probably never happen. At least not for a long, long time.—
Ragnar Tørnquist (@ragso) June 09, 2016
I know it’s weird. But the longer it takes me to complete Dreamfall Chapters, the longer the series will last and the nearer we could possibly be to a new title. Perhaps one day I’ll accept that it’s over and finally sit down to finish the game… but until then, I’ll cling on to the hope that the story will always go on.