Sunday, 10 February 2013

Thoughts on Game Length



I don't have any wordy, analytical brain dumps to do here today. Instead, I'm doing something a little bit different. Today I just want to verbalize some things that I've started to realize lately, and maybe talk a bit about my thoughts about it. Specifically I want to talk about my preferred game length. See, years ago I would have been all over the 100+ hour epic RPGs. I still like those games quite a lot, but I'm finding more and more that my preference is leaning towards the 10-20 hour games. The question is, why?

In truth, I think this is a pretty common phenomenon. The "gaming generation" is growing up, myself among them. As youngsters we had an excess of time and a small amount of money, but now the situation has reversed itself. More disposable income means that the games we buy don't have to stretch as far to keep us entertained, and we're more willing to pay for a shorter game. Or at least, this is the what conventional wisdom would tell us. Of course it's all kind of subjective, but I can't claim it doesn't hold true for myself. I don't believe that that's all there is too it though, at least in my case. Sure, I can buy more games than I could 10 years ago. I have literally hundreds of games that I haven't beaten just sitting around. That doesn't explain why shorter games seem more attractive to me, though.



I believe that a part of the reason here is just that, it's fun to beat a game and tick it off "the list". Shorter games let you do that more often. In truth though, I don't think this really strikes to the "heart" of the issue. I think it all comes down to pacing. The fact of the matter is that shorter games tend to have quicker pacing, whereas mega-long ones almost always suffer from periods of boredom here and there. A shorter game has less room for filler, and really, it's just a lot easier to have good pacing in a shorter game. Just about everything in fact, is easier to do well in a short game. There's just something really appealing about a 10 or 8, or even 2 hour game (for the right price) that has super tight design and pacing. You get in, experience something amazing, and are on to something new.

When you think of an 80+ hour game, usually it's some form of RPG that's in question. RPGs just have this stereotype of being long. In recent years I found that even they can benefit from being short. Maybe it's just my personality, but one of the things I always look forward to the most is getting awesome. I want to progress through the game so I can see how powerful I will get and face the game's biggest challenges. Needless to say, shorter games let you do this faster. It certainly beats spending 2 hours in a dungeon and not leveling up once. That just feels stagnant. It's fun seeing your party grow, and it seems to me that you don't lose much by condensing the experience down to 15 hours from 80.



I guess what I'm trying to say is, I like games that keep me on m toes. I want new things to be thrown at me frequently, I want to feel like I'm making progress constantly, and I want to always be doing something interesting. As much as big epic long games have a lot going for them too, I can't think of one that doesn't fall down in one or more of the things I just pointed out. Maybe I just don't have as much time to absorb a massive game, but I feel like there is plenty of room in the world for a solid 20 hour experience.

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