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Why I hate completion percentages in games

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In LEGO City Undercover, Frank Honey (pictured) calls the central Police database ‘The Compuper’. It's a funny name for what's actually a devilish, malevolent presence. Well, curse you, Compuper! Curse you and your digital readout! Curse you for making me find every cat, every character icon, every hot cup of steaming coffee… every everything just so your figure reads 100.0%. 

Why the venom? Well, look above the completion stat: I did it. But at what cost? Sixty hours of precious time. That’s quite a lot of the old ticky stuff to spend watching little LEGO policemen catching little LEGO criminals when you’re 30 years old and full-time employed. But what am I supposed to do when the game keeps showing me that annoying stat everywhere I look?

Every pause screen shows it, you're shown it next to your save file when you load up the game... It’s like a little insult every time you start. Like the game is saying “Let’s have some fun! Oh, but you suck until this says 100%.” I can't deal with that sort of goading. I need to have it done. Why? I don't know... maybe in case anyone asks.

"Have you 100%ed LEGO City Undercover?"

"Yes!"

"Weirdo."

It is absurd and I can see that. But despite my being able to appreciate the absurdity, LEGO City Undercover isn’t even the first game that’s done this to me this year. Similarly, Tomb Raider shows you a completion percentage every time you load up the game. It also made a point of informing me that I’d only finished the game with 94% completion when I finally beat the story.

So what did I do then? I went back into the game. I hunted for everything. Found all the tombs, upgraded all my weapons (by essentially making one particular species of deer extinct in one fell swoop)… I even stayed up stupidly late, driving myself slowly mad searching for mines at the beach and that damn last flag at the cliffside bunker. At least I was inspired to write 20 signs you're playing too much Tomb Raider.

But the nagging thought remains - there are undoubtedly more constructive things I could have done with the time I spent just playing to get from 'finished' to 'completed'. I could have written the first draft of a novel, painted a fresco or composed a symphony. No, really, I could. Sure, they might not have been a very good novel, fresco or symphony, but at least I would have something to show for the time that isn’t just an off-screen photo of a compuper. In fact, the realisation has made me quite angry. And most games don't make me think like that.

For example, I happily poured 65 hours into Pokemon Platinum. Another 100 into Borderlands 2. Maybe 60 hours into Skyrim (so far). Easily 100 hours into Animal Crossing on DS. Who knows. But that's exactly the point. I don't know how much of Animal Crossing I saw because it wasn't constantly telling me with a completion stat. 

So why put the percentage stat in games at all? I'd argue it’s actually been detrimental to my enjoyment of both games. Both LEGO City and Tomb Raider are excellent (in very different ways), but hours and hours of superb, fun entertainment gave way to extended sessions of backtracking, protracted exploration and basically what I would call 'hard work'.

Ironically, having hit 100% completion, I actually feel like I’ve only just brushed the surface of LEGO City. I look at its sprawling landscape and still feel excited by the possibilities. But now the game says I've seen it all, I don't want to play it any more.

Why would I? It's not even that I’d be spending more time in a fake universe that I’ve finally escaped from, but because the game itself has told me, categorically, there’s nothing else to do. By its own admission, what would be the point in playing again? Whether starting from scratch or just revisiting the city, it's all been done before. Without the stat? I'd be happy to chase more car thieves, race more time trials... just enjoy policing this wonderful city.

Stupid Compuper. I hope you're pleased with what you've done. If anyone needs me, I'll be painting a fresco. And I won't be back until it's 100% complete.

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Week of Hate

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44 comments

  • AtlanteanLancer - April 18, 2013 8:38 a.m.

    100% completion, damn you
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - April 16, 2013 7:20 p.m.

    The full synchronization goals in Ass Creed are the WORST example of this.
  • winner2 - April 16, 2013 9:52 a.m.

    This makes me glad I'm not a true completionist. The only games that come to mind for me are spyro YotD/RR and AC3. AC pissed me off though, why should I care if Connor didn't bump into someone or if he didn't touch the ground? At least with spyro gems they're pretty to look at and they make cool sounds when you get them. And getting them all usually unlocks the "final" final level. Same with the dragon eggs.
  • Zeapron - April 16, 2013 midnight

    My enjoyment of ACIII was severely limited by those pesky "full synchronization goals". I don't know how many times I played through the Boston Tea Party, just because I couldn't get enough redcoats to take a swim... And it totally ruined it. It was a fun level, where you could go beserk with your tomahawk, but I never actually did much tomahawking, because I was so focused on reasching the goals :/
  • CitizenWolfie - April 16, 2013 6:33 a.m.

    Man, totally agree. I know they're optional and everything but the way the game plays out with its rewards it makes you feel bad if you choose not to do them. In the end I was going, "Why the Hell did it matter if Connor didn't touch a single pedestrian in a chase? F*ck you, and your Altair costume."
  • kingsmikefan - April 15, 2013 10:41 p.m.

    God damn OCD having motherfuckers! You and Vinny Caravella of Giant Bomb need to see a damn doctor. The need to waste time doing shit that doesn't benefit really is a bad sign... WE JUST WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY, TOWELL!
  • g1rldraco7 - April 15, 2013 7:50 p.m.

    Completionists are odd and games that are made for those types of gamers can be frustrating. I should know, I'm always hunting for every little thing. Sigh I am trying to get a 100% on Darksiders before I start on the second one, how tedious.
  • shawksta - April 15, 2013 5:18 p.m.

