I’m not the only indie developer writing on this topic today, check out the links at the bottom of this post.
There is a bit of a trend, as I see it, an unwelcome one, for the subject of game ‘length’ to be the dominant topic in the reviews of new games. I don’t think this a good direction for the industry to move in.
As an ‘older’ gamer, I recall a time when the whole idea of game length was silly. How long is pacman? how long is space invaders? As long as you have time for, clearly. Now you may argue (and some do) that the only reason that early games worked this way was the artificial constraints caused by a lack of processing power and file storage. These days we can have games with hand-crafted, bump mapped worlds made in incredible detail, and this is clearly better and more immersive and thus games should be measured in this way.
Now I’m not vaguely going to suggest that more-detailed, more immersive worlds are not a good thing. They clearly are. What I’m against is the weighing up of a games value (both artistically and in monetary terms) by sheer length and content.
Firstly, it would be insane to judge movies or books the same way. Andrew Marrs ‘The History of Modern Britain’ weighs in at 602 pages for £8.99, whereas Malcom Gladwells ‘tipping point’ is an all-too short disappointing gameplay experience at just 259 pages for £7.99, representing far worse gameplay for your gaming cash.
Sounds totally bonkers doesn’t it?
Is Halo a better game than World of Goo? Personally, I probably enjoyed WoG better, but I haven’t finished either game, so I have no idea which is longest. Clearly, game length didn’t vaguely factor in for me. And That doesn’t put me in some minority either. A huge chunk of gamers never finish games. I’ve been gaming since pong and only ever ‘finished’ 3 games in my entire life. I got bored with Half Life (yes really) and Half Life 2, and Bioshock, and almost any game you care to mention. When I read about how some l33t haxxor ‘finished’ a game in 8 hours, I find it laughable. Imagine bragging about ‘finishing’ war and peace in 2 days. The idea is to enjoy the experience, not race to the end as fast as you can.
Even worse than paying for games where the effort is spread out over 100 hours, when i know I’ll get bored at 20, is games where, in a desperate bid to make the game sound ‘longer’, the designers introduce tedious sections where you plod back and forth between the same points to get their moneys-worth from the scenery. It’s obvious, it’s tedious, and it’s embarrassing. Please stop.
I don’t judge food purely by quantity. Anyone can produce a ton of bland rice for a trivial cost. We tend not to judge things purely by quantity, and when we do, we can at least admit we are being shallow. So lets stop doing it with games. Tell me if a game is good, tell me if a game is dull, but some meaningless statistic about how many levels, or how big the installer is, or how long it took you to ‘finish’ it is meaningless to me. Size doesn’t matter.
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