[[quoteright:269:[[Webcomic/PennyArcade http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pennyarcademeffect_8295.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:269: Swim until the water is all you have ever known and all you ever desire.]]

->''"I have a hard time with'' [[VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto GTA]]''. I find the total freedom paralyzing. When given the opportunity to do anything, I tend to do nothing."''
-->-- '''Tycho''', ''Webcomic/PennyArcade''

You just got a new game! It's huge, expansive, non-linear! You can do anything you want to, the world is completely open to you. So... what ''do'' you wanna do?

You suddenly find yourself paralyzed, you can't figure out where to go next. You wander aimlessly, sometimes for hours, until you're able to find a goal.

This is what happens when a player starts playing a WideOpenSandbox or {{Metroidvania}} game and ends up getting stuck. First comes surprise, then consternation, confusion, desperate flailing around, despair, [[VideoGameCrueltyPotential potential killing sprees]], and in the worst cases, death, quitting the game without having even left the starting town. This is particularly common when they [[NowWhereWasIGoingAgain start playing again after a long break]].

Efforts to avoid this in sequels may actually be [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks seen as overly-pampering.]] [[TropesAreNotBad Openness is not bad]], some players prefer the risk of getting lost to being railroaded. Well-designed games would often find remedy in an AchievementSystem which provides inspiration and impulse to the player. Compare AltItis, which largely focuses on differing character abilities and options, and SidetrackedByTheGoldSaucer, which may overlap. Contrast NoSidepathsNoExplorationNoFreedom.



[[folder: Action Adventure ]]
* In the Atari game ''VideoGame/{{Adventure}}'', you have a general goal and no idea how to accomplish it or where anything is.
* ''VideoGame/LaMulana'' can be like this, even though the whole ruins aren't initially open to you. You do, however, have very little in the way of objectives when you first enter the ruins. Being that Lemeza is an archaeologist, exploration is one of the main themes of the game--puzzles and hints are everywhere. It's often not obvious what solving a particular puzzle does for you, and it's difficult at times to figure out just which puzzle will help you to conquer which obstacle. If you miss a certain early item, you might not even know when you've solved a puzzle, which could lead to a lot of frustrated wandering as you try to figure out what, if anything, you just accomplished.
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'':
** In [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaI the first game]], you're basically sent out with little idea what to do and especially where to go leading to some early deaths. ([[WithThisHerring "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!"]])
** In ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild Breath of the Wild]]'', after you get the four main runes (bombs and [[MagnetismManipulation the power to manipulate metal objects]], [[TimeStandsStill paralyze objects]] and [[AnIcePerson turn water into ice]]) and learn the basic backstory and goal of the game, you're able to do whatever you wish to do, with the only limitation on where you can travel being your own skill and resourcefulness.
* Like its {{Metroidvania}} predecessors, ''VideoGame/AnUntitledStory'' mostly revolves around finding the next GravityBarrier and the new ability to bypass it. It has a plot, but it's never at the forefront.
* ''VideoGame/{{Turgor}}'' (aka ''The Void'') doesn't hold your hand, rarely tells you where to go, and when it does tell you what to do, it doesn't tell you in what order or how best to do so. It is very much a game of trial and error, and you can expect to die several times even before fighting a Brother through simple resource mismanagement.

[[folder: Adventure Game ]]
* Most early {{Creator/Sierra}} adventure games. Particularly the games that used a text parser, which were infamous for dropping you in a room without so much as an introductory message, while the later point-and-click games had at least some sort of introduction giving you some clues. The original ''VideoGame/PoliceQuest'' was particularly infamous: at the start of the game, you're dressed in your police uniform in the main hall of the station. If you don't figure out that you need to attend your morning briefing within the first three minutes of the game, you'd get HaveANiceDeath when you finally walked into the briefing room.
* The first ''Detective Barbie'' game, especially for the target audience, girls in single digits. You're alone in a carnival, there's no lines, all the rides and attractions are working... mystery, what mystery?
* From the first minutes of {{VideoGame/Scratches}}, your have an access to almost every room of a huge three-story Victorian mansion, and no clear goals besides "Explore this place before going to sleep". Needless to say, there is a ''lot'' of PixelHunt and GuideDangIt early in the game.

