224: So Many Games, So Little Time

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So Many Games, So Little Time

It's a sad fact of adulthood that you simply have less free time to do the things you want. For Ronald Meeus, that means buying games with more manageable single-player campaigns. So why is eight to ten hours of gameplay too short for most reviewers?

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As a 19 year-old university student I find myself in the transition phase between the Hardcore and the Casual. Similar to your experiences I tend to be more drawn to the shorter, if not equally fulfilling, games such as Prince of Persia and ODST, instead of my usual engorgement of MMO's, namely WoW. It's a sad experience, but at the same time it's exciting to explore the more "adult" past-times as well.

Well, now i know how to NOT become you, thats a good experience. Thanks.

This article raises a good point: Length of a game is always relative. Yes, games are expensive today, and you always want to get your money's worth out of a new purchase, but 8 hours to you may not be the same to someone else. I recently started college, and I know for a fact that my free time is going to be much less than when I was in high school. This means a game deemed short by some critics could take me several days to complete. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, for instance, takes less than 10 hours to complete the storyline, but where some people could go through that in a day, I had the game for a solid week before I was able to fulfill Huang Li's revenge. The point being, you shouldn't let length of a game determine whether or not you should purchase it, as even the shortest of games can last you a while when personal responsibility rears its ugly head.

Whenever a review complains about a "short" game, I see it as a positive. I have a short attention span, and I'd usually like to have finished within 7 or 8 hours. Sure, if you measure it in dollars/hour it sounds bad -- but I'd rather 7 hours of concentrated fun to 14 hours of monotony.

One of my friends has an agreement with his girlfriend where she sits and watches her soaps for an hour while he plays games. She's also a casual gamer (LBP, Animal crossing etc) so they also play some multi-player. I do agree with the article though especially regarding game length.

I'm a 'real gamer'
I spend countless hours playing Video games, and the rest on forums(trolling for n00bs).

I envy you. You have a life, and more importantly you have a family. And I for one would gladly trade all this time for that.

Typo in article: "Amazon.com currenlty retails Bound in Blood for $37.99"

Good topic, and I think your experience of transitioning from having lots of time and no money to having lots of cash but no time is a common one.

I expect to stay a gamer my whole life of course as I gain more responsibilities my gaming time will be reduced but damnit I will still play them!

To the writer:
I've found that my life is becoming a little like that.
I am a Student, like a large collection of us are, and recently i've just not been able to play. The work load is heavy but at the same time its heavy as i want to succeed.
Recently getting used to a girlfriend as well i've stopped sitting in front of the screen playing DoTA and picked up the guitar and played for her or just sat there watching the damn X-factor as i know that i'll appreciate it more in the long run.
When i do however get time to play it is sacred and i do throughly enjoy it.
Good Read.

Spouses and children aren't the only things that help one appreciate shorter games. After years of playing shooters, RPGs and adventure games that all rely on the same mechanics, it takes a lot for a new title to hold my attention for more than 10 hours. Too often I start playing one of those 50-100 hour monoliths (you know, the ones that reviewers praise for their "value") only to find that barely a quarter of that is worthwhile gameplay. It really makes me wish that good editing was as valued in video games as it is in film or literature. Perhaps if it were we'd see fewer pointless grinds and filler levels, and narratives wouldn't use every cliched plot twist in the book just to tack on a few more hours of game time.

I guess this is why Portal will always be one of my all time favorite games. Yes it was short, but for once it let story dictate length, rather than the other way around. Other developers would do well to take a page from Valve's book here, especially as it appears that the average gamer is no longer a 16-year-old with tons of free time at his disposal.

As most people have already said, its a common transition in all gamers lives. Even though some of us say otherwise, most of us aren't 40 year old virgins who still live at home with mom and dad. We all take whatever time we can out of our lives, and spend it on what we love to do. Whether its model airplanes, or remote control cars, just being able to continue the hobby, is a reward in and of itself.

