We are all familiar with the frustration following the end of a film, a book or a video game with a unsatisfactory ending. However, unlike any other media video games allow their audience some interactivity giving the manufacturers the possibility of creating multiple endings to a single storyline. As the games with multiple endings enjoy more and more popularity, some unarguably bad eggs are created as a by-product, and instead of having just one atrocious ending, the gamers are being offered a dozen.
As much as the story is concerned, there must be a valid reason for having multiple endings in the first place. Creating an alternate ending for the purpose of increasing the replay value is unpardonable as the result often proves out to be implausible. In Beyond: Two Souls (2013) the player will be able to select the future for the main character. The character can either choose to live with a love interest or with a woman, whose baby she once helped to deliver. The relationship between the family of the latter and the character was barely but established making it a very unlikely pick for the player. So why create it?
Unfortunately, games featuring multiple endings have grown into a trend. With a couple of additional endings the game companies are able to trick the audience into believing that the game has more to offer. On the other hand, there are the Pewdiepies and critics whose opinions are often sought when people are considering a €70 investment on a leisure item, but then there is the risk of spoiling the plot for oneself. Ultimately, the players will have no other option but to trust the product.
Usually the ending is determined by the decisions the player makes throughout the game. In most cases the player can select between alternatives, but sometimes there may be a hidden alternative that has to be discovered first, like in Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) where the third ending is unlocked by helping a secondary character.
When the player is being presented with these alternatives, there is always the danger the consequences of choosing a specific alternative might become obvious to the player. Consequently, the player might develop a clear conception of the ending he could be receiving; in a sense, the player will then be in control of the whole game when he should only be in charge of the character. Thus the game will not only lose its element of surprise, but the player will lose the special bond he is supposed to have established with the played character; as the illusion shatters, the character’s destiny will turn meaningless and he is reduced to a mere spawn.
In numerous games the player’s decisions only affect the ending and not the gameplay itself. It can be incredibly frustrating for the player to realize that in order to receive all the endings available he must accomplish the same tasks. Some developers try to dodge this issue by moving the crucial decision, like in the case of Beyond: Two Souls, at the very end of the game enabling the gamer to simply play the alternate ending from his last save. This naturally saves some trouble, but the game will possess little or no replay value providing a cheap solution at the expense of the player.
One of the other cardinal sins of game developing is creating an alternative ending which is too short to be awarding for the player. After several hours of replay the player expects a reward. The last thing he wishes to see is a badly executed, brief scene which explains more than it shows. Even if the ending scenes of Bioshock (2007) weren’t exactly foreseeable, their duration was less than a minute long making many of the gamers weep over the wasted hours.
In conclusion, poorly executed multiple endings are taking over the game industry on the excuse of marketability. When the endings are too obvious, brief or plain incredible we claim that the whole gaming experience has been ruined for us. Nevertheless we are only exaggerating. When thinking about it, it was not the plot that kept us playing the game in the first place but the escapism provided by the imaginative world or the life-like characters it introduced us to. Despite the plot having been blown up with the ending, the video game, book or film may still lure us back to our seats to be replayed or reread again and again.
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