When It Comes to Game Endings, Would You Rather Be Happy or Satisfied?


I feel like the ending of Dark Souls 3 wraps up nicely enough, but the DLC offers up a thematically appropriate epilogue to match:

blur tags seem to not be working, so:

the primary plot thread is of a character, Gael, seeking the “blood of the Dark Soul” to be used as paint for the creation of a new painted world. When you finally reach him at the very bottom of the world, Gael has consumed the essence of the Dark Soul - but the Dark Soul, in turn, has consumed him. Once the player defeats him they can bring the Dark Soul back to his niece to paint with.

As far as metacommentary goes, it’s extremely on the nose, but I kind of love it for that - Dark Souls has run its course, but its fundamental nature will carry onward into new works.


Hellooooo I am late to every 'cast but I just finished this one and wanted to talk about something the crew discussed. Enforcing copyright in such a way that it only limits attempts to expand a property beyond the prescribed scope surely has a material stifling effect on fan creations within a property’s universe. Austin lamented that there are probably so many Star Trek episodes in the minds of fans which will never see the light of a screen because of these limitations; related, the crew also complained about the shitty ways in which fans steered the creators towards an ending in Mass Effect 3 that they found more palatable than that which was initially written.

I want to preface this by saying this is NOT about protecting the sanctity of implicitly/explicitly bigoted stories, or any issues relating to diversity. This is just about shit like ME3’s ending being disappointing and (relatively) dumb shit like that.

As a fan of, well, anything really, I feel conflicted about the copyright discussion because of conclusions one can draw from the ME3 discussion. Ultimately, I don’t want fans to have an effect on canon. I want the story I am being told to be prescribed to me so that I can process it and work through my feelings on it. If I don’t like something about a story, that’s okay with me! I want to be in that position, of reacting to the work.

I think part of the problem for me is that, within the scope of this conversation, stories are being framed as properties owned by corporations, who selfishly guard them with copyright. Yeah totally, often, that is true. On the other hand, sometimes there really are specific people who wrote these stories under the auspice of said corporation, and they have specific visions about where a story should go. It’s not specifically auteur theory, but I do believe that the more disparate the input on a story, the more opportunities the story has to become muddied and unfocused.

I don’t feel good about the notion that, in the end, a creator’s vision (so long as it isn’t offensive!) could be compromised because the corporation they are working for bent to public pressure to make their story more palatable, and is making them change their work. But like, if audiences want the movie studio to change the movie so that the hero does not die like they were written to or whatever…fuck that. I want whomever is writing the story I am being told (one person or several people) to write the whole fuckin story. I have faith in the authors’ intentions. What the hell would Firewatch be like if fans had held the pen?

Lastly, I understand the merit of allowing different people to try doing different things with a story. Superhero comics are exactly that, and are uniquely fascinating for that reason! But, the way that we engage with comics is different than how we engage with like, the ME series. It’s not more or less valid or better or worse, just different. That difference is worth acknowledging.


This is such a weird one for me. I guess it would be satisfied. Just because so much of what I enjoy or remember about playing the game isn’t the ending itself, it’s the moment to moment feeling or the journey. I guess the other point to make is that the standard game ending is very rarely where the game ends for me as a player especially with open world games. Then there are some games that are trying to tell a story, that reaches its conclusion that is so at odds with what you’ve been doing this entire time (any of the FarCry games)

Only a handful of game endings have left me truly ‘happy’ or astounded by their endings. Portal 2 - just that release of breaking the roof open and seeing the actual sky and moon for the first time, then the mental click following this spectacle where you go ‘wait a minute, can I actually portal the moon?’. Your always wondering what you could do with the portal gun outside of Aperture - the ending confirms your assumptions gloriously. That’s why there is no Portal 3! Or Half Life 3, for that matter!

I guess there’s another factor of unhappiness, both in the game being so good and now it’s over, like in Dark Souls when you conquer the very last boss and there is literally no more bosses to fight. The game is done with all it’s content exhausted.


I don’t understand what you’re trying to say here. “Canon” doesn’t really have anything to do with copyright. It’s a fictional construct. Even if we lived in a world with no copyright and all works immediately entered public domain, any author can still have their own “canon”.


No, canon doesn’t have anything to do with copyright, but copyright indirectly acts as a gatekeeper for who has access to the ‘official’ work, and therefore who has an impact on accepted canon. I’m not a proponent of copyright, and I don’t think its use in limiting access to a work for others to experiment with is a good thing, but a side effect of the way in which it is employed is that canon is narrowly defined because of it. As a fan, I like that narrow scope. I may not have been clear in my OP, but that’s what I meant by feeling conflicted.


It’s not a bad point. When we look at situations like ME3 or at the current environment of fan entitlement in fandom, the idea of making that barrier any less static is dangerous.

