Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Casual Gamer's Curse

As an increasingly old person, I have less time for games than I used to.  And yet, games continue to really appeal to me, especially as the narratives have gotten more adult (pretty much, I'm sure, as a result of my increasingly old Nintendo-kid contemporaries in the game industry).  Stuff like Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Fallout 3 makes my wallet come forth -- I want to play in those worlds and experience those stories.

There's the obvious problem that if I have, say, one solid 3-hour gaming session I can get a week, then a 30-hour game will take me 10 weeks.  Annoying, since it kind of breaks up the story continuity a bit.  More so, though, this problem is getting to me:

Difficulty vs. Gameplay Hours

After each 3-hour chunk of play, I let the game sit for a week or two (maybe trying to play another game one week) and when I come back, I've lost the muscle memory and reflexes from the last session.  This repeats several times and pretty soon I have a stack of $50 games that I've played a fraction of. The last game I actually finished was Portal.

Right now I'm playing through Assassin's Creed 2, which is incredibly fun.  It feels like you are playing in something like the real-world Italy of the Renaissance -- cities just like the real things, characters taken from history, involved in a storyline that is plausibly Machiavellian.  I'm also bed-ridden after a surgery, so I'm able to play for many hours a day and so I'm tearing through the game, at a level of difficulty that's allowing me to enjoy the story and experience rather than getting frustrated with the mechanics. It's great finally being able to play on the red line in that chart again, like I was 15.

So my plea to developers is this:  make mature games that are shorter, but no less rich.  Movies are no more than 3 hours; I can enjoy one at one sitting and have a rich experience.  Why can't games be like that?  I like an iPhone puzzle game as much as the next dude, but it's as if I had to choose between watching sitcoms and watching the complete 10-DVD Ken Burns Jazz documentary set.

I still want all of the elaborate world design, latest graphics advances, refined complex gameplay, and entirely the complexity of story.  I just want it in less than 10 hours of complete experience rather than stretching it out over 30 hours with intricate development trees, equipment upgrades, and filler missions.  I'll still pay $50 for it, I promise, and if you want to use all that game structure you've built to release additional paid download episodes, I am all for that as well.


Anonymous said...

from a marketing perspective though, the game companies have no incentive to adopt your new business model (well thought out, btw.)

i mean, you have bought their $50 game - there was enough in the premise or story or whatnot to induce you to spend that one-time chunk of change.

and whether you finish that game in a short or extended period amount of time doesn't make a difference to the game companies, because either is almost certainly a shorter timeframe than when they get the next sequel coded...

maybe they'd really have to have a demographic breakdown of the blue line vs. red line players and see the marginal benefits of going for the blue line players, to have any incentive to change their current biz model.

sherkaner said...

Well, I guess I'm suggesting that I'm going to stop being an idiot and buying games I won't finish. I'm quite sure that if there were really top-notch, shorter-length games, I'd very likely buy many more. As it is, I can't bring myself to buy some of the new stuff that's out because I have so many unfinished titles on my shelf already.

So yes, game marketing people: I will buy more of your games if you do as I ask!

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