Industry Negligence

Industry Negligence
To Do: Finish Any Game

Tom Endo | 18 Nov 2008 12:30
Industry Negligence - RSS 2.0

So is it an unbridgeable gap? Is the strictly linear game forever the domain of college students and bachelors with hours of free time to burn? A few games indicate otherwise. Portal introduced its gameplay conceits and wrapped up the story all in about 4 hours, to everyone's resounding satisfaction. Longer games have done it as well. Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time utilized careful pacing of both the story and the time altering game mechanic. Super Mario Galaxy also managed a similar feat, not through its story but through the sheer variation in gameplay it offered. And there's something to be said for Grand Theft Auto's pursue-the-story-if-you-like design; although with a story demanding at least 30 hours of a player's time, even that weighs heavy as an obligation. It would be interesting to see if narrative games trend towards front-loading, focusing the best of their content and story in the initial hours. The latter portions of the game serve as a coda to those early hours, a sort of bonus section for the more hardcore players. The Lord of the Rings films famously found success in providing two separate cuts: one for the regular moviegoer and the other aimed at the discerning fan.

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It's the difficulty of the transition out of the arcade and into the living room that is revealing itself in people's malaise towards videogame completion. As games move farther away from being money-making amusements and closer to full-fledged pieces of entertainment, developers must take into consideration the ever growing demands videogames place upon a player's concentration. The heart of the matter is that many videogames are no longer simply a contest of skill. They ask a player to follow a storyline, take in large amounts of visual information and respond to that information with a combination of problem solving and hand-eye coordination in order to move the story forward. Even 8 to 10 hours of this, once considered a paltry sum of time to spend with a game, can sap a player's motivation. Once, the majority of games could be classified as "pick up and play"; increasingly, they are now of the "sit down and concentrate" variety. Many developers still favor the predilections of the recently emancipated arcade-goer, a person obsessed with testing his skills for as long as possible. Gamers have changed, though; we are now full-fledged media consumers. I, for one, look forward to the day when I finish all the games I start.

Tom Endo has never seen the director's cut of Legend, but he's pretty sure he wouldn't finish that either.

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