Long Games: A Gift and a Curse

I used to like long games a lot.  I used to think games should definitely be a certain length.  Maybe I’m getting older, but I don’t like it when games are very long anymore.  Sometimes a longer game gives you more to do, but other times there isn’t necessarily ‘more’ to do, but instead it drags on and you just want it to end.

I’m maybe just over halfway through Xenoblade Chronicles at 64 hours, and there is still a ton more content. I should be rejoicing that my $49 investment is netting so much enjoyment — and it is enjoyment!  This is one of the best JRPG’s I’ve played and definitely one of the better Wii titles.  There are 480 side quests.  I’m the type that likes to clear all side quests in an area, but in Xenoblade they reward you too well and I’m 10 level higher than the content every time.  I’m starting to think I’d like it to just end.

The same thing happened to me when I got to this point in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and still have half the game left.  I started to just run through the quests as fast as possible. I even stopped doing side quests at one point.

Why do I want longer games to end, despite having tons of fun while playing?  I feel like I can’t get involved in other games, like I can’t do anything else, until the game is over. At a certain point, I want to start playing other things.

What do you guys think?  Do games drag on for you at a certain point, or do you wish they’d be longer?

  • I’ve been finding I have the same problem with many games now. From Fallout, Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur and many more. I end up abandoning the games even though I really enjoy them because I feel I can’t play other games until they are finished. I am a completionist and there is just so much to do. Not exactly the worst problem to have I admit. I still play SWTOR alts for the story so that makes it even harder to get more time in. I actually really enjoy the games I can sit down and finish in a few sittings and then I can move on to check out more. However with the quality and length of some of these games I find it too difficult to get to check out new games. Batman AC, Deus Ex, Bioshock 1+2, Dead Space etc I could really go on with a big list.

    TLDR I agree with you Graev. It’s certainly not the worst problem to have, but for people like me (completionist) I want to enjoy so many of these great games however I cannot do so. Which is why I have had to abandon Fallout/Skyrim/Kingdoms just so I can give time to other games.
    Back in the day I used to love playing Goldeneye/Mario 64 to death, unlocking every cheat/stars/secrets and getting the most out of the titles. In my opinion we are spoilt now with the quality of many games and unless the days turn from 24 to 36hrs I have to make the choice of what I’ll miss out on.

  • When you’re young money is the constraining factor, but when you’re older time is the constraining factor. Hence, young me cared about getting the most enjoyment per buck, whereas current me cares about getting the most enjoyment per hour. Games are pretty cheap as hobbies go, so unless you’re unemployed, you won’t notice the hundred or so bucks it takes to buy a couple new games every month (a luxury for most of us when we were kids). In other words, I now much more value games that are well crafted and concise (think Portal) than long-winded and repetitive (think Final Fantasy or Skyrim).

  • I feel this way about most things these days, from music to TV, from novels to games. I look for experiences that are rich, dense, and immediate, and avoid ones that seem shallow, padded, or drawn out.

    That said, I’m still a fan of the idea that the journey is more important than the reward, and I think it’s a false dichotomy to suggest that somehow this idea is not compatible with, for example, games which get to the point and don’t make you level for hundreds of hours before playing the “real game”.

    Among other things, I like to compare games to hiking a trail. On a great trail, every moment is full of possibility: You might look up and see a lovely tree canopy or a mountain vista, or look down to see a funny insect or a colorful mushroom, etc. I want to engage with the moment, every moment – to me, that’s what “the journey” is about. So many modern games are forced to pad out their content due to the huge expense of creating it; in hiking terms, it feels like you’re being forced to walk through the same half mile loop 10 times before you’re allowed to go on to the next area.

    But even then, nature is analog. You just might experience something new each of those 10 times through that loop, because the amount of detail out in the world is infinite. A game just doesn’t work that way. I’d much rather have a 3-6 hour, extremely dense game that is engaging to return to, rather than one stretched cobweb thin over 20 hours, which I immediately uninstall because I’ve seen all it has to offer 4 times over.

  • The problem with long games like Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur is simple. The game balance goes out of whack: In the start the games are fun and challenging, but after a point it becomes mindnumbingly easy, nothing challenges you and that takes the fun out of the game. If the games were challenging the entire duration, they would be a lot more fun.

  • I put it down to simply the wealth of games available these days and a certain amount of addiction to that “next thing coming along” feeling that makes us feel we need to move on. I guess you have to ask yourself what is making you feel like you need it to end? If you truly enjoy playing something then im not sure that feeling comes. If you feel things are a “drag” then i’d argue you are no longer enjoying it but rather wanting that feeling of “completeness” of the possible experience on offer. Gone are the days of asking if a game is truly good or bad, they are all great now to varying degree’s and the industry is so mature, we just end up nit picking on certain mechanics to personal preference.

