Game Length: What’s The Sweet Spot?

I’m a big fan of lists. I’m an even bigger fan of gaming lists. I make lists of games coming out the current year, games I want to keep my eye on, and, of course, games I want to play right now.

I like to know what I’m getting in to, so I frequent How Long To Beat (if you’ve never visited the site, please check it out) to write down estimates of, as you might have expected by now, how long it takes to complete each game.

Sometimes I’m not in the mood to start a whole huge open world game. Sometimes I want a nice little compact experience. How Long to Beat comes in awfully handy.

However.

Sometimes I psych myself out from starting a new game because of the length. If I see a title is over 10 hours and I want something I can finish in a day, I back away.

What a silly thing to do! In 10 hours I could easily finish it in two days, or a more leisurely three, so how am I facilitating more gaming this way?

I am not.

There are games of all durations, but sometimes a game abruptly ends, or it overstays its welcome. It has to be incredibly difficult to hit that sweet spot.

When I played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I had only completed the main game (plus literally every possible side mission) minus either expansion, and my playtime clocked in at 165 hours. Sure, towards the end I was ready to see credits roll, but when I did, I felt that twinge of melancholy when a really good game has ended. Over the next couple of days, I felt like I’d left behind a very real place, and it pulled at me. I still want to go back and play the two expansions, but the time investment, even though I’m sure I will love them, is daunting.

I feel like shorter games often get timing right, as they seem to be going for a very distinctive experience (not that longer games aren’t).

One of the best examples of excellent pacing and overall duration in recent memory was Asemblance: Oversight. There was a mounting sense of dread and the general confusion I like in certain games. You piece together what happened, and you get your ending. There are multiple endings to the game, and I’ve wanted to go back to see them. The game clocks in at around 2 hours, and those 2 hours have import.

Another game with excellent pacing was The Park (I loved it). It also clocked in around 2 hours, and I felt it did an exceedingly good job at ramping tension. Towards the last third of the game, I felt like the tension was mounting in a way that was almost unbearable. It was as though you were listening to a white noise that was getting more and more insistent and uncomfortable and all you wanted was for whatever was going to happen, to happen to put an end to that discomfort. I don’t think the game was perfect, but I loved it all the same and found it to be entirely effective.

And then there are games like Destiny 2; ongoing social experiences with no end. I both love and fear this. I love it because it never has to end and I like things not ending. Shoot, I never finished Everything because I loved it too much and didn’t want the experience to be over.

I love that Destiny 2 will always be there for my friends and I to gather and play (last night a lovely friend hopped on our chat to tell us all how wonderful he thought we were, then sleepily logged off and all of us thought that was both charming as hell and adorable). The Destiny series has brought so many wonderful people in to my life, and I will never not be grateful.

But.

There is a part of me that is made anxious by the fact that I will never have completed everything in the game and it will never be “done.” As someone who likes lists and checklists, that gnaws at me.

What do you find to be the sweet spot in gaming? What game do you think nailed it?

This weekend I’d love to spout my well-laid plans for games I want to get to but I can already tell it’s going to be Destiny 2. I still want to play Strange Brigade. I still want to get back to Guacamelee 2, and I still want to get back to Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Will I get to any of them besides Destiny? That’s a good question.

With that I ask: what will you be playing this weekend?

Also, if you’ve left a comment recently, I apologize for not yet responding. The past week plus has been a bit of a nightmare, but I hope to respond to everyone today. Every time you comment it’s important to me, and I always want to respond. Thank you for being patient with me. :)

Please be safe out there, friends. Cheers.

Categories: games

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6 replies »

  1. Once upon a time I really loved games that were 40-50 hours (or more), now I see myself more wanting 10 hour narrative experiences. I just don’t have the time anymore. :(

    This weekend I think I’ll be trying to play a bit more Forza Horizon 4, The Evil Within, and maybe try to hit the second Destiny 2 expansion. But most likely I am going to try to watch some more horror movies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love a well-paced game. One of the best paced games in my opinion is Resident Evil 4. I played it a couple of years ago for the first time and it felt so damn good. The action is pretty intense and makes really hard to drop it. I totally understanded why it’s considered one of the best games of all time.

    I LOVE open world games but I’m sad triple A games now are always open world full of side quests, fetch quests and a bunch of stuff. They’re still absolutely great and fun but I think pace suffers a bit in some games.I always have problems to keep with the narrative in open world game. I love a good well-paced and focused 6-14 hour game.

    Have a nice weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s good to know certain games hold up! Believe it or not, I’ve never played RE4. I’ve always meant to. You’re selling me on it!

      I’m with you on open world games. The completionist in me sees all those icons and inwardly sighs heavily.

      I think a nice compact game is so nice, too!

      Like

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