Are you a perfectionist? And if so, does this affect how you play video games in any way? I’d certainly class myself as one because I have a fondness for getting things ‘just right’. I’ve been thinking about these questions since a brief conversation with cary from Recollections of Play in the comments on a post recently.
This article was one where I’d asked readers whether they immediately replay releases once they’ve finished them to make different choices or see alternative endings. This isn’t something I usually do myself. I might reload the last save point if it’s right near the end and won’t take too much time or effort to get to the other outcomes; but it doesn’t feel right to use the few spare hours I have to restart a story from the beginning when there are so many games waiting to be played in my library.
Those two sides of my personality – being a perfectionist and not wanting to replay titles – don’t always exist side by side happily. They have a tendency to fight against each other and create a certain amount of pressure when it comes to gaming. There’s always that niggling fear of failure in the back of my head, along with the constant feeling that I’ve got to make it to the ‘best’ ending in a single play-through; and I’ve noticed this can impact the way I experience a title if I allow it to do so.
For example, when you’re presented with a choice within a game, how do you approach making your decision? The most reasonable methods are to either consider what the character you’re playing as would be most likely to do, or think about what decision you’d make if you found yourself in a similar situation in real life. My natural reaction however is very analytical: I think about the possible outcomes of each available option and then select the one that’s most likely to lead to the best ending.
Do I consider that fun? As sad as it sounds, the majority of time the answer is yes. Being that logical fits well with my nature and I can find comfort in it after a day at work. However, that’s not always the case and sometimes the pressure described above can be quite draining. After a long commute home and with limited time in the evenings, the temptation to resort to a walkthrough in order to achieve the good conclusion to a title is ever present and this does nothing except ultimately spoil what could be a great title.
Many gamers perceive both the ability to make decisions that matter and multiple endings as important factors in making a good video game. They want their choices to affect the story in a meaningful way so the outcome they reach just before the end credits is unique to their path through a title. I can understand that: such mechanics can help create a much more personal experience, and help a player to see themselves as the protagonist rather than watching their journey from afar.
But for a perfectionist, there’s something positive to be said for linear narratives. Knowing your decisions won’t have any unintended negative effects because you’re ultimately going to arrive at the same end point as everyone else can be liberating. The pressure to reach the best possible conclusion is removed; all you need to do it sit back, drive the narrative forward through gameplay at your own pace, and experience the plot as the developer wanted to tell it.
I do worry that I’m missing out though. Some stories were made for linear paths while others need to take on a more fluid form in order to be told effectively, and trying to force them to fit into a best-ending track could mean they lose the essence that makes them special. It means that sometimes I have jump into an open-ended game while trying my hardest to push those perfectionist thoughts to one side, and pick whatever decision most appeals at the time without over-analysing it. But it doesn’t come naturally.
I’d be interested to hear from gamers who don’t consider themselves perfectionists. Do you still feel the effect of perfect-ending-pressure and if so, how do you deal with it? And if you are perfectionist: do you dig out the walkthroughs too?
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.