[[folder: Driving Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeedUnderground 2'', after you're stuck into searching for secret races or [[EventFlag need to complete specially hard DVD/magazine covers]].
* ''VideoGame/BurnoutParadise'' suffered from this a fair bit. You're tossed into a large open world where events are unlocked at every intersection with traffic lights, and drive-throughs like Junkyards, Billboards, Shortcuts, Auto-Repairs and Paint Shops to find (not to mention the Speed and Crash Road Rules on all 70+ roads on the map). The entire game world is unlocked from the start. It can be a nightmare to navigate the game world when you're unfamiliar with it, as events often finish on the other side of the map from where they started. To cap it all off, after finishing a licence, all events are reset and you can win them ''again''.

[[folder: First Person Shooter ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands}}'' for the most part attempts to give you many different ways to locate your next target such as hint markers, objects, and a list of missions, however this won't aid you if any of the game's bugs kick in, such as the "Keep Your Insides Inside" glitch which will stall a player at a dead stop in the story, making it impossible to play online with people and progress.

[[folder: [=MMORPGs=] ]]
* ''VideoGame/SecondLife''. When the question to "what can I do?" can more or less be answered by "anything", this is a big stumbling block for newbies. It also gets overwhelming when you look up tutorials on how to even build things from prims or how to make a script. And then there's the in world currency (mostly gotten with real money) where you can use it for almost "anything"... God help us if ''Second Life'' and ''VideoGame/{{Scribblenauts}}'' have a child.
* ''VideoGame/EveOnline'' has been described as a sand box with land mines. There are few over arching quest and most of the content is player-generated. Leaving many newbies completely at a loss for what to do next. Expect everyone else to repeatedly kill you while you decided what to do for yourself.
** Since the introduction of wormholes, you can accidentally turn an activity you learned from a tutorial on your first day into a one-way trip to a random section of the universe that may take hours to reverse without dying even if you don't land in a hostile PVP area.
* ''VideoGame/StarWarsGalaxies'' allowed players to level up several skills across 30+ professions, explore one of the largest MMO gaming worlds ever created, and fly (and fight) in space. Most of the planets allowed players to create and run cities, decorate them (and the planets) with various Storyteller objects, and decorate multiplayer ships.
* ''VideoGame/EverQuest'' was very much like this in the early days. The process of receiving quests was not at all intuitive, completing them even less so, and often the only guidelines a player had as to where he was supposed to be was the level of the roaming monsters.
* ''VideoGame/RuneScape,'' full stop. Fortunately, there is an in-game list of quests that help newbies explore the areas.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' has ''become'' this due to the sheer amount of content added over its expansions. Players can easily reach max level before doing most of the main questlines and most players are likely to not experience all of them before quitting. This is actually fairly typical of [=MMOs=] that follow the traditional structure as they may start off with a single linear main path but will over their lifetimes grow extremely diverse in terms of endgame alternative content as developers are forced to give maxed veterans new things to do. This also tends to make the path to max level more like a pre-sandbox tutorial.
** Even ''before'' a lot of content was added and the old world was revamped, it would fall into this. With two continents to explore no real "main quest" directing you to the next zone besides some quest arcs that would send you to another zone, no real path through a continent (or indication that you have "cleared" a zone short of the mobs being way weaker than you), it was frankly hard to ''not'' get lost in the world or wonder just where the next zone was. The fact that there were very few alternatives for some level ranges and quest chains that were almost ''too'' expansive[[hottip:*: The (in)famous Princess chain for Arathi Highlands - a quest chain that started at around the low to mid 30s, yet didn't end until you were around level 50]] didn't help either.
* ''The Saga of VideoGame/{{Ryzom}}'' has a relatively wide-open tutorial area, and you can do the four or five quest chains to learn the game's various skills in any order you like. Then you go to the mainland, which is ''huge'', and some players are just so awed by the hugeness that they make a new character and stay on the tutorial island for a while longer.
* Earlier incarnations of ''A Tale in the Desert'' were much like this. You were plonked down next to some schools in a ''vast'' world, told to grab some flax and to build a few materials to get started - and then you were left wondering what to do next. Research crossbreeding? Build art? Take over the world? Yeah.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXI'' would drop you in a starter town with a level 1 weapon suited to your class, unless you were a Monk, in which case you got your fists, ''unless'' you were a Warrior in which case they gave you a one-handed sword, even though a one-handed axe would be far better suited to Warrior (there is no indication that WARs are better with axe than sword). Then they'd point you at either Saruta-Baruta, Gustaberg, or Ronfaure, depending on the city you started in, and wished you the best of luck in a game that would come to include 20 jobs, a subjob function, 99 levels, 8 crafts not counting fishing, fishing, and much more. Thank God there was a wiki.

