Spoilers Abound! End Games – Do Gamers Crave The Sure Thing?

In case you couldn’t tell from the headline, this post contains many spoilers about games and movies. Proceed with caution! But please have fun in the comments section: let’s talk about game vs movie endings! 

My husband and I love movies with a twist, and, as is to be excepted, we found Inception a great flick. We both enjoyed The Prestige more, and Momento is still one of my favorite movies EVAH, but that’s just us. Upon dissecting the movie over wings and nachos, my husband asked me if video games had the same type of ending as Inception. 

Please Can I Haz Games Like This?

Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Inception doesn’t really end. The big payoff .. isn’t. It would be like if a hero entered into the room with the final boss fight and then… nothing. That’s that. End of scene. No payoff. In fact, when you think about it, you just get more confused. The entire narrative is brought into question. Did the hero ever make it to the castle, or did something else happen?

The straight narrative that you have been following hasn’t been straight at all. Now you really don’t know the fate of our hero, not to mention the fate of the mission at hand. Everything is called into question. What exactly is going on? What WENT on?

The Wrestler ended with a big boss fight, that you don’t see. Does he die at the end? Does he reclaim his past glory? Dunno. No one does. The Prestige had a final ending, but again, one that made you question what went on the entire movie.   The Sixth Sense was one of the first big movies to have this type of switch up. M. Night Shyamalan’s followup The Village tried to capture lighting in a bottle for the second time, and while I liked it fine, the ending (everyone is actually living in modern times) I felt was projected too easily.  Momento, Vanilla Sky, Mulholland Drive, Pan’s Labyrinth are more movies where you weren’t really sure of the outcome or the narrative. And these are just the ones that I have seen: and I am not a moviephile.

Offhand, I don’t think we see these types of endings in games to the extent that we see them in movies. Offhand I have Bioshock and Killer 7.  Yes, we do see cliffhangers…  The End. OR IS IT!???  Excellent way to set up a sequel and all. We also have games where the good guy actually turns out to be the bad guy. But that is a straight double cross. That’s not anything close to finding out that Lenny actually set himself up to kill John G (see… I told you there would be spoilers). 

Why is this? Why aren’t there more games with unknown narratives and endings?

One reason why games have definite endings is to encourage replayability. One run through and the top spins forever, the other playthrough and your top falls over. One play through and you rescue the princess, another play through and you kill her. All definite endings, but different ones to explore.

Another reason could be that gamers couldn’t “handle” an uncertain ending after 12+ hours invested in the game. We need that payoff. I don’t buy this for a second. Gamers are smart adults, the same adults that are going to see Inception. We are not so small-minded that we cry if things are not how we imagined. Everyone loved Bioshock. But why aren’t there more?

Is it just easier to write and churn out Space Operas? Maybe we have something here. I have mentioned many, many great movies that are of this “major twist that makes you question the narrative” genre, but I could mention triple the number that are simple, but excellent, action films with a straight “good guy saves the day” narratives.

I have never claimed to be an end all and be all expert on games and gaming. I am a fan of gaming, just like you. So tell me: do I have this right? What games have a twist in the whole narrative a la Inception and The Sixth Sense? What have been your favourite twist endings in movies and games? Do you think that games would benefit from a less defined narrative?

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