Wednesday, May 26, 2010

EXP Podcast #79: Laborious Longevity

Sometimes games are just too hard or too large. Is this a common problem and is it hurting the industry? John Davison of GamePro thinks so. Maybe this explains why so many people never finish their own games. Guest host David Carlton of Malvasia Bianca joins us this week to offer his insights on lengthy games, the joys and pains of difficulty, parenting, and cyclical gaming trends. You can find the original article in the show notes, as well as links to more of David Carlton's work. As always, we encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Some discussion starters:

- Have you stopped playing any recent games because they were too long or too hard? Would you have finished them under different life circumstances?
- How much of the gaming landscape is changing because of an aging developer demographic and a broadening market?
- What long or hard games have you stuck with and why?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 37 min 34 sec
- "Too Big and Too Hard, " by John Davison via GamePro
- Malvasia Bianca, home of David Carlton
- The Vintage Game Club
- The Video Games and Human Values Initiative
- Playdom
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. When I was young and still lived with my parents, I played games endlessly. I always wanted my games to last longer and I wanted more of them, yet without a job, I was stuck playing my same old games on repeat.

    As I grew older, got a job, and developed a disposable income, that mentality was still there. I bought more and more games thinking I wanted them. I bought really long games thinking they were a great value based on a playtime per dollar equation. The trouble is, now that I have a job to buy the games I always wanted as a kid, that job also means I don't have the same time to play my games as I did as a kid.

    It has taken me some time to come to terms with the fact that I am better off with shorter games. I always feel like I really want to dive into a game for weeks and learn all of its ins and outs, but seriously, who has time for that? The games I most enjoy are ones that can provide me an exciting or intriguing experience relatively quickly, keeping in mind that by gamer standards, quickly means like 10-20 hours to complete.

    Actually, I've largely become a gamer that samples a whole smorgasbord of games, but only completes a select few. My total game collection sits right around the 1000 games mark at the moment (not counting emulator roms). If I do the math on that... let's suppose on average a game takes 20 hours to complete (probably a lowball estimate). That would mean I have 20,000 hours of play time. Even if I played fulltime for 40 hours per week, it would still take me about 10 years before I completed all of those games, and that's under the assumption that I don't buy any new ones (unlikely). I can't remember the last time I had 10 hours in a week I could devote to games, let alone 40. It's more likely to take me 40-60 years to complete all of those games, which would have me playing the same game I have now up until I'm about 90 years old. It's madness! But as far as problems go, having too many games and not enough time is the type of problem I'm happy to have.

  2. Haven't listened to the podcast yet, so I hope this isn't embarrassingly redundant...

    I've given up on *countless* games for length, including many I really liked. I was hugely enjoying Shadow Hearts Covenant, for example, until I realized that I was 20 hours in and still only on disc one, and life was just too short.

    I really do think that as the gaming audience ages, smaller games are the future. But they then have to be cheaper! The industry is in big trouble if it keeps asking us for $60 for a five-hour game.

    My preference is for 4-6 hour games for $10-$20. Portal, 'Splosion Man, and Castle Crashers are some of my favorite titles in recent years, and I think their compact-ness is very much part of that. As in any other medium: Redundancy is bad!

  3. This was a great conversation to listen to. I'm pretty much in the same boat as everybody else. Right out of college my expendable income skyrocketed as well as finding sites like thus I was running all over the place buying the cheapest games I could. Now I'm sitting on a huge backlog of games I haven't played. I'm not in the same boat as the first commenter but clearly I'm not going to play these games. I like owning them but I'm always trying to find ways to save money on gaming.

    In the current gen my ratio to games I buy to the games I play is much better and I'm happy about that. Finding time to play or even the motivation some days can be tough. Some days I want to play something and decide not to.

  4. Hi JT!

    The number of potential game hours is mind boggling!

    I sympathize with having to slowly come to terms that short games are good for me these days. My childhood self would probably roll his eyes if he heard me complaining about game length. Of course, my childhood self didn't have a job, bills, commitments, etc.

    Hey Fuzzy (can I call you "Fuzzy?"),

    The other interesting thing about the games you cite is that they favor quirky art design over sheer technological force. Some of the standout games of the past few years are not only shorter than the blockbusters of days past, but they also succeed without leaning on graphics technology or overly complicated control/peripheral schemes.

    Games that are innovative, digestible, and affordable? Sign me up!

    Hi Vanlandw,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Anecdotally, it seems to me that Steam is contributing to people's willingness to buy games that they will probably never play. Is your backlog still mainly physical or has it also gone digital?

    I find that I'm always tempted to buy games, but the satisfaction that comes with fully digesting a single title is more rewarding in the long run.

  5. I have a similar quirk when it comes to books. I often buy books on deep discount from my local universities, because I want them on hand for reference or because I intend to read them... someday.

    I look at games the same way. Sometimes, I buy a game for reference, sometimes because I want to play it. I call it an occupational hazard from working in games. If I didn't, I'm sure my game library would be smaller.

    That said, I do find satisfaction in finishing games... but like reading books, I rarely play or read one at a time. I'm all for good, small games, like good, small books, but I also still love the big, meatier games and books. I just don't have as much time for them now as I once did.

  6. Hey Tesh,

    I must admit, my bookshelf has more than a few "someday" entries.

    For some reason, I don't really do the same thing for games. That being said, I do have Killer7 and P.N. 03 sitting on my shelf waiting to be played...