What’s My Motivation? – Finishing Games at Less than 100%

This week has been a busy one at the Adventure Rules household. As some of you may know, I recently moved up in the agency where I worked and secured myself a sweet new job. One of the perks of my career shift is that my wife and I have the opportunity to move to a smaller city – the disadvantage is that this city is an hour away from where we live now. While the nature of my current position allows me to sometimes work out of my local office instead of traveling to my new one, sometimes I do have to work out of town and those days end up being long work days. Additionally, since my wife and I are househunting there we have to travel in the evenings after I get off of work if we want to check out a place to potentially apply to live there.

All of that, combined with the fact that we spent many hours at the dentist’s office for a wisdom tooth extraction that never happened, made my schedule crazy busy this week. I typically get home at 4:30 in the afternoon – this week I never made it home before 8 PM. Throw your typical week-to-week chores on top of all this stuff and I barely had any time to play games this week, really only getting in maybe an hour and a half one evening. Luckily, that 90 minutes was just enough to finish up Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, a game which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit and was very happy to complete.
Mario + Rabbids EndingNow if you haven’t played Mario + Rabbids yourself and are unfamiliar with the structure, let’s talk a bit about how this game works. The game is divided into worlds; you enter a world, fight battles, and solve puzzles in between those battles to progress. Midway through the world’s chapters (constructed in the classic Mario World X-X fashion) you fight a midboss, and at the end you fight a boss. When a boss is defeated, you can progress to the next world and also unlock challenges in your current world. The challenges are harder matches to overcome with more unique goals, but completing them earns you money and Power Orbs (which you spend on upgrades). Doing all the challenges in a completed world before heading to the next one is a key piece of keeping up with the game’s difficulty curve.

Here’s the thing, though. You don’t unlock the challenges for the last world until after you beat the boss of that world, AKA the final boss. So even after you’ve beaten the game, you’ve only completed just shy of 70% of the game’s challenges. That means there’s more backtracking, more opportunities to earn coins and Power Orbs, but what are you building up towards? Sure, beating the game unlocks four Ultimate Challenges that earn you special weapons (on top of more money and orbs), but why do I want money, orbs, and weapons when the game’s story is resolved?

Mario + Rabbids is not the only game where I have felt this sensation. Breath of the Wild is definitely guilty of this same problem. A couple months back, they unveiled the Master Trials DLC which allows you to get the Master Sword upgraded to a state where it is constantly at full power. Which is a cool concept for making Link more powerful, but there’s nowhere to apply these bonuses to your weapon. Completing all of the game’s shrines gets you the “best armor” and allows you to max out your heart containers, but there’s no real motivation to do that when the final boss is easy enough to take down without those tools and there’s nothing beyond Calamity Ganon to keep you engaged in the game. Why bother undergoing difficult trials to upgrade my weapon and painstakingly gathering materials to max out my armor when lesser versions of those tools already make me more powerful than any of the game’s enemies?

Breath of the Wild Trial of the Sword
Getting psyched to torture myself for no reason!

I guess what I am ultimately saying in my classical long-winded manner is that I am not a completionist. I have no desire to push myself to complete 100% of a game, because often at least a few of those percentage points have no reward mechanism beyond “good job, you did ALL the things!” I could complete the challenges in Mario + Rabbids if I wanted to, but it would be time-consuming, potentially frustrating depending on how difficult they are, and I’d just be farming for resources that are no longer valuable because I no longer have “progress” to make in the game.

“But Ian,” you might say, “the challenges are just a fun way to push yourself! The joy of overcoming them IS the reward!”

See, that’s the weird thing. I totally get that feeling and the thrill of completing a challenge has frequently motivated me to complete challenge runs of different video games. Nuzlockes in Pokemon, single gender runs in Fire Emblem, the hard mode in various Zelda games like A Link Between Worlds and Ocarina of Time; making a game more difficult for myself is certainly something that has motivated me to complete games in the past. So why is it that challenge isn’t a motivator for me now?

Mario + Rabbids Final Boss
It’s unusual for me to balk in the face of danger!