Trust me, I've been that guy who plays video games for entire days, and I'm sure just about everyone on here has been as well. Thats the wonder of being a kid, being young. No responsibilities. Its a wonder we ever managed to even do our homework back then. I've slowly made the transition over to what is known as the "Casual" gamer(even though I hate that term). I used to be able to dedicate hours upon hours into games like Banjo-Kazooie or Super Mario 64, just to 100% them. Nowadays, I find other ways to whet my gaming appetite. I play CS:S, I play TF2, I play handheld games, and I roam these boards in whatever spare time I have. I still enjoy games the same way, and I'll indulge myself every once in a while on a massive time dump (RPG's and whatnot), but my love for games has never faded.

While it certainly is disheartening to look back and say that you wish you could be back in the good old days, you have to realize that you're love for gaming is still the same. Its just how you enjoy gaming, is different.

Waitaminnut Waitaminnut!
So we have to spend $60 on a 4 hour game because you forgot to put a condom on? What a treat for me.

Seriously though. I'm glad you can now afford to buy a couple of games a month but maybe you don't have to. Put that money to the side for a rainy day maybe. There are a lot of gamers that can't afford to buy a couple of games a month like we can and I do think it's unfair for them to be convinced to buy a well made game that they will be finished with in a week.

My free time has also dwindled since I got full time employment years ago but I find myself sometimes going through more games than I did in my teenage years: though games were much different then.

I'm not saying we should sacrifice quality for quantity but I figure for $60, is it really too much to ask for both?

I've been playing Fallout 3 on and off for the past year; it even takes me a couple of weekends to get through a dlc pack. But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. It's an incredibly rich game that takes a long time to complete and we should be grateful.

So don't be afraid of the long play games fellow greybush, they'll just save you money.

I really wish my father was a gamer. I think.

Your writing style is wonderful, and engaging. I've nothing much to relate to the story itself, but I can sympathize. School can really put a mark in my gaming time.

I don't plan on having kids or getting married (for reasons other than gaming), yet I still feel a little bit of pull towards casual gamers rather than hardcore. One of these reasons is that most hardcore gamers I've seen lately have been stoners who dropped out of high school (which I view as being lower than the appendix in the grand scheme of things), but another is that college is messing with my schedule, such as having classes set so I don't have 5 hours of free time to vanquish areas in Guild Wars. This has made Pokemon, with its turn based gameplay that can be saved and put down at a moment's notice, more common than the MMOs.

I used to be a hardcore gamer, but now I'm kind of starting to mature and ask myself "what am I getting out of this?" It started when I found that online play with Call of Duty 4 and World at War just seem to feel like a grind trying to reach that new rank for a new weapon. I find single player story modes more satisfying because I actually feel like accomplishing somthing and I won't get a slap on the wrist for leaving mid game to upkeep my life. The only time when I'm enjoy playing multiplayer modes is when I'm in a LAN party with friends, or I'm playing with a group of people just play for fun and not to "pwn n00bs". Also, I'm now needing to dedicate time to a job, hobbies, family, and school. Its coming down to reseting priorities and being a gamer is loosing rank quickly.

MorteSphere:
I really wish my father was a gamer. I think.

Haha. My father is a gamer. It's not as great as you'd think, though. It's fun to talk to him about games, but sadly he's a lot like the author of this article, being able to find only a few hours every week and occasionally a whole weekend (for games like Bioshock and Fallout 3) to play. I, on the other hand, an 18-year-old college student, plow through those games in less than a month, so when I left Bioshock, Fallout 3 and STALKER: Clear Sky behind me, he's still getting the hang of beating the Big Daddies in a one-on-one. His hand-eye isn't what it used to be, either.

It's a funny thing: Like I said, I have the same taste in games as the author right now. I rarely play MMO games or RPGs that give you dozens of hours of gameplay just to get through the single-player main quest. I also prefer the games with quality over quantity, but because I only have to invest a small amount of time to get good results in college, I've got enough free time to bulldozer through HL2: Episode 2 in one afternoon. I guess that's a good thing, just in case my free time diminishes to hours under two digits a week.

