Are you bored? Is it my turn? Are we still playing?
I've been playing Minecraft since the beta version. I still enjoy it even though it has turned into shopping and XP. (Its fear-of-the-dark made manifest is the best part of the game to me.) But I don't really enjoy playing for more than an hour or two, which surprised me for a long time. I'm nearly as reliable as a clock: after 60-75 minutes, I've probably added to my architecture, killed some spiders, planted something, explored somewhere—most of the actions you do in Minecraft. And I'm done.
Except at the beginning of a world; then I'll play for a while. But I've detected a pattern: given at least one awesome house, an enchantment table (and my kreeper-proof armor), some serious time killing mineshaft spiders, and a flock of chickens, once the terrain patchwork becomes uninteresting to explore, I'm ready to start over. And I've started over a lot.
But it took Kimi saying, about Skyrim, "This is not a game you 'finish', this is a game that you eventually grow bored of" to make me realize this was a class of games. Skyrim, Minecraft, Animal Crossing: things you play until you're bored.
But what a weird ending condition boredom is! It's not a state of satisfaction, it's not a state of closure, of success. It's not a positive state, it's uncomfortable and itchy, mind-numbing. It makes us dull when we could be witty. It's a rut in which we're stuck simultaneously knowing we'd rather be anywhere else but can't get there from here. Boredom is not worth achieving, better a shared win in Cosmic Encounter.
Boredom for an ending condition feels a bit too much to me like game over in first-world real life: keep working for the weekends, keep drinking to Fox News, until they come for you with a casket.
So why are we still playing? My mother wore out three Nintendo DS machines playing Animal Crossing and now has it for the Wii. Minecraft 1.3 just debuted with interactive NPCs. (I wonder if they'll get catchphrases eventually?) I don't hear the constant buzz that Skyrim discussion used to be but I have no doubt that it's just gone into a different room from this one.
Is it, in fact, the closeness to reality juxtaposed with the impossibility of real life (dragons, kreepers, talking tanuki) that keeps us changing the seed in server.properties?
The whole experience has made me appreciate endings, whether I win or lose, not only the finality but the opportunity. That game's over and now we can play another, no more quasi-guilt from the number of saved world directories sitting on my hard drive. Who's in for Ohne Furcht Und Adel? Seven Wonders?