    If i only had a few games to play i can imagine i’d love spending hundreds of hours delving into the deepest corners of a game but as you say time is the factor in this modern world. Over the last few years my friends and I have used the phrase “It looks like a great game but i just dont have the time” or “I have so many games ive hardly played” more and more. There are so many distractions we feel our time is precious, which i agree it is. I played portal 2 and put 25 hours into it and loved the whole experience, I played 130 hours of Skyrim and loved every minute of it so it shows that a game length is subjective. Its a hard thing to get right, you can feel its too long, or ended to quickly if you are really enjoying it, its just down to wanting to get that feeling of “satisfaction” which if you could bottle would make you millions lol

    Gaming is changing. In the past i would view them like movies where you stay until the end until the credits role. Now i view them more like music in that you just put on an track here or there depending on your mood. I dont have to listen to the whole album to get experience i want. I have a lot of games on the go and delve into them as my mood takes me. This could be down to the saturation of the games market where you can get an amount of fun experience from any release. But the true great games always shine through (Mass effect 2, Portal series, Skyrim etc…). You know they are truly great games when you cant put them down and time demands are forgotten about. The rest alas are just very good games. In fact for me thats a simple and effective measure of how good a game is if “I actually finished it!”

  • Agreed.

    I think there’s a “Goldilocks Zone” which for me seems be in the 10-16 hour region or so. Less than that and I think I am owed more for my money, more than that and I start to resent the endless sidequests (I too find it hard to simply leave a quest undone).

    I really pushed it with Skyrim at 80 hours – the game had long-since broken but I was close to doing every minor location and sidequest but then discovered I’d not even completed Act 1 of 4 Acts! So I quit.

    Legend of Grimrock falls right into the Goldilocks Zone by the way, and if you liked Dungeon Master growing up, you’ll love it.

  • You’re getting older. Your perception of time is changing, as well as your level of responsibility. Just wait until you’re in your fifties like me and see how much you like long games then!

    It’s one of the reasons I like MMOs. They never end so they are neither long or short, just exactly the length you need them to be at any given time.

  • I think games should be more concentrated. I don’t really find any enjoyment in doing the same shit over and over, killing the exact same monsters, doing some shallow puzzles. There’s too much repetiveness in videogames.

  • And then people wonder why all new MMO’s are Themepark MMO’s, with instant reward for little effort 🙂

  • I don’t play the volume of games Keen does, but I may spend as much time gaming as him. I tend to find a title I REALLY like and then play that until I’m completely burned out on it, so longer games are better for my style.

  • For me it’s a testament to the quality of the world and the story and the mechanics. The Fallout games…Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale…KotOR…DoW,CoH,CoD2.

    If it’s done right, you never want to leave. I never blame myself for leaving a game, even before it’s “finished”. The story ends when I uninstall.

  • I do not think I ever thought a game was to long.
    The longer the better.

    Sounds to me the games you play where you get the feeling you wish for them to endare not fun enough to keep your attention span.

    Good example Dead space 2. Begin of the game was great.. middle okish. The end part badd… pls end.
    Bad game design if you ask me. A game should be as fun from start to finish or get better over time.

  • I would totally agree with this. When I play a game that has a very defined story to it, I want to see the cumulation of that story in a timely manner. It’s like reading a novel; you wouldn’t want the novel to go off on some tangent half way through. Side quests can be fun but they often serve more of a distraction than anything else. That’s okay in, say, an MMO where you’re expected to run around and the only real goal is to level up. I can be happy without leveling for a bit to enjoy an area more. But when it comes to single player games, most of the time I just really, really want to find out what happens.

    I guess I’m more of a narrative gamer than anything else. I want to be drawn in and entranced by an amazing story. If the story is good, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have to play the game for 100 hours. I will just enjoy where the game took me and be ready to play it through again later. And yes, I am the sort of person who re-reads books multiple times.

  • Agreed with whoever said Skyrim got too easy, I’m now lvl 46 and nothing can touch me, on master difficulty.Why bother carrying on ?

  • I enjoy long games when you control a group of characters. It gets repetative quickly when you only have one character.

  • To be honest, this is exactly why I’m so excited about GW2 being F2P instead of subscription. I no longer feel like I have the time to waste making sure i spent the correct number of hours every month to justify paying a subscription. I want to enjoy myself and then be able to step away when I no longer feel like I have time without feeling guilty about it.

  • Such a good point! I would love to see cheaper, shorter, chapter style game releases.

  • To me it’s the fact that I’m not sharing the experience with anyone, not even via a ingame chat, that drives me away from singleplayer games. I find myself loving games like Skyrim and Witcher 2, but not playing them because I COULD be online playing with and talking to my friends in a MMO etc.