A Case Against Multiple Endings

It’s become somewhat of a staple for games, the ability to choose your ending. But as games begin to tackle bigger themes in their writing, games with multiple endings are beginning to show their cracks,

Endings are important. Probably the most important part of any narrative. They decide the arch. The way the story ends can drastically change it from something that works, to something that makes no sense. The existence of multiple endings in a game often threatens to sully the narrative that has been built up.

Let’s take GTA V as an example. Along with being the most recent game I personally finished (for the third time), it arguably has two endings that are tacked on as a gimmick. They provide no real resolution to the story, barring a few stretches in logic. When Franklin, and therefore the player, is given the choice between killing Michael or Trevor the only logical choice to make is the third option. Everything about Franklin’s story leading up to this point is leading to the third option. Franklin’s entire arch is about Franklin learning to be loyal to his friends. From his interactions with Lamar and his idolisation of Michael, everything leads to him saving both Michael and Trevor. Neither of the other endings are even close to being logical, and seem to have been put there as a matter of course.

I get it. The idea that the player has a choice in the way a story goes is a nice one. It gives the player some power over the course of events in a narrative form that is inherently interactive. Unless the multiple endings are inherently built into the game for good reason (The Stanley Parable comes to mind), then they aren’t necessary, and in fact may lessen the experience.