To Succeed I Feel I Need An Actual Win State: Endless Runners In Video Games


When people first established video games, they often tried to incorporate the rules and ideas that came from other games, sports, board or other. One of these key conditions is that you have a condition which results in victory, some form of completion, defeat of all obstacles before you. However there came the funny little idea of a game that could provide endless amounts of content as it contained no actual state of success. The endless runner game, the game that keeps on going and going for the reward of a high-score, a number bigger than your previous numbers and more importantly higher than someone else’s number.

These games came into my life first in the form of arcade games where the game would simply put you through stage after stage after wave after wave, until it looped round or just ran through the levels at random. These game certainly do have a place for the kind of person who likes being better than others by a provable degree, as well as the gamer who might need a lot to do with a single game to see it even being considered for purchase. Well technically there isn’t a lot to do, just a lot of the same thing which can distinguish a repetitive game from a random generator with tons of combinations and possibilities. However that can go sit in the corner and twiddle its thumbs for now, there are bigger things to talk about it here.

If one was to view this genre as you might call it from a business perspective, it is genius. People pay you for what could be 50 times the possible hours of the biggest AAA product around for so much as a minuscule fraction of the price. There is clearly evidence that people do, the mobile space of recent years has almost welcomed this form of game as its unofficial flag. For some it appears just picking something up to keep going until the bus gets to its destination is an attractive quality like no other. To be honest they aren’t the only kind of games with no discernible win state.

Massive-Multiplayer-Online games or MMOs are generally well known for not really having a point where you win the game, a believable point at which one can say “I beat this game”. They are clearly designed to keep people playing for as long as possible. The closest thing people consider to be an end game state is having one of if not the most powerful gear and having slaughtered at least one of everything. To be honest the goals you can provide yourself in a game with a lacking win state are more likely to be where one decides they are finished, maybe you just wanna beat quests or perhaps you wanna just reach the highest level and leave. However in general I just can’t enjoy these kind of games.

I’ve voiced about my personal dislike for games that don’t give you goals, they feel like they aren’t so much giving me a toybox to play in as much as a “make your own worth” package for my game. I play a MMO for a while and then sort of teeter off unless the social aspect is particularly well done, I know I’ve spent many hours sitting in a town just shooting the shit with strangers, else I put it down and go find something I can actually….well beat. I am a mild completionist, I say mild because it isn’t like I will go to to ridiculous stages to complete something I just generally like getting all I can out of what I play or generally anything I spend money on.

When the game can keep going but I have a lose state it feels like I’m just indulging some cheap attempt to get a lot out of a little. It isn’t like I see a lot of people put a particularly hefty amount of work creating the games logic as not to put two simple things together to make a stressful situation. For instance a roguelike with such a tiny amount of design efforts that I can hit absolutely unwinnable states just feels like a viciously made game, if there is no technical skills I can use to supplement then I’m just casting dice to pretty graphics.

There is a joy I feel unlike many other things when something is finished or completed. Beating a final boss, defeating the final bonus world, collecting all the weapons and armours I want, I feel accomplished. Powerful. A master of the challenges put before me. When you tell me that there is no actual way to win the game I lose that achievement. I see this runner game here and this endless game there and just see a bout to combat my boredom, something I have never gone to gaming purely to satiate. It doesn’t help more and more of these games use psychological ploys and traps that get you to keep going, not looking to provide a good time but rather time, of anything.

These games have their place and there will always be those who seek to craft a worthwhile experience with them as much as there are those looking for easy money. Perhaps it is just my mindset or the motivation I have for playing many games or games in general, I need something to win. I come to dodge your boulders, jump your pits and slay every last damn dragon that exists, not to see how far I can keep going. After seeing some of the late game content in a few Nintendo games being just endurance tests I find myself clearer than ever on what I seek when I pick up a controller: I wish to stand up to the task and fight through the struggles to finish it.

What motivates you when it comes to gaming? Do you have a soft spot for these kind of endless, winless games?Why? To what degree would you call yourself a completionist, one who thrives to acquire and beat all that is presented to you? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.


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  1. #1 by gamesthatiplay on March 3, 2015 - 2:41 am

    Yeah I need win states too unless the game is like arcade fun. Then at least I have a score to drive toward instead of a how long did I last.


  2. #2 by Matt on March 1, 2015 - 2:31 am

    MMOs do not last very long to me. I remember playing a bunch of them when I was younger, and although I was addicted to them at first, sometime later I would come to realize I was just doing the same thing over and over again (killing monsters, gaining XP, and levelling up) and then I would drop the game right away.

    However, I am a sucker for endless games like Sim City and Roller Coaster Tycoon… I can spend many hours with those things without ever getting bored. I think they empower players with a level of creative freedom that keeps everything entertaning for quite a while.

    As for the other questions you have asked, I am not exactly a completionist. When it comes to some special games (Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, etc) I always go in with the mindset to do everything that there is to be done. Yet, when I come to a challenge that sounds more like work than fun (for example, Super Mario 3D World’s requirement to finish all stages with all characters so you can get an extra little award, which I now forget what it was exactly), or a task that is way too frustrating (ridiculous challenges like “don’t get damaged” or “finish the stage within 5 seconds”) then I simply ignore them.


  3. #3 by Jes the Cynic on February 27, 2015 - 11:56 pm

    I prefer a game with a good story and a solid ending. Multipaths are always nice, but I like knowing the effort actually has a payoff somewhere. Endless games are fun for timewasting or when you dont have the time to dedicate a few hours to a more story-driven game though.


    • #4 by Prof.mcstevie on February 28, 2015 - 12:55 am

      Indeed, as I said they do have their place. It is however odd the quantity that they exist at on things like mobile when surely you’d only ever play one or two during down time or travel.


  4. #5 by Cirsova on February 27, 2015 - 9:54 pm

    One of the only “winless” state games i was ever really in love with was Zeta Gundam: Hot Scramble. If you got through enough levels and fought enough bad guys to where you’d reached the end of the story from the anime (the level where you have to fight a bunch of Gaza Cs and a Quebeley) and died, you’d get an end credit roll. You could keep on fighting and clearing more levels after that, but there wasn’t a win state beyond not dying until after a certain level. And since the good guys lost and the show ended with the Zeta Gundam getting totaled, it kind of worked for the game.


    • #6 by Prof.mcstevie on February 28, 2015 - 12:52 am

      I suppose the format could work well for a unique story, shame they are usually story-less for the most part.


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