All right I know what you are thinking to yourself: all games have endings. I will admit that usually this is true, usually. Most often when we play a game the goal or objective is to win in order to end the game, however there are some games that really have no definitive ending.
Specifically the one type of game I will focus on where this is true is in design games. Design games is a broad term I am using to describe games where the player chooses the way a particular item physically looks, the most common design game people tend to be familiar with are dress up games. While design games are not the only games without endings, for the purpose of this article they will be the type of games I focus on.
Lets take Girly and Tomboy as the first example of a game without an end. After loading up the game and clicking the play button the game sets up its only screen. In the particular game you are given two girls that you get to dress and style everything from their hair to their bags by clicking icons corresponding to different types of clothing on the side bars. Given the games name of Girly and Tomboy the creators intent was clearly to have the option of dressing each girl in a different style, however there is no grading or completion in this game so despite the games name there is no rule that the girls have to be dressed in any particular way. In this game there is no end screen so the dress up game goes on infinitely until the player decides that he or she is done. This means players could be “done” in seconds or as some of the more dedicated kids I have babysat not even be “done” after a half hour. Since the decision to end the game can only come from the player and not the game itself Girly and Tomboy is a game without a real end.
Now this is about the point where the question is creeping into some peoples heads asking whether games like Girly and Tomboy are really “games.” I would argue that they are, after all they contain some of the main components we analyzed in class that games require. The have objectives, in this case dressing the girls, there are specific mechanics with only certain allowable choices, and there is of course a player.
Design games in general are games that encourage creativity and individuality, within certain restraints. While dress up games can be argued as not having a lot of depth it is up to the player to fill in what the game leaves out. Take for instance a conversation I had with my eleven-year-old cousin about a particular dress up game. When I had dressed up the character how I thought it should look she chastised me that I had done it completely wrong. I had given the character the braided hairstyle and a dress but this was “wrong” to her. I was corrected as she explained to me “the girl with the braids is Emily and she only wears pants cause she hates dresses.” No where in the game description was there an actual name for the character or their preferred clothing type, yet after playing the game countless times my cousin had decided that all of the girls had separate stories and lives that she knew all about. The point of the anecdote about my cousin is that players often give more meaning to the game initially has on its own. In games like these the player creates the story the game leaves out.
Another design game that is not specifically a dress up game but still is a game without an end is Complicated Fish. In this game the objective is to design a fish. The scale patterns, colors, and fins are all choices the player gets to choose from. (Personally I think that Complicated Fish is accurately named, and possibly the best design game ever but that is an individual opinion about the how rad fish are and is far outside my argument.)
There are plenty of dress up games that have endings that do not fit into the game concept that I am exploring in this article. Games like Oversized Shawls, Bat Sleeve Shirts and others all are games where players click the “done” button to end their game and see their final design. Another whole discussion could center on the strangely chosen names for these games and why games such as Colorful Leggings are popular.
A whole argument could even made that games like Bat Sleeve Shirts are clicked on and played not because of their names, but because of the games aesthetics, however again that is beyond the intentions of this article. (I would like to note that I was disappointed that Bat Sleeve Shirts did not have any shirts with images of bats on them, a missed opportunity right there)
It is also arguable that some games like The Sims could be considered games with no end. With the exception of the death of an entire household in The Sims the game perpetually runs through generation to generation for as long as a player wants to play. It is actually even possible in Sims 2 to continuing playing with a household even if all the people have died assuming you have pets. Granted a “pets only” household will not last very long, unless the game is altered with cheats to feed those pets. (I promise I personally did not kill off Sims to test out that theory, you would have to confront my brother about that offense.) In The Sims there is no moment of fulfillment for completing the game therefore I would argue that is does not have a definite end. Many of the other Sims centered games also fall into the category of games without endings. As the games studies article “Defining Game Mechanics” by Miguel Sicart mentions Sim City is another game that does not have a precise end but where “there are desired states towards which players focus their efforts.” Although Sicart’s article focuses on game mechanics specifically, he does say that there are games where there is no real end state.
There are just some games that simply do not have any endings and that is perfectly all right. A players experience in a game is not diminished just because a game lacks a final end screen. Many design games fall into this category of games without ends, like the dress up game example I used Girly and Tomboy, but other games like Sim City can also be argued as games with out a definite ending. Despite the fact that these games do not have real endings to speak of they are still immensely popular and enjoyable to a large audience. Overall it is intriguing to analyze how games without definite endings can be enjoyed just as much as games with endings.
All of the design games referenced in this article are from http://www.dressupgames.com
Another short definition one site offered for a game without end http://www.giantbomb.com/never-ending/3015-1467/
(regardless of credibility or not I applaud their use of a Neverending Story image to support it)
The header Image is for the dress up game Yellow Fresh Dress another game without an ending.