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.
Now 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?
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?
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.
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!