The Controversy of Open-Ended Endings in Video Games

Logan Anderson

Updated Thursday, February 22, 2024 at 11:30 PM CDT

The Controversy of Open-Ended Endings in Video Games

Frustration with Incomplete Stories

Open-ended endings in video games can be a source of frustration for players who prefer a closed deal and a finished story. These endings can feel like lazy storytelling, especially considering that players have paid for a complete game. Requiring players to pay for the next unreleased game can further exacerbate this frustration, making open-ended endings feel like a money-grabbing tactic. The uncertainty of when or if the next game will be released can also add to the frustration, as players expect a complete experience when investing their time and money into a game.

The Impact of Incomplete Stories

One notable example of an open-ended ending that disappointed players is Half-Life 2. The game ended on a cliffhanger, leaving the story incomplete and leaving players wanting a proper conclusion. This lack of closure can leave players feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.

However, it's important to note that open-ended endings can be done right. The Last of Us, for instance, had an ambiguous ending that sparked extensive discussion and debate among players. Despite the open-ended nature of the ending, the character arcs in The Last of Us were complete, giving the story a sense of closure. This balance between an open-ended conclusion and satisfying character resolutions showcases how open-ended endings can be successful.

Open-Ended Endings Across Different Mediums

Open-ended endings are not exclusive to video games. In fact, they are quite common in books, films, and TV shows. These endings allow the audience to interpret the story and its meaning in their own way, fostering engagement and discussion. The ongoing debates about Joel's actions in The Last of Us are a testament to the power of open-ended storytelling.

However, not all open-ended endings are well-received. Lost: Via Domus, a game based on the TV show Lost, had an ending that involved time travel and left the player back where they started, with a mistake corrected but never addressed again. This lack of resolution left players feeling unsatisfied and questioning the purpose of the game's narrative.

The Artistic Choice of Open-Ended Endings

Open-ended endings can be a deliberate artistic choice. They allow creators to leave room for interpretation and personal reflection, inviting players to think about the story's meaning and speculate on what happens next. This freedom and ambiguity can provide a more thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating experience for some players.

Furthermore, open-ended endings can leave a lasting impact on players. Even after finishing the game, players continue to think about the story and its implications, adding to the overall enjoyment and engagement with the game.

The Polarizing Nature of Open-Ended Endings

Ultimately, the success of open-ended endings depends on how they are handled and followed up. Some games manage to satisfy players despite the lack of a definitive conclusion, while others leave players feeling unsatisfied. Open-ended endings can be polarizing, with some players loving the freedom and ambiguity they provide, while others prefer a more conclusive and satisfying resolution.

open-ended endings in video games can be a double-edged sword. While they can frustrate players who prefer a closed deal and a finished story, they also have the potential to spark engagement, discussion, and intellectual stimulation. The success of open-ended endings lies in finding the right balance between ambiguity and satisfying character resolutions, leaving players with a lasting impact and a desire for more.

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