When I’m thinking about buying a game, one of the things I usually pay attention to in reviews is how many hours it will probably take me to beat a game’s single-player adventure mode. My criteria used to be, “the longer the better,” but now I’m starting to reconsider.
Video games, of course, have to last longer than movies. I mean, you’re paying $40 more for a game than a DVD, and most of the time you’re not going to play the single-player component of the game more than once.
But let’s take a game like Tales of Vesperia, a Japanese role-playing game for the Xbox 360, which I finally beat the other day. According to my save file, I clocked in 61+ hours playing the game. Sure, some might say that means the game takes 2-3 days, a week tops. But let’s be serious, anyone who can play 61 hours in less than a week doesn’t have a job, and actually might be undead, considering they don’t require sleep. For real humans with other things happening in their lives, 61 hours could mean 9 months to a year, assuming they don’t lose interest. You could make an entire baby in that amount of time!
Sure, a year of gameplay seems like a great value. But the problem with video games is they’re released all the f***ing time! About a month or two after buying Tales, I made the mistake of picking up Fallout 3. Not a mistake because Fallout 3 is a bad game. On the contrary, it’s probably one of the best titles this generation of consoles. But it is also really really long if you take the time to explore the world and do all the side quests. And they actually release EXPANSIONS for this game. If only I had the time! I finally beat Tales this week due to guilt inflicted from ordering Batman: Arkham Asylum.
So is the solution shorter games? Yes and no. As a writer, I would never tell a game developer to put a cap on their creativity. But there is something to say for smart editing. In many of the super-long games I’ve played, there have been sections of repetitive battling and/or boring treasure hunts. These are the parts where the gamer starts to lose interest. Why not chop the 25 hours of fat and keep the 35 hours of meat?
Personally, I like to be left wanting more. Not so much more that I feel ripped off. But when the credits roll, I want to feel hungry for the sequel, not glad it’s finally over.