Rant Central #12: Play through times

Level 12 loaded…..

Ever since the advent of videogames there has been this thing called “Play Time” and never before has this been such apart of the gaming landscape. How many hours is it? Of course, there’s this perception of length versus quality, but it once used to be a thing you never really thought about when most of us where kids and didn’t have the means to buy our games our self. And now that we’ve grown up, we too have turned into the paranoid “old people” that we used to despise who are always looking for that mythical boogie man that’s planning to take all of our money.

Since when did the amount of time it takes to play through a game matter so much? Sure, lots of us have other things taking up our time like jobs, but that’s no excuse for the butchery we are doing to the main purpose of playing a videogame, the experience. Great games are great games, no matter how long it takes, right? Now, think about this. What are game developers to do when they continually hear that gamers want new refreshing games of high quality, but at the same time want them to be umpteen hours long which speak directly to the consensus that the only way to do that is to invoke the game killing oddity known as filler.

Yep, filler. You know it well. The time in a game where you have nothing of real value to do other than to take out the trash until it’s acceptable to move to a point in the game that moves the plot along. Case in point, Portal. It’s a quick game by all standards, but what makes the game so great and memorable is that it has no real filler to speak of. Every moment moves you through the game for a reason and not to just give you some remedial task to do just to give you a feeling of “I got my moneys worth”. RPG’s for some reason get a pass for what is called “grinding“, yet every other genre applicable to this fails to receive the same complaints. It doesn’t matter who you are, seasoned reviewer or not, you’re guilty of giving RPG’s a “grinding” pass also. Aren’t you?

Time after time as a gaming community well see ourselves basing our purchase decisions on reviews in allot of cases. Sure not all of us practice this, but usually if that isn’t the case we’ll move on to the age old question of “is it worth it?”. Now, price aside, a swath of reviews all saying relatively the same thing will often cause an audience to follow that consensus, that is, unless the game is short. No matter how fraken fantastic a game is, nothing can seem to stand in the way of the almighty length of the game. Nevermind that we all play videogames in ridiculously different ways. Nope, that doesn’t matter. If it’s short by today’s standards, that “offending” game might as well go hang itself then some how manage to jump of a cliff while it’s at it. As fecal as we’ve become, the amount of time it’ll take to complete a game has become some kind of holy trinity of a tour du force on rather or not you’ll even give any certain game a chance. Then again, when the pendulum swings the opposite way as in a game like Lost Oddysey, the exact same sins are pinned against it as well for being to long.

What the FRAK is going on? Why do so many of us continue to create road blocks to keep us from spending our hopefully hard earned money? It’s easy to go spend money to see a movie that truly only has a one 2 hour viewing life span mostly, yet we are beyond picky when it comes to something that’ll give us hour upon hour of enjoyment, not to mention the inclusion of multiplayer if it’s available.

How the hell does anyone saying that it took them so and so length of time to complete so and so mean anything? I don’t know about you, but those estimated times are always well under the time it takes me to do the same. It’s never in the same ballpark, so somebody has to be lying or better yet. Who should give a shit! (oops 😉 )If you enjoy the game that’s all that should matter or is it that whoever wins the pissing contest because they’ve juiced up on filler ahead of time means more than being enjoyable.

Throughout these pieces so far I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of bitching at the gaming community as a whole rather than do the same old tired malarkey of complaining about or to publishers and developers mainly because of one thing. Those very people that we love to complain about are gamers as well and it’s really stupid for us to believe that they don’t see the same issues that we do or have we already concluded that their Cylons hell bent on destroying us our wallets? It’s about time that we look in the mirror and realize that what’s really going on here is that they are not the problem, but it’s the audience itself. How do they create something that we’d want to play when we don’t know what we want ourselves?

Level 12 done……Level 13 loading……..

-William “thewilleffect” Bell-

4 Responses

  1. I’ve got to disagree Will, I love it when games have “Play Time” and am disappointed in ones that don’t. It’s a badge of honor to me to be able to know how much dedication I’ve put into a game I love. Plus it’s a fun bragging right to me.

    Case in point, when I stopped playing World of Warcraft in Dec. 2005, my total play time between then and when I started in January was 504 Hours. Now it seems like time wasted, but at the time that was one of the highlights of my life. I loved that game and I’m proud to have been a part of it, and so I keep my 504 hours with me, a symbol of great memories, friends, and dedication.

  2. Paustinj: I think you’ve got what I was talking about all wrong. Maybe I didn’t clarify it enough, but what I was getting at is the amount of time it’s “supposed” to take to finish a game, not the game clock in the game. Lots of people poo poo games, because of the lack of length of a game.

    Gears of war comes to mind. So many people complained about the length of Gears while often ignoring the fact that it was a great game regardless of how long it takes to beat it. The same goes for Halo 3. I admire your dedication with a single title. I wasn’t speaking to that. Its fine.

    Just look at the MGS4 controversy over the cut-scene length. So many people were up in arms over that saying they didn’t want to play the game only to forget about “the game”. Most wanting longer games is only hurting the developers, especially when they rely on focus groups who’ll tell them they want a long game, which often only means tons of filler.

  3. Okay, yes. I obviously didn’t read through the post thoroughly enough, I just skimmed through it.

    I don’t care about the length of games, I don’t care if it’s “too long” or “too short”, if I enjoy playing the game and especially if I want to replay through it more than once, than the game is good to me. However, the other side of that is that if I’m halfway through a game and I just don’t fee like playing it anymore, this is a combination of not only that game is too long but more importantly that the game is not good.

    And on the note about MGS 4’s cut scenes, that is why I love MGS. I play the game to get to the next cut scene, because I’m in love with the narrative.

  4. I don’t care much about the play through time. Just as long as the game is entertaining, compelling and fun.

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