Older individuals (especially adults with children I suppose) are rather busy with 'living'. The irony is that gaming many times is a "life-substitute", most particularly when it's at the 'hardcore-level'. It's not all that surprising that many of the most hardcore gamers feel this way:

stonethered:
I'm a 'real gamer'
I spend countless hours playing Video games, and the rest on forums(trolling for n00bs).

I envy you. You have a life, and more importantly you have a family. And I for one would gladly trade all this time for that.

The grass is always greener I suppose? But I ask you this: which would you rather be? The 40 year old father? Or the 40 year old virgin?

I like this article, as I can relate to it. I too have a girlfriend (A fabulous girlfriend) job (A fabulous job), and friends (Fabulous friends) now, so I find my gaming time decreasing, but frankly, I don't care. (Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuun.)
See, my girlfriend,

shares my interests, to a certain extent. She is an avid casual gamer, (Little Big Planet, The Sims, Popcap Games, that kind of stuff) and I enjoy playing co-op with her on LBP and such, so I am able to maintain a great life and great (co-op, in my opinion, can make a game so much better if played with a loved one) gaming experiences.
Not so much the middle ground, as it leans a lot towards maintaining my personal and social life.
I enjoy making people envy me, as I am evil.

Excellent article. I still yearn for those Halcyon days when I could play until the early hours of the morning.

Now I may get an hour or two most nights. I don't begrudge the loss of gaming time because it's mostly good stuff that takes up the time. It does mean I can no longer 'pwn' in the games I play though, sadly.

Also of course some of my gaming time is given to reading the escapist! :)

LiandriTrooper:
I used to be a hardcore gamer, but now I'm kind of starting to mature and ask myself "what am I getting out of this?" It started when I found that online play with Call of Duty 4 and World at War just seem to feel like a grind trying to reach that new rank for a new weapon. I find single player story modes more satisfying because I actually feel like accomplishing somthing and I won't get a slap on the wrist for leaving mid game to upkeep my life. The only time when I'm enjoy playing multiplayer modes is when I'm in a LAN party with friends, or I'm playing with a group of people just play for fun and not to "pwn n00bs". Also, I'm now needing to dedicate time to a job, hobbies, family, and school. Its coming down to reseting priorities and being a gamer is loosing rank quickly.

School? How can you raise a family and go to school at the same time? Unless you mean college, then AHEMHEM.
If you do mean college, hello identical life-clone.
Except I don't have kids yet.
EDIT: Near identical life clone, as I have teh job instead of teh college.

oppp7:
I don't plan on having kids or getting married (for reasons other than gaming), yet I still feel a little bit of pull towards casual gamers rather than hardcore. One of these reasons is that most hardcore gamers I've seen lately have been stoners who dropped out of high school (which I view as being lower than the appendix in the grand scheme of things), but another is that college is messing with my schedule, such as having classes set so I don't have 5 hours of free time to vanquish areas in Guild Wars. This has made Pokemon, with its turn based gameplay that can be saved and put down at a moment's notice, more common than the MMOs.

OMG you don't plan on teh loves.

I can agree to a degree...

I have the same problem of not having nearly enough time to "game" anymore in between social events, fiancee, wedding planning, writing, pen and paper roleplaying and my millions of other hobbies but I still consider 8 hours just a little too short. For me 10 to 15 hours is the "magic length," just long enough for decent immersion, but not so short that I feel ripped off.

Still, I have trouble finishing some of the super long titles I've picked up, games like Persona 4 and other JRPG's, but yet I can still feel shafted by the short length of Mass Effect's main story, which was far to short for the title's pacing.

I suppose that's a fair appraisal from me, if it's paced well, like the first Uncharted, 8-10 hours is a perfectly fine timeline, however if there's a lot of "wasted" time in a title then I often feel ripped by its short length (like Halo 3).