[[folder: Platform Game ]]
* This is a rather common trope with Metroidvania games; since many of them give you a very broad goal or just drops you into the game world without much of a hint.
* Most games in the ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'' series suffer from this trope; it becomes very easy to become lost in the game world, even in the newer games which tend to be a bit more linear. ''VideoGame/SuperMetroid'' is probably the most well-known for this, which, due to bugs, intentional design decisions and underestimating players' abilities, gives the player several different routes through the game, and many weapons and items are [[SequenceBreaking skippable]] with some ingenuity. Because there's no clear indication of what to do or where to go, putting the game down for even a day can either leave you with no idea how to progress, or stumbling in the right direction.
** The ''[[VideoGame/MetroidPrimeTrilogy Prime]]'' series try avoiding with an optional hint system that shows where the plot will advance.
** ''VideoGame/MetroidZeroMission'' has each Chozo statue set a rough waypoint to the "next" statue, unless you jump off the rails yourself -- if you go SequenceBreaking past the point that one of the statues wants to advise you about, it won't bother when you come back to it later. Since the game clock runs during these hint scenes, it's beneficial for {{speed run}}ners to skip as many as possible.
* ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaCircleOfTheMoon'': The game starts off by dropping you into Dracula's Castle; and not telling the player where to go. The hints you get are few and far in between, and even then they just give you a broad goal.
** ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaAriaOfSorrow'' takes a step to avert this trope by having a screen where you can consult a character who gives you a hint on what you can probably do next.
* ''VideoGame/{{Aquaria}}'', once you reach open waters.
* Nintendo attempted to avoid the trope in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioMaker'' by having the editing tools unlock once per day so that the player wouldn't be bogged down with a ton of tools and not knowing what to do with them when it came to creating a level. When the feature was revealed days before the game launched, there was a big backlash against it, causing Nintendo to release a patch a day after launch that made unlocking tools far faster.

[[folder: Puzzle Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Riven}}'', the sequel to ''VideoGame/{{Myst}}'' was intentionally designed this way to satisfy two kinds of gamers. The sightseer could get to four of the five CD discs in the set without difficulty, but only the insanely dedicated puzzle solver could get to the fifth disc. And if they weren't insane before, they certainly were after.
* ''VideoGame/{{Scribblenauts}}''. You can create ''anything'' to solve your problems... which leads some players to just lock up. Should you make a bridge to rescue the penguin, or a boat, or a submarine, and how do I get the penguin to come on board, and what do I make to deal with the shark, and... you get the idea. Some don't lock up, but after experimenting, rely on a standard set of useful items that they know will generally work (Jetpacks, Ice, Cthulhu, Ropes).

[[folder: Real Time Strategy ]]
* The scripted missions in the ''VideoGame/EuropaUniversalisIV'' are an attempt to reduce this by giving players defined goals whilst not detracting from the WideOpenSandbox nature of the game.
* Most Creator/ParadoxInteractive games can be this to some degree. "You're now in control of Saxony, what do you do with it?" ''VideoGame/VictoriaAnEmpireUnderTheSun'' is probably the biggest example.
* Most of the ''VideoGame/TotalWar'' games are like this. Depending on which game you play and which faction you play as, you'll probably occasionally be assigned missions from some authority like the Pope or the Roman Senate, but aside from that you're pretty much cut loose to do whatever you want. Conquer the world, become a trade superpower and then conquer the world, spread your religion across the map and [[RuleOfThree then conquer the world]], or just burn it all to the ground and let the rebels have it. [[RunningGag And then conquer the world.]]

[[folder: Roguelike ]]
* ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress'' is possibly the only game to encompass geology, weather patterns, genetics, city building, tactical combat, individual psychology, item crafting and the effects of a punctured lung all in the same game setting. This is made worse by the fact that the author is continually adding new features to the game, making it much more complicated every year. This causes most prospective players to quit in the first week. Once you can make it past the learning stage, [[EarnYourFun the game is immensely fun]]. Consulting [[http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/Main_Page the wiki]] regularly is pretty much mandatory for new players, and even veteran players still check in every so often.

