The length of video games is a constantly discussed and debated topic, and one that, if you were to ask a thousand people, you’d get quite a varied response.
There is one thing for sure, however, and that’s that people aren’t happy paying full-price for a game that leaves them dissatisfied. There is generally a large amount of backlash if a game’s length is not enough to satisfy; even more so if that game has a good degree of hype behind it already. It’s incredibly common to find game reviews that made a big deal out of the length of a game, and often they are justified. There are many times, however, where it’s a lot harder to justify game length as any sort of contributing indicator of the overall quality of the game.
But shouldn’t the question we be asking be more along the lines of this: Was the game fun for its duration?
One response that has garnered some attention as of late is the Twitter post of famous developer Hideki Kamiya (known for titles such as Bayonetta and Devil May Cry), in regards to his latest Wii U project Wonderful 101:
“If u hate to finish a game the next day u buy it, u better not play TW101. I focus on how it is fun, not how long it lasts till the ending.”
There are definitely times when a game’s length can be especially frustrating, but that seems to be the case only if the game wasn’t allowed to reach its full potential due to its lack of depth. This kind of thing is easily oversimplified and confused with the length of the game in many people’s eyes.
The same logic can be applied to movies. If a movie is bad because of its length, it’s generally due to the fact that it either rushed through things, or expanded too greatly on relatively unimportant aspects.
What’s more, now that the video game industry is so large and there is the need to seriously consider one’s budget when purchasing games, price becomes a big factor. That is not to say that this method of evaluation is very accurate; however, as it’s very easy to pay more money for a shorter game that you enjoy, and pay the same amount for a game of considerably larger length, only to feel disappointed with the latter.
Doesn’t this reinforce the idea that we should really be judging games based on level of fun, rather than length? If not, we’re only setting ourselves up for disappointment.
My movie analogy falls short when considering one very important aspect: unlike movies, games come in all shapes and sizes, in a very extreme sense. Movies have an average length of about 70-100 minutes, whereas games cannot be set to the same standard. There are games available that you can complete in under two hours, and there are games that take weeks and weeks to complete. So is the ambiguous and fluctuating nature of video games, their length, and prices.
Having an industry and its related consumer base so paranoid about the idea of game length is terrible for everyone involved.
Gamers constantly want longer and more robust games, which in turn pressures developers to ‘fluff’ up their games, often devaluing the overall fun of those games. A perfect example of this is the trend of tacked-on multiplayer modes for games with an otherwise amazing single-player experience. This can and has resulted in dead or empty multiplayer servers.
This in itself is an extra cost to the developers, and the money spent on these lackluster multiplayer elements could have been better spent further perfecting the single-player experience.
This is all quite a complicated topic, in that there is no quick and easy fix to this. As discussed in a previous article, it’s more of a matter of a large-scale change in perception.
As idealistic as the following may seem, let’s hope we can all surpass this and and will be able to look back on it in 20 years and laugh. Hopefully quicktime events and motion controls will also share an equally humorous place in this metaphorical graveyard of bad ideas. A man can dream.