Editorial: The Perils of Being a Completionist

Persona 3 Protagonist Evoker Art
The same feeling that I get when I realize that I missed something in a game.

I am a completionist. I am not the type of obsessive-compulsive completionist that has a nervous breakdown knowing that I will need to capture over seven hundred Pokémon if I am to become a master of Pokémon X/Y, but I do get quite a bit of enjoyment knowing that I have seen all a game has to offer. The same enjoyment that I get from completely beating a game also can cause me a fair amount of stress during the journey to my goal. Missable items, branching paths, and multiple endings all lend to the headache that is attaining one hundred percent in a game.

The first game that brought out this trait in me was Donkey Kong Country. From the moment I saw the percentage sign next to my save game, I knew I wanted to hit one hundred. Due to my desire to get everything, Donkey Kong Country became the first of many games that I bought a strategy guide for. Since I did not turn ten until 1997, I had ample time to plow through many Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games in my preferred manner. Soon, the rest of the Donkey Kong Country series was under my belt, along with Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, and Banjo-Kazooie, to name a few. With the help of my strategy guides, there was not one game that could best me in my quest for one hundred percent.

September 30, 1998 marked my introduction to the Pokémon series, and was also the first game that threatened to put a dent in my completionist armor. Pokémon proved to be quite the beast, but part of the beauty of being an eleven-year-old is that I was not expected to do much more than homework and a few chores, and once those minor obstacles were out of the way, I was back on my way to capturing more of the monsters. After a mere one hundred twenty hours, a few trades with my brother, and some skipped homework assignments, I had finally caught my last monster, Dragonite. Pokémon was the first game that took triple-digit hours for me to complete, but it also prepared me for future RPGs.

As I began to delve deeper into the RPG genre, I found myself having to deal with the dreaded “missable item”. These items caused quite a few restarts in my pursuit of perfection of some classic games. While some “missables” were ridiculous to obtain, like grinding Limit Breaks with a useless character just to get her last one, only for her to be killed minutes later by Sephiroth (Thanks, Obama), others did not require much effort to obtain, but missing them would stick in the back of my mind. Once again, thanks to my youth, I had the me the flexibility to restart a game just to make sure I got my hands on that pesky item the second time.

Final Fantasy XII Battle Screenshot
Final Fantasy has always had lots of side quests, but XII went to the extreme.

Unfortunately, the sixth generation was extremely unkind to me. While the first couple of years were fine, I turned sixteen in 2003, and had to get a job. Soon, my shelves were stocked with new video games, just begging to be played, but the time constraints of school and work meant they would be untouched for weeks, sometimes months. This was also around the time that developers begun packing in extra content like mad. Games like Final Fantasy XII and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas offered hours of extra content to keep me busy. This was all in addition to my addiction to the Pokémon series, although I have never attempted to catch all the monsters since Pokémon Red. This was the generation that I begun to learn that a perfect playthrough is not always good for my sanity.

Needless to say, I still love it when I have time to complete a game, but it is rare when the opportunity presents itself. Now, games are stuffed with more content than ever, sometimes to the point where even experiencing half the content is a feat. Skyrim is a perfect example of this and I expect Grand Theft Auto V will be a similar beast. Two other commonly found things games today have also helped change my mindset, glitches and lengthy opening sequences. I have written about both of these items in the past, and they both have contributed to the abandoning of my former mentality. Glitches are the reason I stopped playing Saints Row 4 after only seven hours, completing a story quest four times only to have it negated by a glitch each time is infuriating.

The idea for this article came to me as I was restarting Persona 3 Portable for a third time due to a missed social link trigger. Knowing that the game is a hundred-hour affair, erasing three hours of progress seemed like a small sacrifice to me. The road of a completionist is not easy and I do not strive for it like I used to, but it is still quite rewarding for me to know that I have completed a game to the fullest extent. Have you ever restarted a game because you missed a single item? Do you prefer to blaze through a game’s story or do you play in a similar manner to me?

6 comments

  1. My gaming habits, back when I had ample time to play and replay games, used to go something like this:

    Play the game blind and beat it.
    Play it with a guide to get every dang thing I missed or didn’t know how to get with reasonable effort.
    Play the game AGAIN with a cheat code device to see how fast I could blow through the game.

    Granted I only did this with games I REALLY liked, but I suppose a small bit of me was a completionist, despite openly relying on a guide to get 100%. Today, however, I only ever beat a game once if at all. If a game proves too unpolished or, as Gyme mentions above, just too long for its own good then I will move on. I have other things to play, and even so I still miss out on some good games I know I just won’t have time for now.

  2. Oh, this brought back memories. The joys of being a parent to a gamer.

  3. I’m also a completionist and have wasted ridiculous amounts of time doing menial chores in games just to have a perfect file. Looking at my some of my old save files, like Breath of Fire 3 or FF7, makes me wonder how the hell did I have the time/sanity to do this. It takes around 200 hours to fully master FFX and I did that twice. It still feels nice to look over your old files with everything on them which is why you must always back up those files. After one of my PS2 memory cards acted up on me I lost my perfect files for the complete Xenosage trilogy, Suikoden IV and the complete PS2 saga of .hack games. Back up those files kids, nothing worse than wasting all that time and don’t even have the save file to show for it.

  4. Same here. Super hardcore completionist that KIND of wants to quit but simultaneously kind of doesn’t want to. I want to quit and play way more games but at the same time I enjoy trying to get everything, at first without a guide like Mel. The introduction of trophies made a huge difference in the way completionism works for me. I used to be satisfied with just having all of the major items and abilities, but since trophies have a very visible percentage gauge, the trophy section became the new system for measuring how completely I’ve finished a game. I’ve been trying to get 100% on every game before moving on to the next but I’ve got about 8 incomplete games on there now so it seems kind of hopeless.

    Still, I plan to try again on the Playstation 4.

  5. I’m really hated the advent of achievements since it exploits some of my psychological foibles to ensure I play games multiple times to get all the chievos/trophies. It’s like coin madness with added social censure.

  6. @Scrumly: There have been some psychological studies done that claim that achievements actually foster an ‘addictive’ mentality, so you may not be far off the mark at all!

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