Sorry, Mr. Developer, but your game is too long

Being a video game aficionado is a little bit different than being, say, a movie aficionado. Barring the occasional ridiculous exception most movies can be seen and enjoyed in one to three hours. You can throw in a movie at the end of a long day at the Widget factory and experience all it has to offer before you go to bed that night. Video games, on the other hand, take a little more work.

Take, for example, a game like Final Fantasy VI. My first time through it took me well past 30 hours to complete it. Which is roughly the equivalent of watching, say, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone about twelve times (or The Number 23 once). But what if you missed some side quest or accidentally killed off a major character? Or what if you just want to play it again? You might be a little more efficient, but you’re still looking spending at least ten more Sorcerer’s Stones worth of time playing this game. And here lies the problem.

If you want to fully re-experience the game, you have to invest virtually the same amount of time into it each and every time. Using our prior example, by the time you finished Final Fantasy VI twice, you’d have invested about 60 hours to it, or viewing the Sorcerer’s Stone 24 times (or Underworld once). Assuming you play the game two hours a day, you’d spend 30 consecutive days playing the game just to see it all twice.

I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have that kind of time.

This isn’t some rant about how I have a Job and Real Life Responsibilities(tm) now that I didn’t have when I was younger. I make time to engage my hobby (though, that’s another article). But games are getting longer and longer. In the month that I’ve been chipping away at whatever the Flavor of the Month is, several other games have come out that are of decent quality, similar length, and demand my attention. I know I haven’t fully experienced everything that my current game has to offer, but I did complete the main thread of the story.

So what do I do? Do I spend another month chipping away at the game again? Unlocking little bonuses, finding hidden story sequences and maybe finding some kind of in-joke that the developers put in? Or do I start a new game, learn about its mechanics, and where everything is fresh and new?

For me, the latter situation usually wins.

I have nothing against the old game or anything, it’s just that I’ve got other games to play, other stories to experience, and other puzzles to solve.

And as much as I’d like to plumb the depths of the game that obviously took years to craft… I just don’t have the time to dedicate to it. In fact, I’d go nearly as far to say that after spending three-dozen hours trying to work my way through a game, I’m borderline sick of it, even if I enjoyed it.

And besides, that that month I spent playing it, there’s a good chance that two or three other several-dozen-hours long titles have been released, and I can’t very well leave them sitting on the shelf unplayed, can I?