Home Gaming Length should never determine a game’s worth

Length should never determine a game’s worth

5 min read
37

Price shouldn't determine game length feature

I tend to watch many (if not all) of Extra Credits’ video focused on game design, the industry and generally what certain games could mean for certain people. I find them on point most of the time, and last night’s latest episode was no different. Through it Extra Credits explored the weird way some consumers equate a game’s worth to it’s length – no matter what impact it has on its quality.

You can see the episode in full below, which I highly recommended.

It got me thinking about the same question, because it’s a facet of game sales that I’ve seen crop up time and time again. Just like Extra Credits, it’s easy to load up something like Steam and navigate over to bite-sized gaming experiences. Usually they’re attacked with claims of being a “rip-off” for not being long enough to (apparently) justify the cost. People who pay for a game want them to last longer – sometimes through the sheer determination to “get their money’s worth”, or simply because they don’t want the experience to end.

Both of which have major problems for the way games are made.

I’m not going to dive deep into some of areas in game development that prove this point in different ways, like how budgets and deadlines sometimes don’t permit a game to be longer than it already is. That’s a studio by studio thing, and is less concerned with how the game is made and what it’s trying to achieve. That, to me, is where the real problem lies. Demanding that an experience be stretched out to reach a certain gameplay milestone, to the detriment of the experience itself.

Price shouldn't determine game length 1

Often when I discuss this with people who don’t agree with me – people who think a game selling for, say, R800 or $60 or whatever should meet X amount of hours as a standard – I think of Journey. Journey is a delightful little game from thatgamecompany that launched with an equally little price. It’s a short game, an experience that is easily over within three hours and doesn’t really entice you to visit it again afterwards. What’s the point of a game that you can finish in one sitting, right?

Speak to anyone who has played it though, and they’ll likely tell you that had it been any longer, and magic of it would’ve faded. I’ll say the same – because Journey is an example of an expertly thought out, well-paced game that so many other games could also be if they show constraint. But because of this desire to give people more of the same just so that there isn’t a complaint about length shatters that illusion. It turns great ideas into drawn out plodding ones, and ultimately games that are forgettable and lacklustre as a result.

It’s not that I don’t understand why we want games to last longer, because I do. I buy most of my games still (usually on launch day because I just can’t resist), and would like them to last more than an afternoon. I often recall the disappointment I felt with The Force Unleashed 2 – a terribly boring game that I finished the day I picked it up. It sunk my heart when the credits rolled, bringing to a close a game that really only started feeling goodat the end. I wanted more – or at least I thought I did.

Price shouldn't determine game length 2

Because when I think about it now, what would I rather have played? If that day for some reason I had picked up Journey for the same full price as the Force Unleashed II, clocked it within three hours and let it sit, I think I would’ve been happy. The quality of Journey outstrips the importance of its length, because those three hours are just so good, so well designed that the sense of euphoria of finishing outweighs that of disappointment.

And for all its shortcomings, a short game like The Force Unleashed II wouldn’t have been better with more hours lazily padded on to the end. Its quality is the sole reason its sudden ending isn’t that terrible, and it’s the reason why you’d feel ripped off after throwing down full launch day money for it. Not because it was a spectacular game that ended to soon, but rather a disappointing one that didn’t satisfying the craving you had when purchasing it.

This is all a very different argument to many games that launch now with a sore lack of content, but there’s an argument to be made about getting angry at game’s you’ve inherently loved just because they ended too soon for your liking. Great games are extremely well thought out, and denying their calculated length as a reason for this is a crime.

Even Uncharted 4 suffers from over-extension

Great games come in all shapes and sizes, and often in a variety of different lengths too. There’s a weird sort of balance to pricing structures and “how much game should be here for your dollar”, but it’s a strange practice to look down on something that you loved just because there wasn’t enough of it. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s sometimes best to think about why what you’ve just played made you feel so happy, and ask yourself whether more of the same would’ve made the experience better or eventually stale.

We never want great games to end. But sometimes the reason we consider them great is because they do.

Last Updated: May 12, 2016

37 Comments

  1. (hype/10 + (length_of_game x fun_per_minute x story_engrossness) ) x replayabality + graphic/2 + cinematics/5 = game_value

    Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      May 12, 2016 at 14:06

      *hype/9000 😉

      Reply

      • Fox1 - Retro

        May 12, 2016 at 14:24

        Kakarot approves.

        Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      May 12, 2016 at 15:09

      HL3 confirmed!

