The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

The “Problem” with the Ever Longer Video Game

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

CC2K Games Editor Big Ross laments the confluence of longer video games on the market and never enough time to play them all.

Recently I read an excellent article on Destructoid taking to task those who cry “Foul!” upon learning that video games like Dead Space2 clock in at around 8 hours. It’s a measured, cogent response to those who think $59.99 is an outrageous amount to pay for ~8 hours of quality entertainment the likes of which Dead Space2 can bring.

This article got me thinking, if the average age of video game players is 34 (and it is, I looked it up) who are these people that have so much free time on their hands that they finish an 8 hour video game in a matter of days? Sure, as a kid on certain summer days I’d get to go to the local video store and rent a Super Nintendo game, and I’d marathon that sucker. I only had a couple of days to play it, and I damn well was going to make it worth my while. I’d spend every waking minute, and sacrifice more than a few sleeping ones, progressing as far as I could. Even then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to return a game unbeaten. Perhaps that speaks to the degree to which video games have changed with successive generations (a matter for a different article), I don’t know.

What I do know is that as a gamer aged 31 years, I struggle to finish video games. Not because of a lack of interest, a lack of skill, or because they’re especially hard (in fact, games seem to have become easier with successive generations, also a matter for a different article), but because of one simple fact.

I don’t have the time.

Between work, and keeping up my apartment, and taking care of my dog, and keeping my girlfriend (and therefore myself) happy, and watching my favorite television shows, and indulging in reading (courtesy of my new Kindle, yay!), and trying to keep a semi-regular exercise routine going, and – Christ how do I manage all this?

Some days I don’t feel like I have the time to breathe, to think even. How am I supposed to be able to devote several hours, or even one, to playing a video game, much as I may (and certainly do) want to?

I bought Dead Space2 the day it was released, January 25. Assuming I could devote an hour or so a day to playing this game, I should have finished it in about a week. Given what I’ve just said, it’s no surprise that’s not the case. I’ve now had Dead Space2 in my possession going on 5 weeks, and I would guess I’m maybe, *maybe* half-way through the campaign.

Which brings me back to the central thesis of this article, namely my (and perhaps your) “problem” with the ever bigger game. When Dragon Age: Origins came out last year, developers boasted it would take 120 hours to complete >90% of the game. 120 hours! Assuming you could devote 10 hours a day doing nothing but playing this game, it would take you 12 days to complete it. I think I spent several *months* playing Dragon Age: Origins.

And let me be clear. Dragon Age: Origins is a great game. I thoroughly enjoyed it, had tremendous fun playing it. But I currently have Dead Space2, Red Dead Redemption, and Fallout: New Vegas all sitting on a shelf, all unfinished to varying degrees, demanding my attention. Not to mention the DLC add-ons each has to extend their shelf-life.  So when I look and see that Dragon Age II is coming out in just a couple of weeks (release date: March 11), I can only shake my head and sigh.

Where will I find the time?

Again, let me be clear. I love big, expansive games. I love being immersed in a grand, virtual world that lets me indulge in one fantasy (the rugged, honorable hero) or another (the pitiless, greedy villain). I’d be an idiot to sit here and complain that video games are too big, too long.

“Oh Bioware! You’re giving us too much game for our dollar. Can’t you reign it in with the DLC a bit?”

“For shame, Bethesda! That’s an obscene number of side quests you’re planning for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.”

Shut it, moron.

Though the average age of gamers may be 34, I’m sure there will always be a younger demographic of single males (they’re always male and single, right?) with plenty of free time and surplus cash to act as gaming locusts for which a new release is devoured in a matter of hours, their voracious appetites never satiated, release delays barely tolerated, and DLC merely a fix to keep them hanging on until the next big title release. Their relationship with developers is textbook love/hate, and I imagine the inverse is as well.

But in thinking about all of this, I realized something. Maybe for the first time I think I actually understand the appeal of flash games. You know what I’m talking about. The iPhone/iPad/online games. The games the friends who aren’t really your friends on Facebook are constantly playing and posting status updates about that only serve to make you want to de-friend them over.

Osmos. Drop 7. Angry Birds. Mafia Wars. Bejeweled Blitz. Farmville.

Games made by small groups of people working at small development companies. Indie games. Old school graphics combined with simple controls and “addictive” (I use the term rather loosely) gameplay. Games designed to be played in small chunks of time – while riding a bus to school, or on a coffee break (or any other time) at work, or while sitting on the couch with the TV on – these games demand neither high-powered (i.e. expensive) hardware nor serious time commitment.

I used to look down on these games. I wondered at their relevance, at their appeal. What, exactly, was the point?

I think I understand now. I get it. Now if I could just find the time to try some of them out…