How Long is a Piece of Game?

Once upon a time a games were designed to be played for around 8-12 hours, can you believe that? Compare that to the mammoth amount of playtime involved in fully experiencing an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) like World of Warcraft, how many hours have some of its most dedicated fans sunk into playing? Hundreds? Thousands? More? There seems to be an increasing trend today of large developers creating games for the purpose of retaining players for as long as possible rather than creating a shorter, contained experience, in fact the small contained experience seems to be almost entirely the realm of the indie developer.

Play time has become so important to the industry that games like The Order: 1886 have been slammed for their short tenure, admittedly there were a plethora of other issues with The Order, but over and over the most common complaint the cropped up was the too-short play time. This focus on play time meant that the small sections where the game succeeded were all but overlooked, in an article earlier this week in Playboy writer Jake Muncy brings to light one area in which The Order did exceedingly well, getting the player to slow down and take in the atmosphere;

The Order’s first level seems like an antidote to the hurried, restless pace of most mainstream action games. It’s careful and deliberate in its pacing, attempting to draw the player into a world before they start blowing it up. It gives the player a chance to stretch their metaphorical legs, find some bearing on the game, and start to draw opinions about the characters and the setting.”

The Order:1886

Muncy also mentions that he found this opening level memorable where other games that jumped right into the action failed to have the same affect.

All of this does not detract from what a well-crafted long term experience can offer, MMO’s can be rich in story and character that one can almost feel that they are living a whole other life, one man’s grindfest is another man’s second life. At it’s core I would like to believe that the games industry is all about crafting experiences, whether that be a short, poignant experience like that of Journey, an epic adventure like that of Skyrim or a fast paced action filled romp like Smite. The important thing to remember is not how long or short an experience is, but that the length is appropriate to the experience being crafted.


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