I honestly think it boils down to time. When I think of the times I have completed challenge runs of games, they were times in my life where I had plenty of freedom and no new games to enjoy. I did challenge runs of Fire Emblem when it was the only GBA game I had with me on a vacation where I was mostly indoors. Nuzlockes kept me occupied during the summers between years of college when I wasn’t throwing barbecue in the smoker at my restaurant job. I completed A Link Between Worlds on hard mode when I was waiting to hear back from job applications during a period of unemployment. Challenge modes are a great way to re-experience a game you’ve already played, to make it new again when you don’t actually have a new game to enjoy.

These days, my circumstances are a lot different. I typically only get a couple of hours a night free from adult responsibilities, and those hours are shared between multiple hobbies AND trying to spend time with my wife without our son involved. Mario + Rabbids is only a bit more than 30 hours to complete but it still took me the majority of September to finish. And I still have a half-completed playthrough of inFamous 2 to finish up, and Dishonored 2 has been collecting dust on my shelf while waiting on me to finish all these other projects. The thing stopping me from feeling motivated to complete the challenges in Mario + Rabbids is a lack of availability. I was driven only to the most basic level of completion so that I can move on to the other new games that I want to complete.

Maybe sometime when I get the time to do it, I’ll revisit some of these games and tie up the loose ends. Overcoming the Master Trials in Breath of the Wild and, beyond that, the more difficult Master Mode, would certainly be a cool accomplishment. I’d be interested to see how powerful the new weapons are in Mario + Rabbids and I’m excited to see how the Ultimate Challenges will test my wits and skill. But right now, I want to take advantage of my opportunities to game and spend time on the games I haven’t even gotten to finish yet. I want to see the end of Delsin Rowe’s journey, and to FINALLY play through the adventures of Emily Kaldwin. While it would feel amazing to finish games at 100%, what motivates me to keep gaming is the opportunity to experience MORE games. In the pursuit of that, total completion has to take a backseat.

Breath of the Wild World Map
In this case, total completion will NEVER be on the table. Who wants to hunt 900 Korok seeds?

So what are your thoughts, adventurers? Do you push yourself to complete 100% of a game or undergo more difficult challenges? Or is your time too limited and your backlog too large to finish more than the main story in a video game? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

13 thoughts on “What’s My Motivation? – Finishing Games at Less than 100%

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  1. I feel your pain having to house hunt an hour away from where you live after work. My wife and I did this last year looking for a house. We didn’t move for work but simply because prices were better, but it was tiring.

    As for 100% completion, it depends on the game. I find alot of games have collectibles that as you say, just say good job when achieved are pointless and I don’t care for those. But there are games like Witcher and Mass Effect where 100% completion means getting to learn so much about the world, characters and see some real cool interactions told through some awesome quests. Those I have a hard time NOT doing.

    But on BOTW, I do agree, I beat the game fairly easily before master mode came out and also don’t see the need to get everything. But because of its portable nature and the fact that BOTW is such an awesome game, I’ll play it in small spurts every now and then and maybe say in 4 years time, work towards 100% completion, but it’s in no way a priority and I’ll still be playing my unfinished Metroid Samus returns and Mario Rabbids over doing that.

    I’m also really loving Mario Rabbids. I’m still on world one but I’m leveling up my crew to the point where I’m getting cool abilities like being able to jump stomp multiple enemies as Mario, or heal as rabbid peach. I also can get over the visuals and anmations, it looks so darn good. The challenge is also very welcome, those big old thrasher guys from world 1 really make me think hard about my character placement during battle and how to avoid taking tons of damage. I will treat this game like BOTW once I’m done and do things like perfect each stage and challenges for shear fun, but in way make it a priority over new games.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man, learning strategies for the different enemy types and figuring out what moves to specialize in for each character is a huge chunk of the fun. I’m glad you’re enjoying the game so far!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Can relate to this post completely – the real world makes beating games 100% an impossibility.

    I’ve never been into 100% completion anyway – to me, the goal is to beat the story. Once I see the ending of a game I lose interest. The one exception was GTA V and that’s because I loved that game…

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  3. I think the big thing is how much I like the game. My very favorite experiences, I will take any chance to return to. Where others, when I’m done the story, I usually fade off. That was what happened with Mario + Rabbids. As much as I liked it, post-final boss I tried to go back for all the stuff I missed, but just lost interest. As I have gotten older I have definitely done a lot less 100%-ing than I used to. Like you said, I just have less time to game. So I tend to prefer spending that time on new experiences.