[[folder: Role Playing Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/MountAndBlade'' essentially ''has'' no goals. You just get dumped into the world and basically told to make your own fun.
** Its sequel, ''VideoGame/{{Warband}}'', gives players the option to do a starting quest that has a small, simple storyline and conclusion, introducing them to some of the mechanics and the setting...at which point they are again dumped into the world and left to their devices.
** While most user-made mods add only different weapons and textures, there are a precious few which add a storyline, or at least a long-term goal.
* In ''VideoGame/ArcanumOfSteamworksAndMagickObscura'' the book that tells you what subquests you currently have active doesn't tell you where you actually got the quests, so you can spend hours visiting every city in the game to find Raxinfraxin, the guy who wanted M'hurna's Emerald (or whatever), which you just found in some ruins. A similar problem exists in ''Baldur's Gate''
* Once the ''[[Franchise/SaGaRPG SaGa]]'' games went onto consoles, every single one suffered from this. ''VideoGame/{{SaGa Frontier}}'' plays the trope straight and averts it because of AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent: Lute and Blue had the most "open" quests (and Blue had "learn magic" as a guidepost), while the other five playable characters had relatively linear stories. Depending on who you chose to play as, you had your pick of linearity.
* Several games in the ''VideoGame/{{Ultima}}'' series are like this. Especially ''VideoGame/UltimaIV'' and ''VideoGame/UltimaV''.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' games give you an overarching goal and a suggestion of where to head first, then leave you to your own devices. It's possible to go the whole game without finding out about whole ''cities''. There are also a large number of unmarked or "freeform" quests.
** Fallout 3 makes this worse by connecting locations through a maze of subway tunnels, although once through the first time you can usually find a fast travel marker on the other end.
** [[VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas New Vegas]] even more so, you can spends dozens of hours without even going to the title city. The final battle at the Hoover Dam is the PointOfNoReturn, however, and the game ends once you complete the main quest.
* ''Metal Max'' and ''VideoGame/MetalSaga''. You're dumped into an enormous world with no more guidance than "See those monsters on the wanted posters? Kill them", and the occasional mention of places you can go now.
* ''VideoGame/YumeNikki''. The start menu says you're looking for "effects", but there's no explanation where to find them, no word of what they are, and no in-game reason for you to do anything. Plus you can wander for hours without finding anything and just wonder if the game is some LSD-induced MindScrew.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Gothic}} Gothic III]]'' does this far more so than the previous games in the series. At the start you're dropped into an overrun town and must liberate it, but then other than some far distant goal of meeting up with an old friend ''somewhere'' and the vague notion that it'd ''probably'' be a good idea to liberate the rest of the country and see if the King is still holding up, no real direction is provided. Exactly what you do and how you do it are left up to the player to decide, with consequences for your actions learned the hard way.
* ''VideoGame/{{Darklands}}'' hardly even ''had'' a main plot, just random quests. Technically, you're supposed to stop the apocalypse by defeating Baphomet, but that only entailed doing two quests to find the location of the final fortress then beating the fortress itself. There were no hints in game or in the manual that that was supposed to be your goal.
* For the people who love to complete everything, ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' can be like this. Beat the Gym Leaders, unlock the [=NationalDex=], explore the world, and [[GottaCatchEmAll catch them all!]]
* While the bulk of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'' is in fact NoSidepathsNoExplorationNoFreedom, the one exception, Gran Pulse is this trope. You are dumped into a field, given a short tutorial about Cie'th Stone giving missions... and that's it. The next step to continue the story is a red X of in an unrevealed section of the map.
* Probably the number one complaint about ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyI'' is how easy it is to get lost. You are given incredibly vague instructions of where to go such as "visit the sages at the crescent lake," which you can't SEE unless you have the airship, which by the way you have to be around this area to get a key item to obtain that anyway. Then, once you have the next PlotCoupon...you have no idea where to take it or what to do with it. There's even a point where you have to exit a dungeon and visit a strange man who lives in an unmarked cave to be told that you have to go back into that dungeon and use the item you got from it.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'': The game becomes wide open as soon as you collect four party members and [[spoiler: the new airship]] in the second half of the game...in fact, absolutely nothing stops you from tackling TheVeryFinalDungeon except the ridiculously tough battles that you would face along the way.
* The second ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' game has a more wide-open world because it is the whole rest of the world, whereas the first only featured one continent. However; there were players who wound up going the wrong way and getting themselves stuck (in Air's Rock, or at [[ThatOneBoss Briggs]]) when they were supposed to have done another event first, and the game doesn't stop you from doing so. With the ship you have to get to the other side of the world but are blocked by an obstacle in a canal and have to go elsewhere first, but there are obstacles ''there'' too, forcing you to have to go find another way to bypass them. It can be refreshing to be allowed to do whatever you want but set the game down for too long and it will take awhile to figure out where you've already been if you pick it back up - the game doesn't keep track of your progress, so you might find pieces of a trident, but have forgotten just ''where'' you got them.
