Do you prefer the start of a game to the end?

Do you prefer the start of a game to the end?

Games are a very unique entertainment medium when put up against the likes of movies, books and television. They require viewer input for a start, which is more than can be said for most hobbies and time fillers, but they tend to be epic, multi-hour affairs too.

Although there are some movies that can last three hours and TV shows that can stretch to tens of seasons across multiple decades, very few experiences are quite like the 100s of hours that some of our most beloved of games give us. Even yearly releases of AAA titles promise 40 hours plus of story and side questing action.

Of course despite their lengthy campaigns and endless grinding and busy work, not many of us actually make it all the way to 100 per cent completing these games. Leave that for the completions and achievement whores. But maybe it's not all because developers have padded games to make them seem longer, or because we all have ADHD and can't help but move on to something else. Maybe it's because a lot of games are actually better at the beginning.

There is likely to be an element of that with anything entertaining though. It's always going to be more exciting to play it when you don't really know anything and everything you do is a novel experience. You can't quite see all the wires and pulleys behind the facade of interactivity and you don't know that your choices don't matter as much as the game suggests.

If it's a multiplayer game then you can relax when you first start playing it. MOBAs and similar games that necessitate high degrees of twitch reflexes and in-game knowledge, are great fun when you start out, but can become much less so as you realise that unless you learn to last hit and can do the quick maths on whether a damage or defence boost is required to go up against your opponents' equipment choices, you're less likely to be competitive.

You're also less likely to be able to play the class or character you enjoy the most, as someone else may have picked it or it doesn't make sense for your team's composition. That doesn't matter when you're just starting out.

However I don't think it's all because we become jaded either. Sometimes I think it's because the beginning of a lot of games is actually the most fun part, due to the fact that their main gameplay is too reliant on traditional genre tropes.

Take Bioshock Infinite for example. I played it through when it was released and it was good fun, but not as much as I would have hoped. After 13 hours of marvelling at the landscape and set piece combat with the seemingly endless human and robotic guards of Columbia, it's faded to a rather forgettable, if hyped, experience.

What I do remember though are the first two hours. That glorious time where I was able to explore the city to my heart's content, wonder at its magnificence and beauty without feeling like I needed to scavenge every safe and nook and cranny for ammunition and money. Where I didn't have to have an itchy trigger finger or face having to reload and perform the whole sequence again.

Columbia felt like a vibrant, fascinating world. I wanted to play a game where I existed as part of that. I didn't want to shoot anyone or have people run away from me. I wanted to interact with the people and figure out a mystery, or be a sideline character to the combat. Not some stalking, heavily armed monster that slogged from one mission to the next without considering the consequences of my murder spree.

I got a similar feeling when playing Alien: Isolation. I think it's a fantastic game with some of my most tense and memorable gaming experiences throughout, but I can't help but want to play a game based around the first two hours again. That time where you're learning about the station, you're interacting with people and sneaking about avoiding androids. During that time I was able to explore and marvel at the station, at the intricacies of the level design and the pseudo-80s future.

Fast forward a few hours and ever corridor is my enemy, every darkened corner something to be feared and every footstep would send me running for a locker where I would hide for up to a few minutes at a time.

It's tense, gripping, engaging and a very accurate representation of the world created in the original Alien movie, rather than its action orientated sequels. But as with Infinite, I had the most fun when I was simply exploring the world around me and learning about how it worked.

Although not quite so jarring a difference in gameplay as Infinite, Isolation had that same feeling that there was another game buried under the fear and the tension. It felt like the beginning was an entirely different game and I'll likely go back to it to explore it a little more in the future, safe with the knowledge that the alien won't show up to pin me against the wall with a mouth-punch until a little later.

I want to see more games that don't rely on combat or a fear of death to proceed. I want to play more games that involve truly exciting exploration in worlds that feel lived in, without having to brain someone because they have a weapon I need. Sometimes life and death doesn't need to be the focus of the game.

I'm sure I'm not the only one though. Do you guys ever find yourself enjoying the start of a game more than the rest of it? Do you think it's just a short attention span thing, or are there some great games waiting to be made based around mechanics that aren't combat focused?