As a kid, and even through to my late teens, a video game lasting 40 hours was what I considered to be a sound gaming investment. 60 hours, 80 hours or more would be an “OMG, MUST BUY” candidate.
The longer a game took to complete, the more value I felt I got from my purchase and the “better” I perceived said game to be. I would take my sweet time playing Final Fantasy 7, talking to every side character in the hope that I’d find a side quest that would add another hour to the game. In Sonic, I would try to complete every level without dropping one ring. In Grand Theft Auto, I would spend hours pretending to be an ambulance driver, killing an untold number of people in my quest to get one injured person to the hospital (I was that good).
As the credits rolled after dedicating a week of my life to a game, I’d look across at my video game collection and think, “oh God, I only have about 100 hours of gaming time on the shelf…I’ll run out soon.”
Fast forward a decade and a half and my Steam “Pile of Shame” taunts me on a daily basis. I still have games on my shelf for consoles that I sold years ago, stubbornly refusing to let them go because “I’ll find a way to play them one day”. And whenever an online store has a sale, I convince myself that I need to spend £10 on at least one game because it’s one heck of a deal and, y’know, I’ll find the time. One day.
As I get older, a game with a long playtime feels more like a daunting task than something that I look forward to. It feels like I shouldn’t attempt to play any game with a campaign longer than 15-hours because it’ll take me too long to complete – if I ever get to see the closing credits, that is.
The Witcher 3? I picked it up with all DLC in a Steam sale but have I played it? Nope. Maybe when I retire. I also bought The Witcher 1 and 2 but have “hidden” those in my Steam library.
Grand Theft Auto V? I’ve sunk a ton of hours into the Online mode, casually, but the idea of getting through the whole story? No chance, so why try?
Fallout 4? I sank about 30 hours in and barely scratched the surface. I defended some settlements, though.
Skyrim? I hear it is incredible. I’ve bought it at least 4 times and even installed the VR version and played for a few hours. Finishing it in this lifetime is unlikely.
The sad truth is, I don’t have time to really invest myself into a game these days. Some weeks I get lucky and get to play for 5 glorious hours. Some weeks I get zero time in front of my screen with a gamepad in hand. And sometimes those zero-hour weeks are followed by 3 or 4 other zero-hour weeks.
This is my life as an adult gamer. Many other adult gamers will relate.
In theory, a game like Skyrim or The Witcher 3 should be my dream game. With my limited game time, I could play each of those games for six months or more before I felt like I’d completed it. On paper that sounds like terrific value, but then I’d also feel like these overly long games have robbed me of the opportunity to play 10 or more other games with shorter play times.
Despite that, I do try and play these longer games whenever the urge to see what the hype is all about becomes too much. I manage to get a session or two into the story and then a busy period in my life pops up, and I don’t get to play it for a few weeks. The next time I load up the save it feels like I walked into the movie theatre halfway through a foreign movie with no subtitles. “Who the heck is that? She looks familiar, is she the love interest? Nope, she’s shooting everyone. Wait, this is on an alien planet? Cool helmet. Jeez, I’ve forgotten so much.”
From there I convince myself that I should just play some Fifa or Rocket League, something nice and casual to unwind and before I know it, several months have passed, whatever I was playing is uninstalled and added back to the Pile of Shame.
This is why I tell myself there is no point in trying to play long games – which, by the way, I know is totally false and ridiculous. I’ve probably played Rocket League for over 60 hours in total. I’ve probably played GTA Online for closer to 100 hours. And, FIFA? I dread to think.
The truth is, there is time for these longer games through the year and often the experience that they can give can eclipse those of lighter games. They just have an upward battle in the face of adult responsibilities and the feeling that I’ll never get to see the credits roll.
I tend to focus on games with a 5-15 hour game time. That way, I know that I should be able to complete the game within a month or so, enjoying being within that world without feeling like it’s the only universe I’m going to see for the next year.
Sleeping Dogs, Remember Me, Deadlight, Tomb Raider, Bioshock: Infinite, Metro 2033, Life is Strange, Walking Dead…all games with a reasonable length, with interesting worlds, that have not taken several months of my game time to complete. Sure, they may not come close to an epic game like Skyrim (that’s debatable – I truly loved Bioshock and Tomb Raider, and the others were good too), but they still feel like epic games when played over a period of time.
Will I ever play Skyrim, The Witcher 3 or equally long games? Yes. will I ever see the credits roll? Again, yes, or at least, I hope so. I managed to play Horizon Zero Dawn as its time on PS Now on PC came to a close by ruthlessly focusing on the main quest, so there is hope for other games.
Time limitations have made me pickier about the games that I play. I no longer have time for games that pad out their playtime with nonsensical side-quests and other nonsense. If a game has a 40+ hour story it had better be because there is 40+ hours worth of captivating action.
I know that there is probably still an audience that refuses to look at a game with less than 15 hours playtime. But, don’t forget that there is still a whole other market out there, adult gamers like me, who get intimidated by those longer playtimes and don’t have the time to retrace our steps halfway across the map for a silly compulsory quest. Collecting 100 of X doesn’t add to any game experience and should be chopped out with other time-sink quests, even if it leaves a game that is 10 hours long rather than 30. It’s about quality and not quantity.
Size isn’t everything. Apparently.