** What's also made a little worse is the fact that you have to collect [[ExcaliburInTheRust pieces of a Trident]] - with little to no indication as to why you need it, or exactly where the parts were. For example, one part is located in a continent on the bottom of the world.
* Common throughout ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'' series, in large part because of how early the games [[OpeningTheSandbox Open The Sandbox]] for you. Typically, after a brief tutorial and a tip on where to go next for the main quest, you're free to go wherever you want and do whatever you want. There are LoadsAndLoadsOfSidequests, as well as full blown [[SidequestSidestory Sidequest Sidestories]] (some of which, particularly the faction questlines, are nearly as expansive as the main quest). To note, specifically by game:
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIDaggerfall Daggerfall]]'' has a nigh-infinite (though with significant [[ProceduralGeneration procedural generation]] and [[RandomlyGeneratedLevels Randomly Designed Dungeons]]) game world. After escaping the NoobCave [[ForcedTutorial tutorial dungeon]], you're told to use fast-travel to head to Daggerfall itself but the game otherwise leaves you to your own devices. Given how big the world is, it's ''very'' easy to get lost. If you follow Daggerfall's main quest, you explore maybe a dozen towns and dungeons. The rest of the ''15,000'' locations are optional.
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]'', though thousands of times smaller in terms of raw square footage than its predecessor, trades away the procedurally and randomly generated sections for an entirely hand-built game world while still being ''far'' larger than most video game settings. Vvardenfell, the island the game plays on is huge, and it takes almost 45 real-time minutes to walk from one end to the other (and that is without stopping to explore along the way). In the (short but extant) tutorial, you learn in about five minutes how to use the controls, then the game kicks you out of the door, hands you a couple of coins and basically says: "Here, this is the world, have fun" while only giving you a direction for where to go to continue the main quest. {{Beef Gate}}s and the rare PlotLock are the only impediments to going wherever you want and doing whatever your want. The game also doesn't do much hand-holding in your quest log, forcing you to remember people and places from quests you might have received weeks ago in real time.
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' continue the trend of large and (mostly) hand-built game worlds. After the tutorial in each, other than a direction on where to go next for the main quest, there is nothing stopping you from immediately going and exploring the entirety of those game worlds. On the one hand, these worlds are huge (compared to other [=RPGs=]) and are incredibly detailed, with dozens upon dozens of quests. On the other, nearly all the quests are neatly catalogued in your character menu with reminders of what you're doing and geographic markers to where the next objective is located, and each individual quest can activated or deactivated from that menu.
* The later ''VideoGame/{{Wizardry}}'' games, VII and 8 especially, have quite a bit of this. You're dumped onto an alien planet with only the broad outlines of what's going on and are expected to figure out what to do from there. If you import from the previous game, you might be immediately greeted with a questline to follow... that's probably far too hard for your level. Good luck figuring out where you're supposed to go and when - the plot of these games tends towards the labyrinthine...
* Contrary to the ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'' page image, ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'' averts this problem for the most part. You go through a few training missions before getting the [[CoolSpaceship Normandy]] to freely fly around the universe, only to be restricted to one ship/planet/asteroid to explore within each star system. Story progression is rather straightforward, despite you being able to play a trio of core missions in whatever order you wish, and a clear goal in mind. In addition, all active missions are logged in the pause menu -- even separated to required and optional missions -- so you never have to wonder what you're supposed to be doing. ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' is also an aversion in spite of more missions and a wider scope of freedom. It's still linear.
* ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' throws you into the land of Lordran with no clear goal beyond "ring the two Bells of Awakening". You don't know what will happen when you do, or even where their locations are. At the very first stages you can find yourself in locations that have enemies you can't possibly damage without fulfilling special conditions that you're not told. Generally the game doesn't give the player any hand holding, expecting them to read through item descriptions to get hints of where to go next.
** Despite statements from the developers on making it easier to find out where to go and fan fears, [[VideoGame/DarkSoulsII its sequel]] is much worse than the original when it comes to this, as all the player is told is to find the four Old Ones and kill them for their souls. Where the player goes from there is up to them, though most get confused as to where to go after defeating the first boss in the starter area, as it gives no indication of what do next.
* In ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'', the first explorable zone, the Hinterlands, is also the largest, with tons of side quests, landmarks, and other stuff to do. This has been known to cause players to lose sight of the next main quest and completely immerse themselves in exploring every nook and cranny of the zone, and then complain that there is too much to do and the plot is moving too slowly (especially if they forget what the next main quest even ''is'', having set a side quest as active by accident). This especially plagues players desiring OneHundredPercentCompletion and used to Creator/BioWare's "don't move on until you've completely cleared a zone" formula. "Still in the Hinterlands" has become a meme. What the game actually expects you to do is to clear the low-level areas of a zone first, do a main quest, and then comes back at higher levels.
-->"[[http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/631230-dragon-age-inquisition/70943067 Your problem is you're still in the hinterlands.]]

