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The “Forever Game” and why some games don’t end

(Image Credit: Microsoft)
(Image Credit: Microsoft)
Izaak
ANALYST
Modified 07 Jan 2021, 01:00 IST
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Every so often a development studio gets it in their head to create a game with infinite possibilities, something that can offer endless content for players to enjoy perpetually; a Forever Game.

These games usually come at the cost of lacking a well defined end point, as if the game expects the player to return for years on end. As a result, Forever Games are doomed to share the same fate, as players eventually get bored and move on to something new.

What is a Forever Game?

Forever Games aren’t just games that are replayable. Specifically, a Forever Game is one in which players can play, make tangible progress, find new experiences, and face new challenges all without ever actually reaching anything approximating an “end.” 

Multiplayer games that have “endless replayability” are not usually Forever Games; they owe their enjoyment to the multiplayer community and competitive spirit. In the same way that there is no end to football, there isn’t really an end to Call of Duty’s multiplayer.

Likewise, just because a game is very big, doesn’t mean that it’s a Forever Game. JRPGs that boast thousands of hours of gameplay may be too large for most players to fully complete, but they usually do have a satisfying narrative ending.

Forever Games are usually accomplished with some level of randomness or procedural content generation, as by their very nature, they rely on having a never-ending stream of stuff to do. A good example of this is Hello Games’ cultural touchstone game, No Man’s Sky. No Man’s Sky offers players a very loose goal, but completing that goal simply causes the game to start over.

What makes this a Forever Game is that the game doesn’t end and it doesn’t start players back from square one. There’s no real narrative reason why completing the given goal should mean an end to the game, and so players can continue exploring all over again.

Minecraft is another great example, especially for anyone who played before the implementation of The End. For a long time, Minecraft was a game that allowed players to create, build, destroy, fight, and even program rudimentary computers, all within the confines of the game.

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What should an ending look like?

For many, this is still the main allure of Minecraft. It’s a Forever Game built to be the ultimate sandbox. There will always be more to explore, build, and do in Minecraft in the same way that there are endless ways to assemble Lego bricks. Minecraft is perhaps the single best example of a game that does not need an ending.

But whether needed or not, every game will have an ending. There will always be a last time playing something, whether players know it or not, and developers should strongly consider what they want their game’s last moments to look like.

Some games will have the ability to control their endings better than others, but developers have to accept that their game will have an ending whether they like it or not. If they don’t want their ending to be that players simply forgot about the game, or gave up on it, or simply got bored and moved to something else, then perhaps it's time to get creative about how games end.

Published 07 Jan 2021, 01:00 IST
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