Even casual readers of video game magazines or Web sites quickly discover that a common complaint about many good games is that they’re too short. “It only took me five hours to beat!” is par for the course.
With most new games costing $50 or $60, criticizing the amount of time it takes to finish a title is fair, within reason. After all, spending six times more money than the cost of a movie ticket for an entertainment experience that only lasts three times as long might not be the best way to stretch your entertainment dollar.
We’ve all experienced that feeling of, “I love this game and never want it to end.” Heck, if you’ve got $60 to spend on just one video game over the next six months and online multiplayer isn’t your thing, I’d tell you to snap up “Fallout 3.” There’s upwards of 100 hours of gameplay in that thing.
Although I sympathize with the crowd demanding more entertainment for its dollar, it’s hard not to wonder if some of these folks are doing it wrong. Rather than looking at video games as challenges to be “beaten” as quickly as possible, gamers could stand to slow down and look at the scenery. Most decent retail titles are the result of hundreds of people working for more than a year to create something for you to play. Their developers would likely be disheartened to know that you didn’t even see half the content in their open-world game because you stuck to the main-story quests and used provided waypoints to find the shortest possible path to your next destination.
Reading that someone only took six hours to finish “Brütal Legend,” which is packed with stunning vistas, fantastical creatures, a killer soundtrack and more than a dozen little bits and bobs of lore to unearth, is like hearing that someone watched your favorite movie and skipped all the “talky parts.” (It took me upward of 17 hours to finish that game on the hardest difficulty setting, with a relatively minimal amount of dying and restarting missions. I’ve got a completion percentage of 95, though, which is asking a bit much of someone not totally in love with the game’s world.)
The first handful of times that I read complaints about the length of a game I liked, I assumed that the fault was mine, that I was too slow, too reluctant to play on the easiest difficulty settings, too enthralled with games as an artistic medium, or that I backtracked too much.
But as I get older and play more games, I’m starting to become even more of a caricature of myself, demanding that all titles let you rewatch in-game movies, or jotting down a note about a character’s subtle gestures so that I can ask a developer about them later.
Maybe it’s time for a slow-games movement. You can finish a game like “Shadow of the Colossus” in just a few hours if you hurry, but why would you want to?