Tuesday, August 14, 2012

VG Talk #14 Short and Sweet

Video Game Discussion

It feels like it was only yesterday that we all wanted our games to be long spiraling epics and the amount of time you could invest in the game was one of the bigger selling points. Legend of Zelda games have always been incredible but they were also praised because they allowed you to sink tons of hours into them before even touching the sidequests. The same goes for the Final Fantasy series. Remember when Final Fantasy 7 was on three separate discs and everyone freaked out at how amazing that was? You were getting your money's worth and a great experience to go with it.

Then we had to obtain steady jobs, attempt regular social lives, and possibly grow up (that's debatable). Now we barely have time for those kinds of games. There's a reason the "save" function was invented. We might have to leave at any moment and we want to be able to come back to where we left off. We used to be able to get through a 40+ hour game in a weekend but now it could take us months if we don't schedule in a couple of hours of game time each night. Worse yet, we might only be able to play on our days off. *shudders at the thought*

That's not even mentioning any games that are grind heavy. We have learned to despise a heavy grind because it's pointless repetition to get to our end goal. It's unnecessary time wasted and we're busier now than ever. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more! Except for all the times that we do but that's not the point.

A new breed of games has been emerging and I'm a huge fan of this direction. Games like Portal 2, Journey, Limbo, and Dear Esther are all actually rather short. This used to be an insult in the gaming community except now it's a blessing. Each one of these titles deserves your time and each of them has also managed to push game innovation on top of being a stellar experience packed into a tiny package.

Let me clarify and say that I don't want every single game to dare be this short. I want variety and it's something we're seeing more of in the game industry. There are plenty of times where I want a game that takes more than a few sit-downs to get through but I'm also a fan of these short games that don't suck up all of my time to experience something fulfilling.

It's also crucial to note that some games aren't allowed to be too short. The Darkness 2 came out and was overall enjoyed by many except for the fact that it ended way too soon. The only complaint about Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was that it cut out most of the exploration the series is known for which also cut down the game time rather severely. As you can see, it's going to depend on the type of game and the narrative.

Rather than this just coming across as a short article where I'm praising a few games, the point I'm trying to get at is this: game length has always been neglected as an aspect of game design. Some games do worse than neglect it and ignore the concept entirely during the design process. Hopefully designers will work toward fine-tuning the experience depending on what the game wants from the player and what the player is going to expect from the game.

What are your thoughts? Does game length matter to you? Do you prefer the variety of short and long games we are starting to see or do you have a preference? What are your favorite games that happened to be short experiences?

This is Kylak signing out before I take up too much of your time.


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