-->The gameplay for DAI is amazing, but there's no neon sign saying, "Leave Hinterlands. Come back in 5 levels. Bring pie."

-->Leave at level six or seven, come back at ten, leave at twelve, come back at 15, kill the dragon, be happy.

-->Makes the game flow a lot better than spending 30 hours in hinterlands like I did, and being overleveled for the rest of the playthrough on Nightmare."
* ''VideoGame/HorizonZeroDawn'' gives you a wide-open world to explore once you've completed the tutorial. Sure, there's something about tracking down the people who massacred your village, but first why not go check out some ancient ruins for artifacts, or climb a Tallneck, or hunt some machines for parts, or...

[[folder: Shoot Em Up ]]
* ''VideoGame/StarControlII''. Once you're finished with your initial business in the Sol system, you have a few broad goals, as opposed to specific objectives. The game focuses heavily on exploration, so it's largely up to the player to figure out good places to mine resources, who's on what side, and so on. It's a little overwhelming.
** This is made particularly sadistic in that the game is actually on a time-limit... Take too long exploring and the resident ScaryDogmaticAliens will start killing species off. However, it usually gives you ''some'' clue about where to go next for the main plot, even if it's as vague as "Hey, I heard there's an alien species that lives over that direction someplace." The main point of confusion is usually that it's up the player to keep track of his own quests; the game doesn't tell you what missions you've picked up or where to go to complete it, if they even told you where to go next at all. And it ''is'' easy to get distracted with mining and never get around to following up on the storyline.

[[folder: Simulation Game ]]
* The ''VideoGame/SimCity'' series have no goal at all other than what the player sets for himself. "Build the highest population city you can" is a pretty popular one.
** Though each game has a handful of scenarios with actual win/lose conditions.
* ''Franchise/TheSims'' series can be summed up as "You die, you lose. [[VideoGameCrueltyPotential Maybe.]] Start playing." [=TS3=] did at least have a rolling tutorial that gave you the option of learning how to do things if you activate them with the tutorial section unread. The Sims 3 characters that are old enough have wishes and lifetime wishes, which give you points and increases their moodlets when completed.
* The ''VideoGame/RollerCoasterTycoon'' series, although almost all of the stages do have objectives to fulfill. After you complete them, then it pretty much wanders off into this territory.
* ''VideoGame/AnimalCrossing'' series. "Plot? What plot?" After you earn and spend a couple million bells on pimping your house, don't count on there being anything to do outside the starting town.
* ''VideoGame/{{Academagia}}'': Welcome to WizardingSchool. You have a bajillion stats, all of which currently suck, and you don't know what any of them mean. You have dozens of available actions, and you will quickly gain far more than you could ever use. Your only actual goal is figuring out what on earth they DO.
* Many {{Raising Sim}}s have the initial struggle to pay for food and housing, requiring some scrambling around at first to keep your character alive, before your enhanced skills give you the free time to explore:
** ''VideoGame/PrincessMaker''
** ''VideoGame/CuteKnight''
*** ''VideoGame/CuteKnightKingdom'' removed a lot of this starting urgency, and thereby left some players with no idea of what to do.
* ''VideoGame/WingCommander: Privateer'' could evoke this. You're given a ship, some credits, and that's it. You're not even in the same ''sector of space'', let alone star system or planet, as the first main plot mission.

