Once upon a time, video games were much shorter. They were like a quick kiss with a stranger before moving on. These days, it seems more and more games are taking hundreds of hours to complete. This isn’t a kiss; this is becoming a marriage.
When I was younger this wouldn’t have bothered me. In fact, I’d have relished the fact that I could play a game for hours at a time, and still only be on the prologue. But now, as an aging gamer, I’m finding it harder and harder to find time to play.
I work full time; I have a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Gaming is a hobby I love, but one I only get two or three hours a week to indulge in. Given that, a game like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is likely to take me about thirty-three weeks if I follow a few side quests but don’t go for full completion. If all games were this size, I’d get through about ten games before the next console generation launched.
So, are video games getting too long? And if so, what is the cutoff? Here are a few examples from my personal experiences.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim has been around for years now. In fact, it has been around for 10 years, with the anniversary edition just around the corner. Although despite owning the game on two different platforms, I have never finished it. I want to explore, I want to see everything The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has to offer, and not just rush to the finish line. But with all the distractions it offers, I get lost along the way. And at some point, I put it down to pick up something a bit quicker, easier, and more fun. Therefore, Skyrim is left forgotten, and unfinished.
The Witcher 3
One of the best games of the generation — possibly of all time — The Witcher 3 is undoubtedly a fantastic game. Unfortunately, I’ve never finished it. If I’m honest, I actually got a little bored. I got so far in and then just stopped for a breather, never looking back.
The campaign runs for over a hundred hours, and I just don’t have the time. I intend to try it again because I’m very aware that it is a great game. However, when a few weeks go by without me playing it, I forget what I’m doing. Maybe, I’ll give it a go when the next-gen upgrade launches.
Here’s a tale of continuous improvement and reinventing the wheel — if ever there was one. I loved the first Assassin’s Creed for its basic swordplay and odd, unexpected story. Assassin’s Creed 2 upped its game and added some light RPG elements in the form of a monetary system and some upgradable items. Then, the series got bogged down with new releases every year and I lost touch. I gave up on Assassin’s Creed a long time ago before returning for Origins. Assassin’s Creed Origins is fantastic. It did take me a long time, but I enjoyed every second.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was released not long after, and it was more of the same. So now, we have a series of games, releasing almost yearly, that is incredibly time-consuming. I started Odyssey but got stalled right at the beginning, having only just put down Origins. Not only that, but I also have a shiny new copy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla waiting to be played that hasn’t seen the inside of a disc drive yet.
Call of Duty
I’m not much of an online gamer. By which I mean, I suck and don’t like dying repeatedly. So, Call of Duty, for me, is purely a single-player experience. The controls and story are often fun and easy to get into – genuinely, these are mostly quite enjoyable. But here’s the thing – I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth with a six-hour campaign. The CoD games mostly run at full price, and that’s too much to pay for something so short.
So, I wait for the inevitable price drop when the current version becomes “last year’s version”. However, is six hours long enough for a mainstream game’s campaign? Well, evidently yes, as these games still sell by the millions on release.
Indie video games tend to be smaller in principle. These are games developed by small companies who don’t have the budgets that the likes of Activision and Ubisoft have. Indies tend to thrive off innovation, and their longevity often relies on replay value. Though, sometimes I want the triple-A experience with action and stunning 4K scenery.
The Middle Ground
Fortunately, not all video games fall into two halves. Some video games find a middle ground between the hundred-hour, open-world epics and small innovative Indies.
The Uncharted games are some of the best action-adventure titles out there. Building on what Tomb Raider began, and turning it into an action movie you control, Uncharted and its sequels will always hold a place in my heart. The series may be finished (for now at least), but I can go back to these time and time again, and still enjoy every breathtaking moment of the eight-to-fifteen-hour campaigns.
Doom is a frantic shooter franchise, and possibly the most recognised of its type. Fortunately, there are other games that fit into the same category: Bulletstorm and Shadow Warrior, to name a couple. These games are fast, frantic, and fun, and, typically, the campaigns run at around ten hours.
Another one that sits within a genre – survival horror – that all have similar runtimes. The genre doesn’t lend itself to overly long or bloated games, and so by default horror games like Resident Evil have reasonable runtimes.
For casual gamers who want something easy to pick up and play, you can try a fighting, racing, or sports game. I find if I’m stuck and have little time, a racing game can be the perfect prick-up-and-play experience. The controls are mostly the same, no matter the game, and for the most part, a single race lasts only a few minutes. Several fighting and sports games can get a bit more complex, with tricky special moves, but you can always lower the difficulty and button-mash to your heart’s content.
Overall, some video games are incredibly long, but they don’t all follow this pattern. If you don’t have the time, just dig a little deeper, and find something shorter to play. There are so many games out in the world that there is something for everyone. Whether you have hours to spare daily, or just one or two a week, there will be a game for you.