But also we do not know much about what the world of media would look like otherwise. We have hints with Patrick’s example of Black Mesa, but that’s a very narrow example. For every Valve that allows a few exemplary fanworks to be published and sold, we have thousands of Nintendos, who sue the shit out of fangames, even ones that are going to be entirely free to play.

I wish I had a magic mirror to look into the AU where fanworks are more widely accepted and encouraged, just to see what it’d look like.


Yeah, my feelings on this are murky. I can’t pin down the “why” so much as I know what my gut reaction is. Maybe my gut reaction is coming from a place of unfamiliarity more than anything else, but then I look to comics and, though they are also prescriptive (though much less so) in setting forth the ‘facts’ of their stories for writers to expand upon, I know the complexity of navigating that method of open-ended storytelling and sometimes I don’t want to tangle with that. I want things to be what they are, and that is that.

I also really like the ways in which an audience collectively grapples with the facts of a story. If we can each decide to arbitrarily change the story to suit our wants, it can become individualized to a point that it is no longer a shared experience. But is that necessarily bad? I don’t know! And I could just, you know, ignore that part, in the way that I suggest to angry Star Wars nerds that they ignore the movies they don’t like, because the ones they DO like still exist. Anyway, just trying to work out my reaction to this idea.


I remember I got the bleak ending of The Witcher 3 (because some of the choices aren’t that clear, the total dickheads), which I did quite like for how it fits with the tone of the rest of the game. Mainly I liked it for how the DLC kind of compliments that downbeat-ness (or did in my own interpretation, which I guess is credit to how immersive that game / world is).

Not sure what the point of saying that was, though I can rarely identify with any time anyone talks about an ending being “satisfying” or anything like that. I think it’s rare that I (consciously, at least?) think about media in terms of “satisfaction”.


Late follow up reply.

I went and did some reading by others who posted about why it is they write fan fiction and create fan work and I think I better understand it now. A lot of people just do it because they like the characters and the worlds they are in and most just find it to be a fun hobby but I definitely came across a few people who were upset that companies that own these IP’s wouldn’t let them self publish their work for sale on places like Amazon.

I can sympathize with that but at the same time I keep coming back to thinking about how people in tech handle it by deciding that they are just going to go and make an open source replacement because they are sick of being yanked around by the softwares owner. Open Source software is huge and is widely used in the tech industry so I guess I just have a hard time understanding why people who want to sell fan fiction don’t come together to make a universe licensed under something like CC share alike with attribution for things like super heroes so they can collaborate on characters and sell the things they make of them legally without having to worry about The Mouse kicking down their door.

It would be incredibly amazing I think if there was a third major super hero universe for example that anyone was free to use the characters from and could do with whatever they wanted so long as they gave proper credit to the people whose work it was based upon.

I’m probably grossly misinterpreting what a community that I’m not a part of wants and it’s really not my place to speak on what they should do but it’s just a thing that’s always going to bother me I think.


There isn’t a difference for me. If I find an ending satisfactory, then I’m happy. If a game ends happily, I’m satisfied because there’s already so much shit going wrong all the time that I, quite frankly, couldn’t give a fuck less about a story ending absolutely miserably just because it would “fit better”.


That would definitely be an interesting idea! I remember, as a former member (glorified lurker, really) of the Adventure Game Studio community in my teens, there was a sort of open-source adventure game universe thingy going on there. All kindsa shared assets and stuff like that.

It was called (pause to Google it) Reality on the Norm.


Does anyone have examples of the sort of academic essay Austin talked about?

Also I’ll just throw out some similarly cyclical endings: (could be spoilery? idk) Black Sails, Person of Interest


Satisfied, easily. I have never understood when people complain that they got the “bad” ending in a game just because it was the “bad” ending. I don’t think an ending has to leave me happy to be good; just look at The Last of Us. If that game had bought into the trends of the time and offered multiple endings, would it have been equally satisfying if Joel had not done what he did? Maybe, it’d depend on how Naughty Dog pulled it off. But I do think they would have had a harder time making that feel natural for the story they told there, and therefore as satisfying as the ending that they provided.

In fact, part of what made Mass Effect 3 so desperately dissatisfying was the fact that your choices didn’t amount to a single resolution, but rather just another choice. If the game had provided the same two (later, three) endings but left what happened up to everything you’d done up to that point rather than simply dropped the mic for the player to pick up and say whatever final lines they liked, it betrayed the promise they’d made in the beginning that all the pieces matter. I could play that entire series paragon, renegade, or somewhere in between and, granted I met the conditions to make the secret third option possible, just do whatever the hell I wanted. It didn’t feel honest, and so it wasn’t satisfying, even if I could choose to be…happy.