[[folder: Survival Horror ]]
* ''VideoGame/ThePath'' was designed with this in mind. Fortunately it's a small sandbox.
* ''VideoGame/RadiationIsland'' starts with a brief tutorial on movement, scavenging, crafting and tracking animals. After that you're abandoned on the beach with the helpful suggestion to "Proceed as you may." Sure, you can pursue the storyline, but with the "dig sites" containing chests of loot, the crafting system, and the ability to design, build, and furnish entire buildings, it's possible to ignore the storyline completely. It can turn into a choice between WalkingTheEarth and settling down to be a [[AHomeOwnerIsYou homeowner]].
* ''VideoGame/TheDeadLinger'' throws you into a zombie-infested world, gives you a small prompt on how the controls work...and that's pretty much it. The game has no definitive end, but since your goal is to survive the ZombieApocalypse, you're probably always on the run, evading zombies and trying to scavenge food. But still, if you get lucky with the random world and item generation, you could just find the biggest backpack, fill it to the brim with food and stay in the town you probably started in (or near), without ever going out to explore the more interesting places in the procedurally generated world.
* ''VideoGame/{{STALKER}}'' can do this to you, but you have to invoke it to a degree. Most of the games' immersion comes in when they go off-script, although the next goals are pretty much always marked out for you so the story can keep moving. In the first game you can at several points tell the guy who gives you your next mission to piss off and just run around the Zone killing people and hunting for artifacts until you're ready to move along with the story.
* ''VideoGame/DayZ''. At the start you absolutely need to find a gun, but once you have a gun and some ammo and you know where to hide you are more or less done with the mandatory tasks, leaving you in the middle of a giant map with no objectives and nothing to do. You can gank players, take their cars and powerful guns, then use those to gank more players until you get ganked in turn and have to reroll a new character.

[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]
* A GameMaster trying too hard to avoid {{Railroading}} his players may take things too far in the other direction if he's not careful; dropping the PlayerCharacters into the game world and expecting them to make the plot happen without any sort of guidance or plot hook. Such games may end up with the characters spending all their time [[YouAllMeetInAnInn getting drunk at the tavern]].
** GM's attempting to give their PC's multiple missions and sidequests to choose from often find this. If the PC's are more used to linear plots and the idea of everything must tie together, throwing multiple, often unrelated or only tangently related plot threads/missions at them can lead their players to spending way too much time on a side quest type plot (thinking it must be the main plot) or attempting to tie various threads together that were meant to be separate. Given the obstinacy of the average player, the best solution is often for the GM to [[AscendedFanon nod and congratulate the players for figuring it out]].

