You could argue that gaming is like waiting for a bus. You spend the baron wasteland of the summer months patiently hoping for a decent release to appear on the horizon and just when you start to lose hope, loads arrive together at the same time. Within a two month period we have had Arkham City, Skyrim, Gear of War 3, Forza 4, FIFA 12, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: MW3 and Rage all vying for our attention. Even though it is said the average gamer is now around 34, not many people can afford to spend over £300 in the run up to Christmas in the current climate, or even have the time available to fully enjoy the experience offered by some of these games.
With this is mind, it appears that gaming is becoming a double-edged sword where we pay £40 for a game that lasts 6-8 hours and then trade in the following week for the next must have title. Does this cheapen the experience and simply add gaming to the disposable culture heap of the 21st century, where we lust for something only to bore of it very quickly, and move onto something else?
I thought it would be interesting to look into the case for and against short game lengths.
In many ways we have now come full circle, as gaming actually began life with short playtimes in arcades all over the world, with titles that were designed to get all of the loose change out of your pocket at a rapid rate. A quick visit to some of the classic arcade titles available on XBLA or PSN illustrates this. As soon as games moved from cartridges onto discs, developers rushed to cram as much information as they could in order to have the biggest and best game.
However in 2011, the audience is a little more sophisticated and a less forgiving about games that are padded out for the sake of it and quality now takes precedence over quantity. This can only be a good thing, after all, six hours of pure ‘wow’ has go to be better than twenty-five of ‘meh’, hasn’t it?
Let’s not also forget the elephant in the room; the multiplayer, that for many gamers is more important than the single-player campaign itself. This is especially true when talking about the CoD or Battlefield franchises, where many don’t even bother with the single-player. Your typical FPS fan may have a whole world of responsibilities and simply does not have the time to invest fifty hours in one game, and simply wants to unwind at the end of a hard day for a few hours by casually shooting at people online.
There is a very strong argument that shorter game lengths are actually ruining gaming, as the person playing is now simply rushing through a campaign to fill up on achievements or trophies, before trading in the following week for another title in a shallow, hollow and empty experience. People no longer fully enjoy the game but are more interested in wolfing it down as quick as possible before throwing it away, much the same way as people do with a fast food meal. Gaming has more soul than that, doesn’t it?
There is also a very cynical marketing ploy going on here, where it is easier to give people a six-hour game that doesn’t outstay its welcome or overwhelm the player, and instead leaves them wanting more. This way, the publisher can hold back portions of a game to release as DLC at quarterly intervals during the year. Why release twenty-hour games for £39.99, when you can release six-hour games and charge for the rest later, when we’re all desperate for more. To make matters worse, many of these six-hour games are released yearly and are incredibly similar to their predecessors, causing a growing backlash in some circles.
There is no right or wrong, though. Just opinion. Personally, I would rather play an eight-hour Gears of War single-player campaign that keeps me on the edge of my seat, experiencing a range of emotions along the way and forming bonds with the characters, rather than a thirty hour game where I am running backwards and forwards collecting items for some faceless drone that’s void of any personality.
What about you, though? Do you prefer games of shorter or longer lengths? How are you working your way through the mass of quality titles of November and December? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.