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Casuals vs Completionists – Where do you stand?

By Lewis Empson and Marcus Yeatman-Crouch

Two words that will often crop up in the gaming lexicon are ‘casuals’ and ‘completionists’. Pretty obvious terms, and total opposites: the casuals who will play through a game, finish the story then put it down; the completionists who will vampirically drain a game for all its worth before they move on to the next. We all know someone who fits either category, and lucky for you it turns out us two editors are also on opposing ends of the gameplay spectrum! So strap in, we’ve both had our say on our own methods of gaming and got a bit carried away, but maybe something in our passionate rants will help you realise which side you’re on.

Casuals – Lewis

Don’t get me wrong, I’d say casual might be a little too extreme of a term to describe my relationship with gaming, however, I am more than happy to admit that as of recent, it’s been a non-committal effort. I could throw out excuses like “I just haven’t had time” or “I’ve been so busy” but 1) we’ve been locked inside in a freaking pandemic and 2) I am literally a games journalist, there are no excuses. So what defines me now as feeling like a “casual” despite the fact I know I love gaming and have been playing so for years?

Firstly, I need to get the biggest sin off my chest; my pile of shame. Everyone has one of these so don’t try to lie – it’s a pile of games consisting of titles you put down one day and went “I’ll finish that soon”, and just never did. Mine is particularly heinous though as it consists of some of the best games to be released in recent memory and, might I add, games I genuinely love playing but for whatever reason have left my disk drive and never returned. Some of these include Final Fantasy XV (my save file got wiped fairly early on and I never bothered to pick it up again), Horizon Zero Dawn (it was my mission to complete this over lockdown as my next big open world game – just didn’t happen) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (a beautifully crafted game that bored me to absolute tears – when the multiplayer was terrible, I just gave up). However arguably my two most recent and shameful additions to this pile would have to be Ghost Of Tsushima and Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Ghost of Tsushima has quite a free open world, but there’s no excuse for not finishing a masterpiece of a story Lewis…

Ghost Of Tsushima is a game I genuinely love, I have it ready to play on my PS5 and I refuse to let it sit incomplete because it is too good to be abandoned; so mark my words, I will finish it. But as for Animal Crossing, it was my comfort game over lockdown, my place to retreat and relax… and it was hell, it was so dull and I wanted to love it and I wanted to join the whole “lockdown aesthetic vibe” and check in on my villagers, but it became a chore and now I haven’t visited my island in like 8 months and my villagers are going to hate me and it’s just too stressful; so it will be left unplayed. Wow, that felt good to confess all of that and get it off my chest. 

There is this feeling of remorse and guilt, because I know these games are great, but sometimes it just feels like so much effort to load into a huge and complex open world with its own set of mechanics and controls when I haven’t touched it in months – the thought of trying to catch up can be overwhelming so I just tell myself “I’ll get back into it later”. Unfortunately, later never comes around and I’m left with half finished games sitting on my hard drive. 

Where this really shows is in my trophy collection on PlayStation Network. I have *drumroll please* 1 (one, singular, uno, non-plural) platinum trophy. It’s embarrassing. I have had such great intentions to set out and platinum my favourite games, and yet I begin my epic quest only to get lost or bored. My only platinum achievement is in Marvel’s Spider-Man, I’m very close to platinuming its successor, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but hell, I haven’t touched that game in months so will I ever achieve that platinum? 

And I think this is wherein my problem lies, I hit the ending of the game’s main story and I feel content in knowing I’ve achieved the ending, maybe not 100%, but I’ve seen what the story has to offer. Sure there’s side quests, challenges, new game plus and so much more. But like, I’ve completed the story, so what difference is that going to make? It’s a fatalist and wasteful viewpoint I know, but what’s the point in playing if I’m not enjoying it? I could sit and grind it out for the platinum but if it’s at the cost of frustration then why bother; gaming is supposed to be fun right? 

I know when summer rolls around and I have all the free time in the world I’ll find time to clear my pile of shame but as for now I’ll just reside in guilt, knowing that I am a filthy casual, missing out on what these great games have to offer. 

It’s all fun and games until you get back to your island after 3 months and feel the guilt of abandoning your villagers.

Completionists – Marcus

Let’s be honest: even if you claim to just be a ‘casual’ gamer, the gnawing feeling of guilt is one that builds up every time you catch a glimpse of unfinished disks sitting by your console or, in more modern terms, a bunch of incomplete games in your library. Games are there to be completed, whether it be just getting through the story or mopping up all the collectibles and trophies you can. In that sense, then, you could say I’m a ‘completionist’; especially in the past few years I’ve really started getting everything I can out of games, and while it may seem tedious for some, getting all those full progress bars, 100% save games and platinum trophies is how you know you’ve really had the full experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel compelled to finish every game, and I’m embarrassed about some of the titles I haven’t even finished the story for. But when a game gets its hooks in me, it really digs deep, and that’s when I get the need to finish everything I can before putting it down. Since I mainly play on PlayStation, the end goal is always the platinum trophy, and you’d notice a theme looking at my profile and seeing that all of my platinums (9 so far, not to flex or anything) are from story-driven single player titles – the immersion and personalisation they provide really make me want to enjoy the experience for as long as possible. Once I get the trophy, then I’ll consider putting it down. I’m not the type to replay single player games either, hence the compulsion to get everything done in one playthrough – so I can feel fully satisfied with the experience before moving on to the next. 

This need to extract everything I can from a game is evident in some of my recent playthroughs – Lewis has already heard how I spent nearly 200 hours finishing everything in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, culminating in a final trophy earned by mindlessly swimming a horse through 5km of river. There was a lot of action before the slightly grindy mopping up of trophies, but I loved every minute of it, playing on my free nights and finishing off each nicely segmented county of England before moving on to the next. But Assassin’s Creed is formulaic – completing things is easy when it’s all signposted, where’s the challenge? Right now I’m almost done getting platinum on Control, the 2019 PS4 exclusive (with a slick 60fps upgrade on PS5), and it’s far less hand-holdy, requiring a bit more skill and thinking to earn trophies and find collectibles that will fill the progress bar. Frankly, it doesn’t matter how easy or hard the game makes it to earn its platinum trophy or 100% completion, if I enjoy it enough I’ll most certainly want to get it. 

As I said, I don’t finish every game, and the wealth of titles coming out every week nowadays means that in the big months of October through December especially it can be hard to dedicate to finishing just one game when there’s so many on offer. Alongside this abundance of choice, there is of course fatigue. If I’m not gripped by a game, burn out can happen at any time. Yes, I’ve played Jedi: Fallen Order twice and got it to 100% both times, but I’ve also reached the very final mission in Horizon Zero Dawn and (in 4 years of owning the game) never finished it, and can’t bring myself back to do so. I’d still say I got the most out of both titles, I just reached my limits with one faster than the other.

It seems HZD is the game we’ve both struggled to finish. Will it be the same with the sequel, Forbidden West?

So maybe I’m not the most legit completionist. But who is? Other than The Completionist, who made a YouTube career out of his longstanding rule to finish a game entirely before playing another, we’re all in the same boat really. If a game truly brings you joy, you’ll play it as much as you can and even withstand the grindy nonsense trophies to earn that coveted platinum. If you like to just get through the story and a few side quests of a game, fair play. But maybe once you find that game, you’ll feel the itch to collect that one item to finish off a location, and the grips of completionism will find you too