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Do games have to be 'long' when their gameplay suggests otherwise?


Games are an enjoyable pastime for most. Their level of involvement high, enjoyment thorough and plentiful. The time players can commit to a title depends on the genre, amount of content, available spare time and other worldly commitments (they do exist). In our ever-busy world, what compels developers to create titles that have players dedicate their loyalty to one game when there are so many to experience?

Think of the first incarnations of Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda. Their length, short. Their gameplay, everlasting. Games you can return to and play over and over. Similar titles in the arcade genre such as SEGA Rally, Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter and their ilk carried this simple, absorbing quick-fix nature of gameplay, appealing to every gamer's inner child like toblerone.

Simple, unadulterated fun. Looking at the current games market, we have stories woven into titles from the expected RPG genre through to fighters, puzzle games and even iPhone games that cost you a mere pound. Valiantly attempting to lengthen the player's time with each title, yet how many skip those 'cut scenes' to get to the meat of the experience? The developers' efforts and 40-hour work stints crafting the threads tieing those games together, gone in the click of a button. It could be asked if it is necessary for such scenes if the option to skip them is present, something gamers may have welcomed in story-heavy titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4.

Let's not forget of multiplayer and where does it sit among this conundrum?  A main feature in titles among the likes of Call of Duty through to FIFA and a means to keep gamers engaged, could this be seen as adding 'length' to titles that are otherwise pick up and play in nature? Or, is the feature an essential part of the mesh that harbours modern titles, providing players with enough bang for their buck if mum can only buy little Jimmy one title for Christmas?

Unless you choose to walk around with your eyes closed, last time I checked people seem busier than ever these days. Recession, technology, change. It all appears to be hitting fast and rapidly, showering individuals as they survive from day-to-day. The iPhone, iPad, PSP and DS are increasingly providing titles catering for individuals' fast-paced lifestyles, allowing them to have a blast on Angry Birds before the day's planning meeting gets underway. This short-burst gaming fits with professionals' modern lifestyles, finding little time to spare for the likes of Fallout: New Vegas and Resonance of Fate. Have long and immersive titles had their day in the modern and rapidly shifting market? I'll leave that open to the Comments section.

Could the day of the long game be a thing of the past? Do you see the market turning towards shorter experiences or will there always be a place for the likes of Zelda, Final Fantasy and their brethren? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.


Kinsta said...

Its not that the short games are made to fit busy people's busy lifestyles, but rather they are made to fit the hardware - and the hardware, in turn, caters for the casual rather than the hardcore gamer.

On the flipside, longer games are being made for consoles and PC gaming, more often than not to justify the cost of these games for the consumer. Certain qualities are expected for these types of games due to customer demands and its always easier to add 'longevity' in terms of 'playthrough time' as opposed to true 'replayability'.

Two further points on your musings.

Firstly, you tend to always term 'games' in your opinion pieces as one specific entity when its clear that games are continuing to diversify - something for everyone, if you will. Your opinion pieces lack focus if you dont stick to discussing certain gaming platforms in certain arguments. Here, you take to discussing both hardcore and casual games and so there is no focused argument.

Secondly, try not to interpret your personal trends with general gaming trends. Sure, you may feel subjectively that games of yesteryear have 'everlasting' gameplay, but would young gamers of today brought up on Modern Warefare feel the same playing Donkey Kong? Similarly, the reason why games back then were in general 'short', was often due to technical constraints rather than conscious artistic decisions made by the game's creators.

Also, when you say 'people seem busier these days' you really mean 'I am a lot busier these days', and as you grow older it is normal for people to become 'cash rich but time poor' rather than vice versa.
There are more people playing today than ever and games cater for all different ages and gamer types.

So be careful not to mix your personal gaming trends with that of gaming in general. I wouldn't say that people are busier these days and so therefore more games are made more casual for them - but rather a wider audience of people play games today, including those who traditionally wouldn't have the time to play. Thus, and with the rise of the relevant hardware, the casual gaming market is on the increase.

Patrick Honeyman said...

Fair comments made. You make them well and it is something that is taken on board.

I wait to read your blog sometime.