Friday, 03 August 2012 07:16
Games - Games
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Now that the Steam sale is over, I’m sure I’m not the only PC gamer looking at a newly-engorged collection of games and wondering just what to play. When I was growing up, I never had to make these choices. The question of which SNES game to play after school was just a matter of choosing between the two or three games I had at any one time. Now, obviously I’m an adult, I earn money and can buy games myself. But that’s not the only thing that’s changed, that’s produced this abundance of choices.
There’s Steam sales and indie bundles and other deep discounts on PC games. There’s retailers like GOG.com and software like DOSBox and SCUMMVM that are making older PC titles more accessible than ever. There’s a console generation that’s run for half a decade with no imminent end in sight, meaning there’s a huge back catalogue there too, and a pre-owned market that drives down prices. And there’s the wide variety of free-to-play games, many of which I know from experience can definitely provide a great deal of entertainment without spending a cent. Not to mention the games available on mobile platforms at prices that wouldn’t buy you a Happy Meal.
I have more money and more freedom to spend it on games than I did in those after-school SNES days, but games are also cheaper. There’s more of them available on your platform of choice, and you can get hold of them more easily thanks to digital distribution, the profusion of brick-and-mortar retailers selling games, and online retailers like Amazon that’ll ship overnight if you want. I’d suggest that right now, we have more games easily accessible than ever before. What we don’t have more of is time.
For years, we’ve judged the value proposition of a game on how much time it takes to play, how long it takes to extract all its gaming goodness. How many hours is the new BioWare RPG? How long is the campaign in the new Call of Duty? How many hours of entertainment will I get for the amount of money I’m spending? It seems to me that with the abundance of games we have now, that question is absurd. Should we really be focusing on how many hours of play there are in a game we can buy for $5?
I have over 300 games on Steam, and I own about 50 current-gen console titles, and I’d call that a relatively modest collection by today’s standards. Even if I sat down and played through them all, could I even play all the games I have right now in a lifetime? Many of them are RPGs, or strategy games, or puzzle games, or other games with a lot of replay value, games that I could happily keep playing for a month or three. What’s the point in asking how many hours I’ll get out of a new game if I can’t possibly fit all the games I already have in the time I have left in my life?
Most of us don’t have enough time for all these games. As the gaming population has aged, more of us have other commitments like work and family to attend to. Even for gamers still in school or who don’t have those commitments, the sheer quantity of games accessible to gamers these days dwarfs that extra free time.
Game developers and publishers know that we don’t have enough time. Many games today report usage statistics back to their creators. BioWare famously reported that only about half the players who started Mass Effect 2 ever finished it. But critics and gamers will still lambast a game for having a short campaign, or not enough replay value. While I want value for my gaming dollar, if I’m honest, a short game that I don’t need to replay is good for me. It means I can get on to the next game in my huge list.
What I want, and what I’d argue we all should want, is quality, not quantity. I’d much prefer to play shorter games that can give me all their concentrated goodness in a few hours play. Even if I had enough time to play every game I own, would I want to? I’ll still buy the next Skyrim or Civilization that I’ll pour days and weeks into, but in general what suits my life — and my game collection — are shorter games that pack a lot of punch, like Telltale’s Walking Dead series. Shorter games are good for all of us, because none of has enough time for everything. Sometimes less game means more games.
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Now that the Steam sale is over, I’m sure I’m not the only PC gamer looking at a newly-engorged collection of games and wondering just what to play. When I was growing up, I never...
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