Gameology 13 - Game Length

Show Notes

Mathew and Attila discuss the length of games, both AAA and Indie. Games discussed in the show:

Anatomy by Kitty Horrorshow



The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Elder Scrolls

South Park: The Stick of Truth


Mass Effect Trilogy

The Order: 1886

Extended Thoughts

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up with games, I'm sure many have fond memories of immersing themselves in 30-50 hour long experiences. Whether that meant playing a game to completion or sinking hours into the multiplayer, sometimes the experience could last even longer. However, as time went on and we grew up, we find that adulthood responsibilities demand more of our time and we can no longer (responsibly) afford to dedicate as much time to gaming. This either means favoring shorter experience so we can play a number of different games in less time, or being extra selective in which 30+ hour experience we choose to partake in.

When looking at what longer games have to offer, there are very few which actually justify their full play-time. Many longer games resort to padding out the experience in some form or fashion, but it is important to understand that this is not an issue exclusive to large AAA games. There are some games that are padded at 1 hour in length, just as there are games which are padded at 50 hours. Perhaps out of fondness for longer game experiences of days past, certain vocal gamers demand that games adhere to a "dollar per hour" ratio. As children, we are far less likely to notice when a game is padded out or has some segments which are repetitive. At the camp I work at, I see kids listening to 10 hour long versions of songs all the time. But this cannot form the basis of our demands for new games that are being made; it will result in worse games overall! In the end, a game's length should be determined by its story and the number of unique mechanical combinations it can present. However enticing a story may be, there are few mysteries that can be drawn out over 50 hours. However fun a combat system is, you can only introduce so many unique enemies for the player to fight. There is a point at which an experience begins to stagnate, and it is up to developers to trim the dead ends and deliver a satisfying conclusion to their game well before that happens. The ideal length of a game can almost be determined by the mathematics of combinatorics; if your game has a certain number of mechanics that can be combined in a certain number of ways, the length should be determined by the number of unique combinations that can be generated. Obviously some combinations will be so fun that they are worth repeating at least once, and some combinations are not worth having at all, so it ultimately comes down to the individual mechanics of the game. Essentially, there is a sweet spot for every game to find; not too short that it doesn't get to explore the intricacies of different mechanics intertwining, and not so long that those parts of the experience feel as though they are being drawn out like butter over too much bread.