I knew a lot of folks in College that didn't game nearly so much anymore. A lot of my roommates actually liked sitting down and watching me game when I could, because I would always make time for games. They are my number one passion, and no matter what other hobbies or activities I get involved in I'm somehow constantly pulled back into games.

However, some of my gamer friends were confused, even appalled, when my reaction to hearing Twilight Princess could clock up to 70 hours to complete was "Seriously? Who has that kind of time?!". They all were of the "I wish more games were 70 hours!" mindset. To me, 8-10 hours is the sweet spot, but not so much due to lack of time.

At the moment I'm one of many recent graduates that is unemployed (as are a lot of my former classmates, go economy), so I have the time to play and manage enough money to get GameFly. I still favor the 8-10 hour model, because I want to play as many different games I can. When I was in College it wouldn't be surprising for me to be grabbing a new game each week, be it from GameFly, the bargain bin or an anticipated new release. However, if games were longer than 8-10 hours I wouldn't be able to keep up. Unless a game is really good, like Dead Space or Brutal Legend, then I start to get impatient for the game to end.

When I write articles and reviews for games, I note length because everyone else seems to find 8-10 hours short, which is about average these days. However, it may be time to start looking at it, and writing it, as "just perfect". People were disappointed in Brutal Legend's short campaign, but honestly, I like it. If I ever want to go through for the story (and I will) I can just set the difficulty to Gentle and burn on through, feeling satisfied with the humor and characters.

Few games give me that level of joy and reason to replay (but then again, most games have a lame story, but that's an argument for another day).

I agree that the length of a game doesn't matter when judging its quality. I remember it took me a month and a half to complete Fable on the Xbox (approx. 20 hours) and that was the only game I played the entire time.

I'm playing more games now with my 4-year-old son, than I do alone on my time. It's simply a matter of not having enough time to indulge these epic MMO titles or 40+ hour single-player conquests.

My son threw his first controller down in disgust a while ago. That's gotta be some right of passage or something, eh? Made me proud, he did. ;-)

Very good article, it is how I feel as well.

It is tough though when most, if not all of your friends are of the n00b-pwning variety.

I have to agree with the author regarding short & sweet games. I love Mirror's Edge, and the shorter story allowed me to actually experience the whole game. Now I'm able to go back to the playgrounds and try to improve my times, or earn Achievements.

For me, the problem started when I began buying my own games. Back when I only received games twice a year (birthday & Christmas), I had plenty of time to play though & master my meager collection. Also, a subscription to Gamepro allowed me to obsess over the new releases, so I knew EXACTLY what games to ask for.

Now, the clearance shelf at Target and Gamestop emails cause me to snatch up games when they're dirt-cheap (since I now have to think about bills & food), but my backlog of titles to play just keeps stacking up. I could just stop buying new games, but I've been burned before when I'd pass on a game, only to end up paying more for it on eBay a few months/years later.

i have the complete opposite problem, i have no buying power and way to much free time, my games this month where machinarium (great short game btw) and borderlands, i expect borderlands to last a good amount of time, especially since im one of those gamers, the ones who have to get every gun and every armor, just to stack it all but the sniper and the stealth armor in a closet, but i was a bit confused by one thing, are you married or divorced?, in the article you make several mentions that you play less because of your wife but you also mention that you see your daughter every other weekend, which sounds to me like an divorced father.

A very good article and something I can begin to relate to, although I still have some years to get to that stage. I still miss the days when I'd wake up at 5am just to game till midnight, sleep and repeat. I miss them but I know it'll be one lazy day for that to happen again. Maybe because I learn very well from other people's mistakes and bad examples. Now every time I bootup the rig, the WoW episode of South Park flashes past my eyes and remind me to put a leash on. There's a fine line that one crosses and losses everything.

lightbound:
As a 19 year-old university student I find myself in the transition phase between the Hardcore and the Casual. Similar to your experiences I tend to be more drawn to the shorter, if not equally fulfilling, games such as Prince of Persia and ODST, instead of my usual engorgement of MMO's, namely WoW. It's a sad experience, but at the same time it's exciting to explore the more "adult" past-times as well.

