The climax. The finale. The big hoorah.
In almost any medium, the ending is the big payoff - the reward for sticking it out. It's the emotional closure of a story arc or the grand battle between rival gangs or characters, or anything like that.
Not everything ends with a bang, or a resolute conclusion, though. Some movies end with the main character just starting another day, but we know something has changed within them. Some albums close with songs that are less than triumphant, yet hold its biggest moments toward the middle.
We still like them. We accept them as great. We allow them to be what they are and to say what they have to say.
Why doesn't the same hold true for video games?
I can't count the number of times I've read the abhorrence of the Internet masses - general public and critics alike - toward a supposed bad ending. It's annoying.
Hate the ending of "Modern Warfare 3?" "Mass Effect 3?" Any other game? Please, tell me more about it. I haven't heard enough already.
It is nearly, if not altogether, impossible for a development team to realize all consumer expectation in their product.
They are not you, and they don't possess your brain.
However, I do suppose when most of the market complains in a uniformly scornful geek-cry there may be some legitimacy to the criticism. Still, why continue to the end if the experience wasn't worthwhile?
That's my point.
Yes, there are plenty of completionists and trophy hunters that will continuously suffer to the end of a "Naruto" title - to be fair, they have become a lot better - just for the additional gamerscore or trophies. Most of us wouldn't, though.
A video game usually has to possess some weight in my mind to keep me playing until the end. After all, it's not unusual for me to drop a game because of a poorly executed middle section or boss fight. I'm OK with hard, but I'm not with bad design.
Sometimes, though, a great story or exemplary art direction can turn an otherwise dull title into something worth playing through to the end, even if said ending doesn't live up to what came before it.
It's an experience.
Sure, the wonderful taste left in your mouth for the past 12 hours can be spoiled by an inadequate conclusion like the last clementine that's rotted, but try and remember the rest of the crate was bliss.
I'm going to stray from getting into the "Mass Effect 3" ending debate that has swept every gaming website and blog I visit. I've yet to reach it, I'll be honest, but even if I find myself let down, the series remains one of the best in modern gaming, and that's what I'll take with me.
Video games are a meticulously designed experience. A story. A challenge. It's understandable to want your expectations met, but it's dangerous to expect too much. I say, let yourself be surprised, enjoy the ride and try to remember why you played until the end to begin with.
I get it. I hear you Internet, I really do. Just sometimes, I wish I didn't hear it quite as loud.