[[folder: Wide Open Sandbox ]]
* The early VideoGame/{{X}}-Universe games hit this pretty hard; you're thrown in the universe with a mediocre/[[EarnYourFun bad]] ship, with no real goals aside from short plots. ''X3: Terran Conflict'' gives the players more clear goals and offers more plots to follow while making it somewhat easier to start.
* ''[[VideoGame/JustCause Just Cause 2]].'' It's very easy to get lost, but the sheer amount of non-story related things makes it possible to have oodles of fun while completely ignoring the story.
* ''VideoGame/{{Crackdown}}'' has been accused of this, since it basically just gives you a list of 21 criminals who need to die, and then kicks you into the city to fend for yourself. It's balanced by the fact that you learn how to play the game eventually, and that it's quite fun to wander around getting things. Except those goddamn ''Orbs!''
* Capcom's ''VideoGame/DeadRising'' tries to avoid this with a strict timing for taking up missions, thus limiting the player's ability to roam blindly, but it also made some players frustrated at not figuring out which missions were more important, since missing a mission-time dooms the player to being unable to progress further with the story.
** Plus the weapons can be a mess at first. Many weapons are practically useless at low levels, and even the best ones don't last long. Some enjoyed the freedom and experimentation, though.
** ''VideoGame/DeadRisingChopTillYouDrop'': The conversion for the UsefulNotes/{{Wii}} was specifically designed to address the complaints.
** ''VideoGame/DeadRising2'' is a bit more open, with the opportunity to discover combination weapons and more psychopaths to fight. ''Off The Record'' is even ''more'' open, especially in its sandbox mode, where you don't even have to find any Zombrex to keep going.
* The Space Stage in ''VideoGame/{{Spore}}'' conveys the sheer immensity of space very well. Possibly too well. Mods make the game even more fun (infinite Staff of Life, for one). Also, nothing beats watching a binary sunrise (Find a binary -two star- star system. Go to a non-dangerous, and preferably with a thin atmosphere, planet. Watch the suns rise.) Or, watch them set, preferably with the appropriate [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEUGF3NGbPg music.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}''. You are thrown into an enormous world without any defined goals at all - players can build huge structures, mine valuables from the ground, slaughter monsters, explore landscapes, become nomadic, construct railroads, seek out the [[spoiler:Ender Dragon]] or do practically anything else. This was even worse before the game came with a list of achievements that encourage new players to learn the basics of mining, farming, construction, and combat. Then there's the sheer size of the map: you can wander in one direction and go on for hours never finding an end to it all; in one interview Notch said the potential size of the gameplay world can go up to eight times the surface area of '''Earth itself''' (although there isn't any major difference between different sections of the map). Not to mention the various environments all over the place (it is possible to see a snow biome right next to a desert in this game before the 1.8 update) giving you a variety of resources to use in building your desired constructions.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Terraria}}'', you wander around looking for materials, but how you actually ''progress'' is confusing to a newer player.
* ''VideoGame/GarrysMod'' provides the player with access to every asset from just about every modern Valve game the player may have installed, tools with which to put said assets together in just about any way imaginable, and a default map entitled "Flatgrass." Knock yourself out. Various addons increase the amount of tools and assets available by an order of magnitude.
* ''[[http://chir.ag/stuff/sand/ Falling Sand Game]]'' is quite a literal version of this, having different colored pixels that react differently to other pixels. That's basically it.
* ''[[VideoGame/TheGameOfLife Conway's Game of Life]]'' is not so much a game as it is a visualized automaton of squares. It also happens to create a myriad of patterns and can be 'programmed' to produce simple computers.
* The ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' series has this, particularly since ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIII''. It gets marginally better in San Andreas with the introduction of the cell phone, and much better with the smartphone in GTA IV. In the original GTA III though, having the option to do police, ambulance, and taxi side missions (all with valuable rewards), search for and collect hidden packages, find vans or weapons with rampage side missions, doing ''actual'' side missions for gangs or the mob, and finally progressing the story, all with little guidance from the interface...things get paralyzing quickly.
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'' is this to a rather good degree. The game starts with the requisite tutorial missions, but then to progress in the story, you are required to earn "respect". It does tell you how to earn respect, but the various methods are so numerous it can lead some players to being distracted before even attempting any of the many mini games to earn said respect. The story itself can actually be this as it is very non-linear in its progression, allowing you to start any of the three basic gang story events at any time (with enough respect). And that doesn't even count the "stronghold missions" that have elements of story in them as well.
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRowTheThird'' on the other hand is much better. With rare exceptions you usually have only one story quest to select at a time, and the game will periodically remind you to do it. You no longer need Respect to unlock missions. Side activities and collectibles are also clearly introduced in story quests so you know what you are supposed to do.
* In the rather obscure FPS sandbox ''[[VideoGame/BoilingPointRoadtoHell Boiling Point]]'' the main quest is laid out pretty clearly. However, the story missions are all blocked by sizable [[CashGate cash gates]], leaving the player to wander around aimlessly until they figure out how to get a hold of some money.
* ''VideoGame/KerbalSpaceProgram''. You have all the spacecraft and rocket parts you might need, all the eager pilots you may require to test them out, [[SurpriseDifficulty an unexpectedly realistic physics engine]] and an entire solar system. Everything else? Up to you. One of the stated goals for the introduction of Career Mode (and the TechTree in particular) is to mitigate this by gradually and logically introducing new parts to the player as they progress.
* ''VideoGame/NoMansSky'' features a game world so large (specifically, a universe with [[UpToEleven 18 quintillion procedurally-generated worlds to explore]] that will take 585 ''billion'' years to fully discover) that you might just take your small ship, fly to the nearest planet, land, and stay there.
* In ''{{VideoGame/Foxhole}}'', it can be daunting for a new player to figure out what to do and where to go; there is no in-game direction as to what you should be doing to win the war. Especially since you start only with a pistol and a hammer, just getting a basic rifle or finding the action takes some getting used to.

[[folder: Real Life ]]
* Capcom's famed Keiji Inafune suggested that the effect of this trope, combined with the Japanese desire to be guided, explains the relative lack of success that WideOpenSandbox titles have had in Japan. There was mention of Western attitudes towards free-roaming gameplay being similar to going deer hunting and bagging a bear instead. [[note]]''GTA'' on the PC does have some popularity with Japanese [[GameMod modders]]. Apparently the sandbox isn't so bad if you can make it look like the gamer's favorite anime. [[VideoGameCrueltyPotential Or least favorite:]] [[http://www.japanprobe.com/2007/09/24/gta-crazy-anime-mod/ Nothing like the scent of dead Pikachu in the morning]]. ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim'' is also fairly popular.[[/note]]