Friday, January 24, 2014

When Is A Game Too Much Game?

I have a queue of unplayed games and this time I'm not referring to just the games that I haven't played on Steam (although that list might be growing again due to Steam's Winter Holiday Non-Denominational Sale), but also the games for the PSP and 3DS that are patiently awaiting their turns to embed themselves in the emotional center of my brain.  This queue of games has recently gotten me thinking about the amount of time required to play all of these game to their conclusion. 

Now, when I say that I beat a game, I'm not referring to "completing" a game with every available character/car/plane, watching every ending and achieving every single achievement.  I just mean beginning a game and playing through until the credits finish rolling.  If I happen to unlock new features and earn achievements in the process, then bonus points for me.

I recently just completed Dead Island after playing roughly 62 hours.  That is a lot of time to spend on anything, let alone a video game.  Recently though, I have noticed that some games are becoming almost too long, or more likely, I am drawn to games that take up a lot of time.  Between the two of us, Conklederp and I have clocked in 571 hours on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and expansions; I currently have 115 hours on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and have only just completed the main quest, not to say anything about either the Bloodmoon or Tribunal expansions; on Final Fantasy XII, I spent around 125 hours and I still didn't finish all of the hunts or collect all of the Espers.  When Grand Theft Auto V was released last year, it was touted as having over 120 hours of game content.

When does game content become too much content?

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Dead Space took my about 16 hours each while Amnesia: The Descent took 18 hours, but Gone Home and Evoland both took only 3 hours.  Those were perfect lengths of time for their respective games.  Horror games are a hard thing to do for an extended period of time.  I have never played a horror game that lasted as long as, say Morrowind and maintained that level of tension and fright.  Is it possible to maintain that level of tension for 50+ hours?  I honestly don't know as I feel like game length is relative to both the game itself and the person playing the game.  

For myself, as long as the quests make sense, I don't really mind fetch-quests for which both Skyrim and Dead Island are pretty notorious for.  I understand the argument against them as they do eat up a lot of time, especially if fast travel is not an option, but again, I enjoy exploring and looking at the worlds that I explore.  But, as is the case with anything in life, too much can be annoying.  Too many fetch quests to gather supplies for an outcome that is never witnessed is too much. In Morrowind, I was tasked with taking 20 jars of sujamma (local liquor) to the middle of nowhere.  What irritated me was that I had to reallocate my inventory to accommodate 60 lbs of items and travel to a mine just so that some miners who were most likely slaves, could have their liquor.  What I didn't mind was that I was travelling to a part of Vvardenfell that I had not visited so I was exploring. 

So how long should a game be for it to be both entertaining and fulfilling?

I don't think there's a correct answer here.  

Some games work better as a five hour short story while other games, primarily sandbox games almost demand that they last 100+ hours.  And there-in lies one of my problems:  I like sandbox games.  GTA, The Elder Scrolls, I like these games and I like to experience the worlds and the people who populate them.  I recently just started the Assassin's Creed series and I can see Fable, Mass Effect and Dragon Age on the horizon and I know that I will spend as much time in those worlds as I have in others. 

What I have come to realize while putting down my thoughts, is that I am drawn to long, drawn out narratives.  While I do enjoy playing shorter games like EvolandDear Esther and Nightsky that may take up only a couple of hours, I also love spending hours upon hours being immersed in a world and it's fictional culture.  Sure, I'll play some games that I know that I can finish in an afternoon, but maybe with the exception of a few games that I cannot recall at the moment, but that doesn't make them any less worth playing.  Sometimes a game that can be played in short segments is just what I need between the doses of massive epic quests.


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