Note: This article is a call for submissions to the Modern Game Player podcast. Share your thoughts below on the topic, and they will be included in this week’s episode!
How long should a $60 video game be?
I’d wager that it shouldn’t. As in, it shouldn’t matter.
Epic, adventurous games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 3 share the the trait of being long to a crippling degree. I get the impression that players enjoy these games as a means to escape from reality, diving into a challenging fantasy world with fewer rules, and for as many hours as possible.
The back cover of the GameCube game Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean boasts the following selling point for players:
“Embark upon an emotional journey across a richly imagined world and detailed character development spanning over 60 hours of gameplay.”
But at what point are we sacrificing our precious time for a piece of media that isn’t fulfilling? Games get frequent praise for their “replay value,” or as Urban Dictionary describes it, the way “a game beckons you to play it again after beating it.” Pressing New Game+ at the title screen is hardly a bad thing, and enjoying an experience over again should be encouraged.
But what about the other side of how games are lengthened? What about the less enjoyable, artificial means of pushing the in-game clock we know as “fetch quests?” The Gaming Wikia page for fetch quests refers to them as “gaming cliches,” and appropriately so. How often do you find yourself carrying virtual items from one location to another in an adventure game to advance the story?
To expand on this, let’s consider other gaming cliches, such as collecting items… often by the hundreds. Chris Davidson wrote an article on BitMob back in September 2009 named “Collectathon: The Rights and Wrongs of Collection in Gaming,” which explores specific examples of how games have treated this tried-and-true gaming cliche.
In recent years, series like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed have tasked players with hours of exploration around the in-game terrain to complete a collection of items, with some kind of virtual reward in the form of achievements and “boosts” to assist the player in the game’s campaign. It often takes hours of a player’s time to complete these collections, which Davidson says he avoids when “it requires [him] to tediously look over a guide and check every single collectible location 8 million times because [he] missed flying rat #34 out of 200.”
Back to the point, then: how long should a $60 video game be? Are you happier if you spend $60 on what some might consider to be pointless gaming cliches… when they aren’t enriching?
Time is precious, and games are expensive. For me, I’d sooner cut at least 10 “useless” hours out of my gaming experiences and pay the same amount for a higher quality, albeit shorter experience.
This is where your opinion comes in. On Modern Game Player, all of us participate in a discussion about how we value games based on their length (or if we should at all). You’re welcome to join in any way you choose. To help, I’ve set up Twitter, Facebook, and Formspring pages, an email address – email@example.com, a Google Voice line (I can’t stress enough, please use this!) at 1-408-MGPLAY1, and the comment section below (and on the topic post on the Modern Game Player site). At the end of next week, I’ll parse through every piece of text and audio I can find, and edit it together into one big podcast. Hosting your own discussion? Tweet or email the link to me so it gets included!
Recommended talking points:
- Do you care about how long your video game experiences are?
- How “much” do you want out of your games?
- How long should a $60 game be?
- What are your thoughts on the kinds of gaming cliches that pad the length of video games? Are they good or bad? Do you enjoy the tasks you’re presented?
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