If you’re a gamer in 2022 and the type of person that likes to fully complete games, then let’s be frank; you’ve probably got a lot of time on your hands. Games are getting longer and longer, and developers seem to wear the 100-hour playtime of their new epic RPG like a badge of honor. For casual gamers, this approach just isn’t hitting the spot. We don’t want to have to book in a week of annual leave, lock ourselves in a room and see how well our young children fend for themselves just to complete a game.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like getting a new release, with innovative game mechanics and cinema-grade storytelling and cut scenes. But when the story is spread over such a significant amount of time, it’s hard to get that ‘can’t put the controller down’ feeling that we all had as kids. So sadly, a lot of us fall out of love with the grand RPG titles that we used to enjoy. We are bored.
Fear not though – maybe the situation isn’t quite as dire as it seems. It might just be that the traditional way that we would approach a game isn’t the way to do it anymore. Maybe we need to change the way we think about the latest releases so that we don’t just get sucked into the same repetitive grind.
Why are games so long?!
But before we get into that, let’s look into why developers seem to insist on making every single game a Tolkien-esque epic in terms of scale and complexity.
Attention is everything
This might sound like an excerpt from a marketing textbook, but it still rings true for gaming. Developers want to do everything to make sure you’re playing their game and not someone else’s. Longer play times mean you’re more likely to make in-game purchases and buy expansion DLC. It also allows them to brag about ‘player engagement’ and other metrics to shareholder; the sort of stuff that most normal people don’t care one iota for.
Value for money
But maybe a less cynical view is that the developers genuinely feel that they’re offering better value for money with a longer game and more content. A 100-hour long game for £60 must be better value than a 20-hour long game for the same price, right?
There’s no doubt that developers think so. The rising price of games mean that a lot of people can only afford to make two or three purchases a year. If you only have a few games to play, then you want to be sure that there’s enough content within to get your teeth stuck into.
It’s not a straightforward equation though. At the start of 2022, publishers Techland proudly shared on social media that Dying Light 2 would take 500 hours to fully complete. You read that right. 500 hours. “How not to market a game to anyone over 30 years old” said a comment shared by The Guardian in their article on this. Perfectly put.
Development costs are sky-rocketing
It’s no secret that each release is taking longer and longer for studios to develop and release. If you think of the titans of the industry such as Rockstar and Bethesda, each of their titles take roughly a decade to make. That’s because they need to create new environments and mechanics for every game to make it as engaging as possible.
Once they’ve spent the time on creating the foundations of the game, it’s far easier to use these systems to create gameplay and content. Adding 20 hours of gameplay to an existing game is far easier than creating new franchise and starting from scratch.
This is why we see so often see games with absolute behemoth completion times. The developer is wringing as much gameplay out of the mechanics for you to enjoy whilst they spend another decade creating the sequel.
So What Can We Do About it?
With the gaming industry creating more and more of these types of games, what can we do to enjoy them without investing every waking minute into them?
Reduce the difficulty
If you’re like me, the thought of reducing the difficult is an insult to your gaming ability. But the truth is that if mindless grinding of mobs to increase your level is what’s stopping you from enjoying the narrative, then why not make it that bit quicker? By now we can all kiss goodbye to our eSports careers, so why not take a different approach in order to get more enjoyment from your gaming sessions.
Skip the side content
As we discussed earlier, developers now pack so much extra content and side quests into games to provide us with as many hours of play time as possible. I’ll let you into a secret though – it just doesn’t matter.
This is extra content that most of the time doesn’t factor into the main story. It’s not even required to make sure you’re a certain level to progress or strong enough to kill a boss. Developers are adding it in purely to provide value for money for some gamers that have time to kill.
Focus on the story
By focusing on the main story quests, we can enjoy the richest content within a game. These are the quests and gameplay that developers spend days workshopping and storyboarding to make sure it has the biggest impact on gamers. By skipping all the side junk and collectibles, we’re increasing the quality of our experience and focusing on what really matters; the deep character progression and extravagant set pieces.
Many of us seem to have forgotten one undeniable truth. Games are there to entertain us, to help us have fun and keep us happy. If you’re not enjoying something, or feel forced to play it in a certain way then mix it up. Leave your guilt at the door and play differently.
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