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        May 12, 2016 at 15:16

        Half Length 3?

        Reply

  2. Pariah

    May 12, 2016 at 14:21

    Lies. Everyone knows size matters.

    Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      May 12, 2016 at 14:33

      And time spent. Or before spent. Um.

      Reply

    • Fox1 - Retro

      May 12, 2016 at 14:39

      Lies rhymes with Ryse.

      Reply

      • Pariah

        May 12, 2016 at 14:59

        That’s lacist! You rye rike a cheap watch!

        Reply

  3. Original Heretic

    May 12, 2016 at 14:23

    I always feels that if it’s a great game that also happens to be longer (like a really awesome RPG), it’s more value for money. Using Journey as an example for a great short game, that’s more the exception that the rule.

    Reply

    • Strawman Jim

      May 12, 2016 at 14:47

      I have to agree, Journey is without a doubt the exception to the rule.

      Reply

    • Zubayr Bhyat

      May 16, 2016 at 13:16

      Fallout 4 for me. Bloody hell, first Fallout 3, then New Vegas and then this 🙁 Dark Souls also.

      Reply

  4. Fox1 - Retro

    May 12, 2016 at 14:23

    As someone that’s cleared RotR, which is about 20hrs long, I’ve felt it to be one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had since Valiant Hearts which was only about 6hrs long at most. So it’s not about quantity, too many side quests bore me out, it’s about quality and that’s why I’ll always be going back to Gears and Assassins’s Creed Black Flag.

    Reply

    • Pariah

      May 12, 2016 at 14:24

      Rord of the Rings?

      Reply

      • Fox1 - Retro

        May 12, 2016 at 14:24

        Urgh…Rise of the Tomb Raider 😛

        Reply

      • Strawman Jim

        May 12, 2016 at 14:44

        ‘Roids of the Ring! 😛

        Reply

    • Francois Knoetze

      May 12, 2016 at 15:57

      Rise of the Tomb Raider is such a great game and experience. One of my favourite games to date. Busy with uncharted 4 now and can’t help but compare it to Rise a lot of the times. graphic wise the 2 are almost on par for me where Rise sometimes outshines it.but I am in the beginning of the game at the moment. Man i can see stones coming my way .

      Reply

    • WitWolfy

      May 13, 2016 at 10:37

      Take ROTR and times it with 5. Thats Uncharted 4. Both Tomb Raider and Uncharted 4 are great examples of what next gen titles SHOULD BE!

      Reply

  5. Alien Emperor Trevor

    May 12, 2016 at 14:32

    Yeah I don’t think a game has to be x hours long. All depends on the game whether or not I feel I’ve got my money’s worth once finishing it. The amount of time I spend playing only determines part of that, but it does factor into whether or not I think the price was too much. So it’s more an amount paid vs value received thing because a specific game might be an experience, but I can got an experience just as enjoyable from another game and wouldn’t know the difference.

    I’m playing Mad Max now & that’s got a lot of meaningless fluff & busy-work that could easily have been taken out, making it a much stronger game overall despite knocking 10 hours off the play time & I’d be perfectly happy with that even if I had paid $60 for it.

    But as a counter-example Deadlight is a small indie side scroller that I really enjoyed, but if I’d paid the full $20 for it I wouldn’t have been too happy because I finished it in under 3 hours & no replay value… and I’ve paid $20 for games I’ve enjoyed just as much with much longer play times.

    Reply

    • Pariah

      May 12, 2016 at 14:33

      tl;dr

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        May 12, 2016 at 14:34

        too long; didn’t rord?

        Reply

        • Pariah

          May 12, 2016 at 14:34

          too long; dollar refund

          Reply

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            May 12, 2016 at 14:36

            Well, there’s a first time for everything.

          • Pariah

            May 12, 2016 at 14:37

            I’m within my 2 hour time limit. I want my refund.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            May 12, 2016 at 14:39

            This isn’t Steamta, this is MADNESS.

          • Pariah

            May 12, 2016 at 15:00

            Can we consult the Oracle?

    • Zubayr Bhyat

      May 16, 2016 at 14:08

      My issues is and has been the cost of a game worth less than it’s cost. It comes down to what I value as a person. COD for me would be worthless because I’m first a single player type of person. For someone big on the MP, it could be worth far more.

      I look at The Walking Dead. The games don’t last that long at all, yet they’re pretty damn intense. Worth the money for me in the end because of the jaw dropping moments throughout.

