Some Games Don’t Have Endings

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.


Yellow Fresh Dress dress up game
Yellow Fresh Dress dress up game


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.

Girly and Tomboy
Screenshot of Girly and Tomboy’s only screen

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.)

A screenshot from Complicated Fish, in UMW colors
A screenshot from Complicated Fish, in UMW colors


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.

The start screen for Colorful Leggings
The start screen for Colorful Leggings


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)

The end screen for Bat Sleeve Shirt
The end screen for Bat Sleeve Shirt


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 

Another short definition one site offered for a game without end

(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.

  7 comments for “Some Games Don’t Have Endings

  1. jblocky
    March 20, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I enjoyed this article because I myself have played various design games, and found myself frustrated at the lack of an ending. I think it is interesting to question if these games can actually be considered games, due to the lack of an ending. I look back at some of the games we looked at in class, such as Space Invaders, which also doesn’t have an ending. Based on that, I understand that having an ending isn’t something that makes a game a game. It can be an element of certain kinds of games, but it isn’t the be all end all. These games tend to have goals rather than endings. Space Invaders, for example, has an overall goal, but it just keeps going, without an endpoint. Design games are the same, in that the player is given a goal, but doesn’t have an endpoint. It is interesting to look at these types of games, seeing as we haven’t really discussed them in class.

  2. kmorgan4
    March 20, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I never really thought of this idea as something people would get upset about. To me it is obvious that not every game has an ending. And sometimes it is those games I prefer just because of the freedom involved. I love that you brought up the example of the Sims, because I never considered it as a design game or a game without ending. It could be argued that in these games, the player is the one that decides when the game will end and that in itself could be argued as an ending. Like if I were to say, I am done with Sims when I have three generations, then someone might be able to argue for that as an ending. But it seems that you are focusing primarily on endings intended by the game designers. At first, while I was reading your article, I started to wonder if these design games without endings had any connection to being computer games. I think most of the games you described are web-based games, correct? So in that case it is easy to wonder how that platform supports the games’ ability to have no ending. But when you brought up the Sims that thought became complicated. However, as far as my knowledge goes, there are not really any other console games that have no ending like the Sims and your other examples do. That might be an interesting thought to explore.

  3. aicee
    March 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    This is so relatable! Every time I had “finished” a design game there was always a sort of “what now?” feeling that I personally experienced. I always loved design games because of the aspect of making something that feels solely yours, but even if they do have an end screen I would always go back and continue to play because I always felt the character could be better if I just adjusted one tiny thing… haha, but that’s definitely just my own neurotic game-play style. (By the way, fish ARE rad!!) Your entry started to make me wonder about games like World of Warcraft and also other simulation games like RollerCoaster Tycoon. At what point did the designers intend for their games to become not just “completed”, but also outdated… I think there is a joy and nostalgia associated with games you can come back to again and again specifically because the player never felt finished, and that is wonderful, but at what point will society proclaim that a game is finished (in terms of “shelf life”). Some gamers would argue that if just one player continues on the game is not outdated, rather vintage, but sometimes I’ll talk about a game and someone might respond, “you play what?? No way!” and I can’t decide if I feel proud for keeping something alive or like someone that’s stuck in the past.

  4. mfierro
    March 20, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    First of all let me say I love the title! That’s what brought me in to read your article from the homepage! But you also talk about a good point, some games don’t have endings. At first I was trying to think of some games that didn’t have an ending but I couldn’t think of any. As I was reading further I realized that there are plenty of games that have no ending. And I never thought about dress up games not having an ending. I used to love those when I was younger, especially the MyScene version, I think that’s where I started going online regularly. You bring up another great point that it you could be “done” or finished dressing up the character in like 5 minutes but you could also spend hours behind the screen dressing them up. That’s so true, its all about the player’s preference, they can play as long as they want to. And that’s true to most games as well. Its also up to the player to choose how to dress their character, the possibilities are endless in that sense. That’s the beauty of theses types of games, even though they have no ending they can be hours of fun! I really like this article!

  5. gsmith5
    March 20, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    This is actually something I’ve thought about for a while and I’m glad someone was able to take it and put it into words. Some other examples of games without ends that I thought of are MInecraft and Terraria. Those games just keep going until you decide you are happy and stop playing but even then you can just restart with a new world. There are some maps and mods in Minecraft that have stories and ends but the main game basically goes on forever. I also doubt anyone would argue that MInecraft is not a game. If they do, they would have to have an extremely good argument to convince me because I see it as a game.

  6. April 2, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Considering my YEARS of experience with designing games, I’m really surprised I haven’t considered this possible issue before. Maybe it’s because I’ve actually never been dissatisfied with the lack of ending, because by nature of these games I’m largely in full control of the final look that is created. I design the outfit, the room, the hairstyle, the makeover- so why shouldn’t I also get to say when it’s over, even without an end screen telling me so. I can’t help but wonder if the decision to not include a game end also relies on these games target demographic of younger children. With any young player, discouraging them with an end to play is never satisfying, and these games simulate the experience of imagination and dress up. Those games in real life don’t have a set ending, so why should these?

  7. mgaughan
    April 2, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Yeah, when you get right down to it, there are a lot of games that do not have endings. In addition to the Sims, other games like Animal Crossing and Tomodachi Life, which have different events around the clock for each day of the year, almost require the player to keep playing without ending. Then there are also games like Skyrim that after “finishing”, tell the player that they can continue exploring and killing dragons (as if the entire main plotline does not matter). But if there is any game that definitely does not have any ending, I would say it is Cookie Clicker. I will not get into it right now, but if you try it once, you will never stop playing (I congratulate anyone who is able to get out of it).

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