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Why Are Games So Long?
Why are game so long? I ask you because it is a very puzzling question. A puzzling query if you so desire. In a world where time is everything, where time is more valuable than money most of the time (see what I did there) why are video games on average around eight hours long?
It is odd when we compare the other forms of art that are most compared to video games. Well, the main one is film and usually a movie is about two hours. Okay, not a bad chunk of juicy time, still a lot but not a crazy amount.
So what’s my point? My question is what the hell are games doing for eight hours? As an artist myself, I always remember to say what I need to in the least fuss as possible.
We must of course, factor in gameplay and then cut scenes which is the standard way most games play out (switch it around if you want) but the problem with this is games are trying to do two things at once: be a game and then be a movie. I recently reviewed a game called Gone Home and it has no cut scenes in it. The cut scenes are just you exploring and discovering via gameplay.
Did you know that 70% of gamers don’t finish a game entirely? And who can really blame them when the cat needs to be fed, or the girlfriend needs to be fed for that matter. If you don’t have a girlfriend than maybe you need to eat something. The point is that from that statistic video games are jerking too many people around all too often.
I want to find the guy who first suggested that video games should be around eight hours a piece. It doesn’t make any sense. This number is so arbitrary and uncalled for and could easily be shortened but the point is that it’s just easier to have cut scenes like movies and gameplay like a game separate. That is easier to manage, for the most part.
It is very hard to blend gameplay and story, but this is what an amazing video game is and it should never be any different. Maybe this article should be “Let’s Boycott Cutscenes” but no, no I’m staying on topic. Cut scenes are borrowed from film, but gameplay is where games shine. If we do cut out (oh man) the cut scenes we are left with a game length comparable to a movie.
Yes, okay, great! But that means a lot more rendering in-game and much less reliance on pre-rendered scenes which handle most of the action and effects which would take much too long to program for real. So I’m not saying video game developers are lazy (alright I kind of am) but if we decrease the times our games require from us, no matter the added effort, you would have to see a substantial increase in people who actually finish it to the end, right?
So why are games so long? Well, because people are lazy. No, not entirely but it takes much more effort to blend cut scenes into gameplay. But I wonder if gamers are now just so conditioned to expecting a ten hour game that if everything were to change and let’s say gametime was shortened to oh, I don’t know three hours, there might be a revolt.
Who knows, but I do know that if developers and writers had a shorter game to make, it would be much easier to create a more cohesive story. Remember those times in Mass Effect when waves and waves of enemies would come in at each chest high wall just ’cause?
What about you? Think you’d be up for a shorter game at the expense (or gain) of time and hopefully heightened stories and more focused games overall?