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Back when I was a young lass, Nintendo DS in one hand and Wiimote in the other (until very recently I was a purely Nintendo-focused person, don’t judge me), with very limited resources to get my hands on any new video games, I used to select the titles I played very carefully. When you only have the potential of getting a new game maybe once every six months, you’ve got to make sure it’s a good one, and more importantly, that it’s gonna last you.
Thanks to that, the amount of hours a game was expected to take to finish was a massive part of what made one good in my eyes - bigger might not always be better, but in that context, it certainly was. What was the point in spending all that money on a game that I could finish over a single weekend? However, that was over 15 years ago now, and things have changed a lot.
There's not many games out there that are packed with more content and secrets than Elden Ring - take a look at how to find one of the game's slightly more hidden locations in the video below.
What’s new? Basically everything. We’ve seen multiple generations of consoles come and go, hundreds of new Pokémon brought into existence, and on a personal level, I’m an adult now. Like, a proper one, with responsibilities and everything. The horror. No matter how hard I try (and ironically, despite having a gaming-related job), I just can’t fit in the same amount of gaming that I used to when school was the only thing on my plate. When you only have a few hours per day to dig into the many titles out there, releasing at a non-stop rate, it’s very difficult to actually get through anything.
This, dear reader, brings me to my hot take of the day. There’s just too many long games, I’m drowning. Admittedly, ever since I got any reasonable amount of money to spend on stuff I wanted to, my backlog has remained pretty huge (Steam sales will do that to ya) - but there was always something of an end in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, that light has been snuffed out, and thrown to the bottom of a swimming pool’s deep end. There’s no coming back from this, and I’d know, because boy have I tried.
It’s one thing to have a list of a few five- to 10-hour experiences, but once you start seeing the numbers tick up to 40 hours, you’re on a very slippery slope. Anything that’s 50 hours or more I accept I’m not going to finish for probably at least half a year; and if a game is longer than that, it’s more often than not a lost cause from the start. Maybe it’s just me and my slightly questionable gaming attention span, but finishing 10 different five-hour-long titles just sounds so much more manageable than a single 50-hour behemoth.
The thing is, playing and finishing even one of these chunky bois is a commitment, but when seemingly every single new release is that same, colossal length, how is anyone meant to keep up with that? I mean, take February this year alone - we got Dying Light 2 (with its famous supposed 500-hour completion time, although it seems that was a rather large exaggeration), Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring all come out within a week of each other. Now, assuming you’re not just blasting through the main stuff as fast as possible in an effort to get the game finished, and actually doing some extras along the way, according to HowLongToBeat, these three titles alone will set you back a whopping 199 hours.
Let me remind you that this trio all came out within 21 days of each other. There’s only 504 hours even available in that amount of days, meaning we were hit with enough content to fill over a third of that time. And that’s before we even consider the possibility of the proper, 100% completionists. Oh lawd.
Are games really getting longer though, on average? No, almost certainly not. It’s not even that there’s more games being released, either - for the most part, big-name titles have been releasing at about the same sort of frequency for years now. The sad truth is that we’re all getting busier, and I really need to come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be able to throw 200, or even 100 hours into my new favourite releases on a regular basis like I used to as an introverted teen.
This whole debacle has given me a whole new appreciation of those short-but-sweet releases. Where a younger, more naive me saw anything that could be completed in less than a week as a title with less value, I now crave more of those. After all, I’m so much more likely to see the whole thing through to the end and actually get the complete experience, rather than put my controller down one day in the middle of some big field from the open-world titan I tried to tackle, never to return (looking at Breath of the Wild there, which I only just finished a few short weeks ago - don’t yell at me).
So, here’s my plea for all the devs out there: please, give me more short games, I’m begging. There’s only so many massive open worlds that one person can take. But the likes of A Short Hike? Beautiful. The Stanley Parable? Sign me up. Kirby and the Forgotten Land? Exquisite stuff. For the time-poor gamer, it’s the titles like these that can keep us feeling like we’re still actually keeping up with the hobby we’ve always loved, rather than hopelessly struggling against the current of keeping up with every shiny new big boy title. That said, I still can’t wait for the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, because I clearly have no self control.
Featured Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment, Nintendo
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