"Endgame Is The Real Game," Is A Bad Game

When I see players complaining that game X is boring, and they’re met with the response “Well, the game doesn’t begin until you reach the endgame,” I have to pour myself a drink. It’s one of those consensus statements I find baffling, in the same way I find “The Earth is only 2000 years old,” or “Transformer 4 is a good movie,” or “Twitter stock is going up” baffling. Let’s nail this position to the air and let it hang so we can get a good look: “The real game is the endgame.” Okay. Then what the hell comes before the real game?

A few months ago Final Fantasy XIV’s creative director Yoshi-P made one of the most brutally honest statements I’ve seen in the MMORPG industry. Essentially he said, “we understand that our early game is boring.” Thanks for the candidness. Yoshi-P’s statement encapsulates an industry standard, one admitted not just by a director but by vocal commentators. How is it that the director of one of the most popular MMORPGs around admits that his title’s introductory gameplay is boring?

Nobody actually sets out to make a boring game. Imagine this ridiculous scenario: lead designers telling their team that the levels one through 10 experience are too entertaining, “Make it more boring!” It doesn't happen. What has happened is that the idea of what an MMORPG has to be has become fixed thanks to a MMORPG cultural attitude.

The attitude is that tepid introductory content in an MMORPG is a requirement. It’s on an imagined checklist before the game is considered finished. Because an “MMORPG” isn't an MMORPG without slogging through the mire of brain dead NPC interaction quests. How else would we know what genre we’re playing? Right? Therefore, we should just ignore any early game criticisms because it's not the "real game."

"Endgame” is a cop-out. It plants a wall blocking judgment and to ignore the wall is treated as a cardinal sin, as a reason to stop listening to valid concerns about the early experience. “Well you have to put in 40 hours before you're allowed to have an opinion,” means “nothing before endgame ought to factor into your judgment of X.” That attitude nullifies criticisms, dismissing voices arbitrarily.

Imagine there’s an MMORPG with a perfect endgame, and that endgame is called E. It’s everything you wanted from an experience at max level, whatever that may be. Now let’s add to our imagination. In order to achieve E you have to play the early game content G, and G is the worst early game of any MMORPG, the apex of horrible aspects in MMORPGs you despise. Should you slug through G to get to E? Is the pain of G warranted by the ecstasy of E? Should we forgive G because of E?

No. Of course not. If you can’t stand G then you are well within your critical right to dismiss the game in its totality. Remember that saying your teachers, or mothers, or accountants, or whatever elder figure you have in your life, said? First impressions count. Each aspect of an MMORPG ought to strive to be an entertaining experience, because any moment that doesn’t engage will lose its audience. No matter how enjoyable E is, it does not compensate for G.

What I find funny about the concept “endgame” is that it inherently divides any MMORPG into two slices, two games, two halves—as if I removed my head from my body and treated each as its own person. That’s not how it works in reality. Each part is connected. Each one affects the rest, and leads to a judgment. In an MMORPG, if one of those parts is terrible it sours the rest of the game and I hold no one responsible if they choose not to play because they couldn’t get past quest filler.

The real game begins as soon as I log in. No later.

Dear developers, if your early game is filler then remove it or change it. Break away from convention. Dear commentators, “the endgame is [Not] the real game,” unless you’re playing a bad game.

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.