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    1. For sure! When you’ve got less time to game and more games to play, it’s less compelling to repeat an experience you’ve already had. Unless, as you said, it’s one of your all-time favorites. I definitely have a couple of games that I probably replay once a year!

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  4. Good luck with house-hunting. Finding a new place and moving is a full time job in and of itself!

    I agree with your thoughts on completing games. I’m not sure I ever 100% a newer game. I mean, even older games I suppose I 100% them because I finished them? You’re right that it comes down to time. I have less time now than when I was in school, and that time is split between responsibilities, a social life, and different hobbies. I think if you play a game to the point you are satisfied with the experience, that’s all that really matters. I pretty much skipped over an entire planet in Mass Effect: Andromeda and… it was fine. I still managed to save the galaxy and have a satisfying story experience.

    I don’t replay games as much anymore, either. I have a few that I still pull out and play, regardless of what else I might be playing. Interestingly, blogging has changed my playing habits quite a bit… Now I’ll have to think about that…

    And now I’ve gone off on a tangent. No, I don’t sweat it if I don’t 100% a game, and I pretty much play as much of the game as I want in regards to sidequests and things of that nature, to answer your original questions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that blogging has certainly changed my gaming practices a bit. I think for me it has more to do with the time – it takes me a couple hours to write a typical post and I write three a week, so that’s a pretty decent chunk of time I could be finishing games. It contributes to me working through them slower.

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  5. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say time is the primary deciding factor, along with having more variety now as an adult that can fund their own gaming hobby. I used to be the same way growing up, where I’d only get 3 or 4 games per year. I had no problem spending the entire summer maxing out character levels in Final Fantasy Tactics, but now that I have a plethora of games in my backlog I can’t be bothered to 100% anything. Sometimes trophies on PS4 or achievements on Xbox trigger that long lost desire to challenge myself or partake in time-sink activities, but it’s highly unlikely now.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Mario + Rabbids. I liked what I played, but ultimately fell off about 6 hours in. Exploration was ultimately unrewarding (yay, concept art) and constant flow of 5-15 minute battles wore on me after a bit. Without a narrative carrot dangling, leading me along, I ended up just needing more than Nintendo character cameos and a fun battle system.

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    1. I definitely get that, and the game is not for everybody. I typically am the sort of player who needs a strong narrative to compel me to finish, but tactical RPGs are my favorite genre and figuring out the best approach for each map was plenty to keep me engaged throughout the main “story.” Which is why it’s weird that I don’t want to finish the other challenges, but it just seems needless when the reward for completing the challenges is something that no longer has value since the game is over.

      I just recently picked up Final Fantasy Tactics to try it out and the time problem is exactly why I haven’t progressed very far in it. When given the option between a deep tactical RPG where I really needed to grind and the fully-fleshed story progressed slowly, and a simpler game where I could finish the game in a much shorter amount of time, I ended up taking the path of least resistance.

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      1. I totally understand. I felt the same about FFXV and failing to understand why I’d want to spend time in post-game dungeons for overpowered weapons when I’d already finished the story (and NONE of the DLC takes place after the game).

        I tend to juggle one meaty game with shorter palate cleanser in the background. Right now I’m working through Yakuza 0 (~45-ish hours long) but I’ve been taking breaks to muscle out shorter 4-8 hour games from the backlog. The sense of accomplishment feels great and I’m reinvigorated to go another 5 or 6 with the longer game. That doesn’t always work with story-heavy games, but it’s proven to be a wise decision for grindy stuff.

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  6. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt about gaming since having more responsibilities combined with more games to play is that it’s OK to stop playing a game when it’s no longer fun. At the end of the day or should be entertainment rather than a chore, so if you enjoy going for that 100% then cool, bit if not then that’s equally as cool…

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  7. I rarely complete games at 100%. It depends on the game, and how deep it gets its hooks in me, but generally I won’t do tedious activities (other than level grinding in a JRPG), I’ll give everything a shot but if it fails to capture me then I’m out. I have too many games in my backlog and game releases aren’t stopping any time soon so it just keeps growing. Add in work, family, other activities, and I just don’t have the time to 100% things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure. There’s something about level grinding in a JRPG that makes it “not as bad,” somehow. I think maybe it’s the fact that you can typically do that and do something else. I’ll often grind while watching a tv series I want to catch up on or something, so I at least feel like I’m multitasking!

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