    Interesting complaint. You have a massive point. Take Donkey Kong 64, Everything you do is just to get that %201 in the file selection menu and to get a corny directors cut movie with a bunch of shit including DK and K. Rool playing Patty Cake for some reason
  • Cruddi - April 15, 2013 4:24 p.m.

    As i watch it count up, i start to get disheartened because it means i'm getting closer to the end argh... then when it ends i must hit 100% argh!
  • obviouslyadouche - April 15, 2013 3:34 p.m.

    It was highly disheartening for me to beat Arkham city only to see 30% completion rating.
  • MetallicaDan - April 15, 2013 3:17 p.m.

    I'd go so far as saying achievements have kind of "ruined" gaming for me too... If I'm playing and not working towards some kind of achievement, I feel like I'm "wasting" my time. I miss the days where I'd just play a game to enjoy it and finish it. That was the ultimate goal, not finding 420 flags in AC or 100 kittens in Metropolis. But then again, I think that says more about me and less about achievements and how games show a completion %.
  • Elgyem - April 15, 2013 1:20 p.m.

    Only 60 hours on pokemon platinum? I've gotten 5 times as much (still haven't caught em all)
  • J-Fid - April 15, 2013 3:38 p.m.

    I'm pretty close to 400 hours in that game.
  • Sensationo - April 15, 2013 1:03 p.m.

    Did you 100% this article? ░░░░░▄▄▄▄▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▄▄▄▄▄▄░░░░░░░ ░░░░░█░░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░░▀▀▄░░░░ ░░░░█░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒░░░░░░░░▒▒▒░░█░░░ ░░░█░░░░░░▄██▀▄▄░░░░░▄▄▄░░░░█░░ ░▄▀▒▄▄▄▒░█▀▀▀▀▄▄█░░░██▄▄█░░░░█░ █░▒█▒▄░▀▄▄▄▀░░░░░░░░█░░░▒▒▒▒▒░█ █░▒█░█▀▄▄░░░░░█▀░░░░▀▄░░▄▀▀▀▄▒█ ░█░▀▄░█▄░█▀▄▄░▀░▀▀░▄▄▀░░░░█░░█░ ░░█░░░▀▄▀█▄▄░█▀▀▀▄▄▄▄▀▀█▀██░█░░ ░░░█░░░░██░░▀█▄▄▄█▄▄█▄████░█░░░ ░░░░█░░░░▀▀▄░█░░░█░█▀██████░█░░ ░░░░░▀▄░░░░░▀▀▄▄▄█▄█▄█▄█▄▀░░█░░ ░░░░░░░▀▄▄░▒▒▒▒░░░░░░░░░░▒░░░█░ ░░░░░░░░░░▀▀▄▄░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░░░░█░ ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░▀▄▄▄▄▄░░░░░░░░█░░
  • Darkhawk - April 15, 2013 12:04 p.m.

    I actually find that games with reasonably attainable 100% completion rates are often a lot more fun to play. Saints Row the Third? I played way the hell more out of that game than GTAIV thanks to a very effective %- oriented map and objectives. Beyond Good & Evil? I just HAD to go hunt down every animal. Alternately, you make the completion targets fun to do, like Glyphs, Tombs, and Viewpoints in Assassin's Creed II. (Not so much the chase side missions or feathers).
  • Bloodstorm - April 15, 2013 11:52 a.m.

    I've never been too obsessed with collectibles. They drive me nuts most of the time, so I avoid them like the plague. I did collect all the agility orbs in Crackdown, but I was still having fun with it when I did. I gave up on the mystery orbs though. I've only ever 100% like 3 games. I'm close to 100% on a few like ME2, ME3 and Fallout 3, but the first 2 require a play through on the difficulty from hell. I'll go after fun achievements, but otherwise, I just don't care. I tried to once, but it made gaming no fun.
  • SwirlyGreenLogo - April 15, 2013 11:08 a.m.

    I think a game can have a completion counter as long as there are reasons to play long after you've hit 100%...games like Minecraft are are perfect example. Even after you get all of the Acheivements, there are an infinite number of things you can do in that game. Or, if it's something like Call of Duty, you can keep playing even after you prestiged a bunch of times because dammit, it's still fun.
  • Shoal - April 15, 2013 10:59 a.m.

    Maybe it would be best to have categories with percentages, that way everyone could be pleased. For example, I really don't care if I've found all the upgrade collectables, but I do care if I've found all the story bits that add to the lore.
  • tomasspipass - April 15, 2013 10:43 a.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. Ive just finished (not completed) Tomb Raider myself, absolutely loved the game and was well up for the challenge of reaching 100% completion. I reached the point of no return in the game, then decided to head back through the game to uncover all the collectibles that I had missed. I fast travelled to the starting area, collected everything then realised there was still the area challenge to do. Shoot 10 totems.. So hard to spot in the trees could spend over an hour aimlessly looking up at the canopy.SO quickly decided f-that and finished the storyline. It annoys me looking at the complaetion percentage, partly because it gives away how far through a game you are. Achievements are similar. However there was one achievemnt ive seen that did things right, it created a fun challenge. In Geometry Wars 2 there was an achievement to touch the entirety of the four walls twice without being hit by a flying enemy. It was a satisfying, fun challenge, but it was a shame that once the achievement was complete, you could not attempt the challenge again. Game developers, find more ways to make me want to 100% complete your games, by making the optional extra challenges fun!
  • Lurkero - April 15, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    I complete as much I need to be satisfied. Batman Arkham City is good game, but I did not desire to search the city up and down for collectables and puzzles.

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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