How much of a game should you play before you’re "done?"

Dirty secret: I can count the number of games I’ve actually finished on one hand. Okay, I might need a toe or two, but still. This is for a lot of reasons. One, a lot of the games I put serious hours into (sports games, I’m looking at you) are fairly open-ended. Two, who is a game developer to tell you when you’re done with a game? To me, playing a game is like eating a pizza. You don’t need to eat an entire pizza to have enjoyed a pizza. It’s a similar question that Tim Parks of New York Review of Books tackles with his essay, “Why Finish Books?”

But what about those good books? Do we need to finish them? Is a good book by definition one that we did finish? Or are there occasions when we might choose to leave off a book before the end, or even only half way through, and nevertheless feel that it was good, even excellent, that we were glad we read what we read, but don’t feel the need to finish it? I ask the question because this is happening to me more and more often. Is it age, wisdom, senility? I start a book. I’m enjoying it thoroughly, and then the moment comes when I just know I’ve had enough. It’s not that I’ve stopped enjoying it. I’m not bored, I don’t even think it’s too long. I just have no desire to go on enjoying it. Can I say then that I’ve read it? Can I recommend it to others and speak of it as a fine book?

Kafka remarked that beyond a certain point a writer might decide to finish his or her novel at any moment, with any sentence; it really was an arbitrary question, like where to cut a piece of string, and in fact both The Castle and America are left unfinished, while The Trial is tidied away with the indecent haste of someone who has decided enough is enough. The Italian novelist Carlo Emilio Gadda was the same; both his major works, That Awful Mess on Via Merulana and Acquainted with Grief, are unfinished and both are considered classics despite the fact that they have complex plots that would seem to require endings which are not there.

This becomes even more cogent when you consider more story-based games like, oh, Mass Effect 3, where (no spoilers) a lot of people have felt really ambivalent about the game’s ending(s). So what if you’d put the game down before you could have been disappointed? The point of making a game might be to provide an ending for the player, but the point of playing a game might just be to eat a few slices of metaphorical pizza.

[via NY Review of Books]