What’s the Deal with Long Video Games?

With the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the impending release of Fallout 4 making video game headlines throughout the year, you’d be forgiven for thinking people enjoy long games; I don’t think they do. Of course, I am aware that Metal Gear Solid V and The Witcher 3 have both sold incredibly well, as well as reviewing exceedingly well (Metal Gear Solid V and The Witcher 3 have at least, with Fallout 4 not yet out). Both games have also received their fair share of positive fan reaction, but they have also received a fair amount of backlash largely down to the same reason – their length.

Video games tend to be made in trends, based on one game release proving exceptionally popular, other developers and producers like to play “follow the leader”. It’s why for a long while the most popular game being made and bought was the modern military first-person-shooter, likely based on the vast popularity of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The trend at the moment appears to be open-world games; although I’m not entirely sure where this trend started it seems set for the next couple of years, with no signs of slowing down any time soon thanks to the vast success of Metal Gear Solid V and the assured success of Just Cause 3 and Fallout 4.

fallout 4

The issue with open-world games is that they take a long time to complete, and when every other big new game has a fifty-hour-plus storyline I simply can’t imagine how people find the time to play them. It would be interesting to see the percentage of people who finish long games, as I get the feeling that it would be very low, but this is just conjecture as I am sure that many people like to see a game through from start to finish. Again, unless people don’t play many games (this doesn’t seem that likely to me) nor don’t work or you know, have much of a social life then I simply do not know where people get the time to play through multiple huge games throughout the year.

Maybe all these massive games are being played by people who have a lot of spare time, maybe they are played by teenagers – they very well could be. However, according to Venture Beat, ‘the average age of someone who plays games is 31 years old’, they go on to claim that ‘more gamers are over the age of 36 than between the ages of 18 to 35 or under the age of 18’. Whilst one can question how true this information is, it is rather telling in that the average video game player is 31, and while they may not have a family to look after or be working, the likelihood is that they will have a job or family, and therefore less time to play video games.

Perhaps though, people are just not that bothered about finishing games, maybe the ownership of the game is more important than actually playing through it for some people. This may sound ridiculous but I know I will want a game for ages, and when I buy it, it doesn’t get played a huge amount – my playtime on Bloodborne, Batman: Arkham Knight and Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster can back me up here. As of writing this feature I have played up to five hours on each, despite owning all three now for at least a couple of months. Although I might be an exception here, I’m sure there are other people like me, who also finds that they don’t play these games a lot because I find them overwhelming (less so Final Fantasy).

just cause 3

Huge games can feel overwhelming, simply because of their vast size. At least these long games can feel overwhelming for the first few hours of play, whilst you are getting used to their intricacies and complicated gameplay mechanics (I also feel like games are too complicated these days, but that can wait for another day). With Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for example, it took me quite a while to get used to the idea that I could explore vast areas of the ocean, finding islands and towns to explore amongst other things, but why did it all have to take so long? I find that a game can be too long, making what could otherwise be a fun experience a dull, dragged-out one. I know that games can also be too short, but more often than not this complaint is dished out because people feel that they are being swindled by a short game – they are apparently not worth the money.

It seems that video game developers are too keen to throw as much content into a game as possible, in order to make the game match its high price-point – but to be honest I think that they go too far. It’s understandable that developers would want to make a game that the user will play until their next release, and it is also understandable that the developer would want their recent game to be a masterpiece, improving on their previous release. I don’t think however by making a game longer and bigger that they are improving it, they’re just making it so it eats up your time that could otherwise be spent on other games.

Long games are a strange beast, they can overwhelm and put off the user, but at the same time they can be incredible experiences, full of excitement, wonder, humour and fantastic storytelling. However, there are plenty of games out there that offer all of the above that don’t take hundreds of hours to complete, but more often than not the big new release will take too long to finish; I just think that the middle ground is the best, games that offer a large amount of content, but in a more compact experience.

Toby Saunders is sometimes opinionated, and you’ll find him posting garbage about games, films and his beloved Spurs and Bath City FC on Twitter.