Game time

February 16, 2015 by Tim

There are a number of reports floating around right now that suggest The Order 1886 can be beaten in roughly six hours. While I think those plays are intentionally speedy, and the game is probably closer to ten hours, there are still a lot of articles present the game’s length as borderline scandalous. That a potential AAA title that is not also boasting 60+ hours of gameplay these days is doing it wrong.

While I may find myself in the minority here, I disagree.

I think it’s natural to equate quantity with value. If you spend $60 on a game and get 60 hours out of it, you’ve paid a mere dollar for each hour of entertainment. A pretty good bargain. I played Dragon Age Inquisition for maybe 150 hours. Forty cents an hour!

But really, it’s not that simple. Not all of those hours were worth it. There was a lot of padding to that game. I didn’t love all 150 of those hours, and I don’t think that longer always means better. A lot of games brag about “sixty plus hours of gameplay” but many of them don’t really earn it. It’ll be twenty hours of good stuff and forty hours of questionable sidequest filler and drawn-out micro-management of various game aspects. There are a lot of lulls inbetween the story and action. Wide valleys of monotany between every peak of excitement.

So I welcome shorter, tighter, more focused game experiences as well. Not just because it typically means the action/story ramps up and stays up until the conclusion, but because it’s also a manageable piece of entertainment. It can be finished in a reasonable amount of time. I hate looking at my game library and seeing more unbeaten games than beaten games. Yet with so many developers trying to stretch out the length of their titles, it gets harder to reach the end before a handful of new games are released or my interest wanes.

How much time you spend playing a game is certainly a valid metric by which to measure the value of the purchase price. We do it with most other products we own… you buy a pair of $60 jeans, you want them to last. If they fell apart in two months, nobody is going to say “Yeah, but they looked great while I had them” and write it off as a good value.

However, I think we should be careful about the message we send game developers and how that influences game design. If we make game length the most important measure of a title’s worth, then we’re going to be surrounded by “Hobbit Trilogies,” where designers have taken a small idea and articificially dragged it out into a bigger one. And the product we end up with suffers as a result.

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