Join Dr. Light Ate your Magicite on a brand new textual adventure as he tackles game length, the most prominent and dastardly advertising bullet point in modern gaming!
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If there's one thing that pisses me off about games lately, it's the advertised "60+ hours of gameplay!" Why is that a selling point? Aren't we playing these games for enjoyment, for an engrossing story, for the satisfaction of developing a new gaming skill, or perhaps a little enlightenment? Why aren't those the focal points? Are we as gamers so bereft of a reason to play video games that we'll throw down the money for any game so long as it promises to serve as a time sink? Why do we continue to scrutinize over length when the game in question delivered a worthwhile experience? How the fuck is the phrase "Over 60+ hours" even acceptable? It's like saying ATM Machine or PIN Number. Redundant phrase is redundant.
In the past, a game might be advertised as "xx megabits" in size, which may be seen as pulling the same stunt, but a game's physical size could mean anything. That memory could have been spent on enhanced graphics, additional soundtrack or more gameplay - the point is, it wasn't emblazoned across the game as if to say "this game is awesome because you'll spend 10 hours doing something interesting, and 45 hours grinding through repetitive tasks!"
With the advent of optical media in console gaming, we were introduced to the 'no limit' format, where a game was no longer restricted to the size of proprietary ROM cartridges. For PC gamers, this meant we were finished with loading games from 12 3.5" floppy disks. In either sense, nearly every component of a game was greatly expanded as a result. Since a game could now be spread onto an entire CD-ROM, or even a few, graphics and sound weren't sacrificed for length, and vice versa. But for all the good that this step in evolution brought, it also allowed games to be superficially inflated, hindering a player's progress with asinine sidequests and extraneous cutscenes. Jump ahead to the current formats, and the problem continues to grow.
What infuriates me is seeing people gripe and moan that Lost Winds was only a few hours long, or that Portal would have been a better game had it lasted longer. These are good games, and in Portal's case, a fantastic game. They were even priced accordingly, and yet people find room to bitch. And why? Because we're fucking greedy. We get a great experience, something we've never played before, and the first thing we do when it's over is hold out our grubby hands and expect more.
Our enjoyment should not be quantified by the amount of time spent, it should be based on (novel idea) the amount of enjoyment we attained by playing the game. I don't care that Lost Winds was over in three hours because I had a blast playing it, and have gone back several times since. And that isn't to say a large length is a bad thing, but it shouldn't have become the selling point, because it encourages developers to be lazy and deliver games with potentially solid foundations that are mired by repetitive sequences and unnecessary filler. I loved Assassin's Creed at the start, but hated it by the end and just wanted to complete it because I'm an obsessive game and have the urge to finish any game I start. And that's not even really that long a game, but it still manages to become incredibly tiresome by the closing chapter.
The usual argument is that one wants to get their money's worth when buying a game, that less than ten hours is unacceptable when paying more than $50. Well, my thought is that I'm in the business to have fun, to experience something new, maybe even something that will rile my emotions or thoughts in some way. In short, I'm in it for good content, and I don't care if it takes an hour or fifty hours to get it. Five hours of gaming bliss is still bliss - the length of time taken shouldn't negate that. And the fact is, over saturation of anything is bad, even for a game concept that started as fun and original. Downloadable Content: Length and MMoRPGs.
Anyone who might scroll down to my gaming collection entry would probably note that I play MMoRPGs, and may insinuate that it's hypocritical to argue that length shouldn't be a selling point when I play games that never end. To that, I say there is an entirely different way to enjoy a game such as World of Warcraft that eludes most people. I've been playing WoW since closed beta, and bought the release version on launch day. It took me about two years to get my first character to level 60, because I play in small sittings. I log on occasionally, do a few quests and mostly immerse myself in the world.
When I played Dark Age of Camelot, it was the same deal, except that I played for the Realm vs. Realm content (think MMoRPG capture the flag/deathmatch). Playing these games like one would play Halo is indeed a fruitless endeavor because there isn't a set path for one to traverse. I see people try to tackle every dungeon, complete every quest, and I think they miss the point altogether. These games allow a player to escape into a persistent world and explore at their leisure, and the first thing most gamers want to do is dominate. So in terms of length, if I play WoW for a half hour every day and get to escape into another world, my money was well spent.
I'm Dr. Light Ate your Magicite, and I leave you with a quote that inspired this entry. Hobbes:
"What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?" Calvin
: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."
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