Saturday, June 14, 2008

"This Game Is Only 10 Hours Long!"


I remember in my youth, I'd buy a game for a hefty price of about 2,500 - 4,000 pesos (60++ dollars), go home and rush through the entire thing in one afternoon. I'd see the end of most Sega Saturn games after around three or five hours of play. And to think that today's gamers complain that games are too short this generation.....ten hours of play is actually quite a lot of time.

Anyway, at some point, having used up nearly a fortune in game purchases, and staring at my library of titles, I realized, there must be something wrong with what I'm doing. I mean, think about it....it takes long enough to save up enough money to buy a single game....and I would beat these same games within an afternoon, or three hours or less, depending on the type of game.

Then it occured to me, in my simple minded adolescent brain----"Sayang pera." [What a waste of money....] Was it the game's fault? It didn't matter. All I knew was that I was blowing through money that took months to make, in a matter of minutes whenever I finished these games in a single afternoon.

So at some point in my gaming hobby I started to intentionally play my games slower. I knew I was too good for some games and I knew I could beat them so easily, so in a way I had to slow myself down. I did other things.....like, only finishing exactly one stage/level per day for each game. Only devoting an hour or two per day to playing a brand new title, no matter how much I enjoyed the game. Or alternating between two games, one level per game, per day....so I was able to extend the life of my expensive video game purchases to weeks or [at most] an entire month.

This made me buy less games but it made me enjoy the hobby all the more, because I savored completing each level/each boss conquest. And arriving at the end of a game became all the more satisfying.

At some point, this has become a habit of mine....and it's still there. Perhaps I took longer than most people to beat Lost Odyssey or Call of Duty 4 or Gears of War....I recall a lot of comments on forums complaining that Gears' campaign was only 10 hours long. But I don't remember finishing Gears in a day. In fact, I do remember finishing Gears in about two whole weeks. That's me playing Gears each day, alternating between single player and multiplayer....so that's around 14 days. Maybe if I totalled all the hours that I did play Gears single-player during that week that I beat it, maybe it would total 10 hours, but I don't care. All I remember is that it took me two weeks to beat the game, so finishing it felt all the more satisfying. I don't have a clock beside me when I'm playing the campaign of any game. What's the point of that....I'm playing these games, not filling out a checklist of flaws.

In today's connected world, we can easily find out if a game can be finished in a day, and we can even accelerate the process by getting hints/tips easily online. Another incentive to some people completing their games so quickly is online bragging rights. It seems to me that everyone's rushing to be able to say '5 HOURS LOL' when commenting on a game.

I think this is such a self-defeating practice. Playing games no longer becomes something that you enjoy for yourself as a personal experience. You have to gain the approval of your peers [of complete online strangers who probably don't really care what you think]...you go after the 'right' to post or criticize a game ahead of everyone else, to gain that 'cred' that comes with your thirty seconds of Internet-fame.

And essentially, you'd be doing what I used to do when I was an adolescent....blowing through your 2,500 pesos (60+ dollars) which you likely saved up for in months....in a matter of minutes. What a waste.

It doesn't help that the game press promotes the practice. Rushing through games is part and parcel of the entire review process. And you wonder why something like GTAIV got away with all those 10's. Granted, the game industry loves it, because they can get away with releasing sub-par product and cover for their shortcomings with hype, marketing, and freebies. It works both ways.

The next time you pick up a game and feel like setting it on EASY mode so you can finish it in a single afternoon---remember that, once it's all said and done, and you've finished the game, the thrill and the newness of it will be gone. And given today's games with their 2-5 years of development time...that's an awful long time to wait for your next 60 dollar, three-hour roller-coaster ride.