That's odd. I'm also a 19 year old university, with a decent social life and I would still call myself a 'true gamer' who plays far too much TF2 and somehow I find a way to balance everything, although that may be because I'm in a bit of a slack semesteror maybe it's because I saved enough money to get through without a job.

I also realized this is probably why those games like Gear of War 2, Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2 sell so much. They have a nice short campaign which can satisfy gamers like you and a endless well-done multiplayer to satisfy the 'true gamer'. So they penetrate both markets.

Nice article I have a new-found respect for gamers like you who don't have much time.

Wow, story of my life!

I used to play constantly, but "adult life" beckons and I've lost the endless well of time I needed to enjoy jRPGs and the like. Now I gravitate to short games. The shorter they are the better because then I can actually see a game from start to finish. This has led me to gradually shift more and more to FPS or TPS games. I use gamefly because I don't want to spend my precious gaming time on old experiences, I just play through one and swap out for a new one.

Life's commitments just build up for every gamer. I've left a 9am-9pm job(yes lots of overtime) for an accelerated grad program with 65 credits in 14months. I already have less time than I'd like with my wife, much less for gaming. In a few months after I've finished the program I'll be in another job full of overtime, but still spending my nights studying for the CPA exams...and adding parenthood on top of all that! All my gaming friends have either cut back to an hour or two a week, or quit entirely, making it impossible to actually enjoy a co-op game with my friends. I play L4D from time to time, but always with strangers.

The only difference is that I still kick ass whenever I briefly dip into multi-player. My reaction time and fundamental FPS instinct and strategy still carry over between games(the general public still can't keep their cool, reload too often, and don't pay attention to who's stalking them).

Ok, I see where he's coming from, but honestly I don't agree about the whole short games thing. Long games are great! Sure he may say that it'll take him months to beat the game, but whats wrong with that? I remember as a young child, getting my Nintendo 64, and taking months after months to beat games like Banjo Kazooie. It took me ages because I was young, and wasn't very good at games. But it was awesome! I'd love it if I found a game that took me a year to beat! Even if I only got to play games for a few hours a week, I'd still prefer a long game, because then, as long as its a good title, I can play the same game for months on end and still love it!

I've just started my final year of Uni and in just a few short weeks my life has changed drastically. In the first and second years I could get away with playing games for hours each day and still manage to get good grades. Now, I've abandoned old habits in favour of work. This is probably the longest I've gone without playing my console despite it being less than 10ft away and a plethora of amazing new games being released now and in the coming weeks.

I did go back to COD4 online not long ago and found I was still amazing at it, although it took a few games to get up to scratch. You just need to break that initial barrier to online play and then you can drop in and out freely, and still do well.

But thanks for the cheery and optimistic lifestyle I have to look forward too.

Mr.Pandah:
I've slowly made the transition over to what is known as the "Casual" gamer(even though I hate that term).

You're right, it's a stupid term. Is someone who watches one or two movies a week a "casual" movie-goer? Is someone who catches one or two football games on the weekend just a "casual" sports fan? Why is it only the gaming hobbies where if you put in less than 8 hours a week into them you're somehow considered lesser to those who devote large parts of their free time?

Ronald, I believe you've hit the nail right on the head. Period. Work, spouse and children all have put a serious dent on my gaming time - for now. I've managed to work a schedule where I can play when the rest of the household is asleep. It's not near the 40-hours of game times I had when I didn't have kids, but it still rewarding. Though I've focused my gaming on fewer games, but still spend most of my time in EVE Online.

I'm also optimistic that as my little ones get older, old enough to hold a controller that is, I'll be able to share some quality "gaming" time with them.

David "CrazyKinux" Perry
http://www.crazykinux.com/

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