      Reply

  6. Strawman Jim

    May 12, 2016 at 14:43

    I would rather make the case that “length” contributes to the worth of game (rather than being the only contributing factor).

    Reply

  7. Greylingad[He Charges!]

    May 12, 2016 at 14:47

    To me, this is quite an important point to make, for instance, I spent probably around 200 hours in TW3, yes, yes, I know, it is a great game and this and that, putting it all aside, I can still play through the game a second time and try different approaches/dialogues etc. but, it took a massive team years to develop it. When you look at it from a different perspective, if you are paying a AAA price for a game, let’s call it the R900-R1000 per game on console, you would expect that type of an experience, we all know that CoD produces a weekend blockbuster with no replayability and for those that don’t do multiplayer, well, it’s a massive loss, whereas, if you were to discover some of the indie games out there that cost a quarter of the price and yield experiences that are WAAAAAYYYYYYY more memorable, then rather spend your time in them…. I’ve gotten to that point from purchasing major titles on day one to buying the little games that make me smile as I laugh about shooting some zombie in the head using a shotgun that can shoot about as far as an arms length (Guns, Gore and Cannoli) or an old war story that touches my heart (Valiant Hearts)…

    Reply

  8. DragonSpirit009

    May 12, 2016 at 14:52

    Gaming is suppose to be fun and relaxing and not a race. A lot of people finishes a game so fast because the want to be the bad ass and brag on how quickly they finished it or even just get their money back. Those players who do that should really learn how to enjoy the game, every nook and cranny of it. Besides we live in a world where the internet gives us all the info we need. If you see a game you like do a bit of simple research before buying it so you know what you are getting yourself into. Is it long or short or whatever your need is.
    For me games isn’t measured by length. It’s the whole package that matters. From the story, to graphics, to the music, to even the smallest little speck on it.
    I like shot games cause I don’t have a lot of time to play and sometimes when it’s a long game I tend to forget what the hell I was doing when I had to stop.
    So for me this “give the money back” crap should be put away. Though luck if you lost money on a bad game… you should have done a bit of research first!

    Reply

  9. Charl van der Merwe

    May 12, 2016 at 15:10

    Dunno, I can count the games I have actually completed in my life on one hand, I always lose interest half way through,Mainly because of my preference to online gaming ,for me the challenge of humans totally eclipses a single player experience.

    Shout out to “The last of Us” though, now that was a game I could not put down!

    Reply

  10. Sageville

    May 12, 2016 at 15:46

    I think the only accurate metric would be user ratings after completion.

    Reply

  11. Avithar

    May 12, 2016 at 16:02

    This means FPS games will be dirty cheap… all in favor say I

    Reply

  12. oVg whippersnapper

    May 13, 2016 at 10:11

    I wish my experience so far in Uncharted 4 went on forever. Im loving every single hand grip to hand grip. Its just a pity it takes 5 years to make 24 chapters 🙁

    On another note, the most important 1st party title was released this week after years and years of anticipation to high accolades, yet there are more articles about Hitman than Uncharted. Shows you a sign of the times for our quick fix generation. Not a day passes of a AAA release before the next new and shiny thing is being hyped.

    Reply

  13. WitWolfy

    May 13, 2016 at 10:35

    Witcher 3’s 300 hour campaign was worth every penny, I never wanted the game to end.. MGS 5’s 60 hour campaign was a drag, doing the same thing over and over again just frustrated the crap out of me. Never finished the game, just Youtubed the ending afterwards then traded it in for Rise of the Tomb Raider.

    The point im trying to make is, if the games’ pacing is awesome like Witcher 3 you dont want it to end.. But, then again with MGS 5 I couldn’t wait for it to end! It’s all to do with pacing… Pacing…. pacing…. pacing.

    Reply

  14. BakedBagel

    May 13, 2016 at 14:16

    All these comments and not one about ones own length ( ?° ?? ?°)

    Reply

  15. ed

    May 24, 2016 at 00:52

    But…but…but what about how The Order was a rip off because it was too short? I only feel ripped off if the experience isn’t fun. I don’t like long games, I lose interest. But I can see how if I were on a budget I’d want more game hours for my dollar, but then I’d buy different games rather than complain that a game doesn’t fit my definition of “long enough”.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

I’m absolutely shocked to announce that Battlefield 2042 won’t be cheap

Battlefield 2042 is the latest game in the 2021 schedule to cost a few dollars more on PS5…