Emmett Watkins Jr. – PlayStation Stan/Bad Boys II Apologist

Ideal Game Length – 2-5 hours to 40-50 hours

My idea of game length is entirely dependent on the game. If a game depends primarily on a narrative, with proper pacing and growing characters, then I’d only want 2-5 hours of it. There’s no need for a story to overstay it’s welcome to such an extreme degree, even if that extra length is filled out with gameplay. That’s why I love games like Gone Home, Firewatch, and Virginia so much, they tell their story at a reasonable pace and don’t overstay their welcome with forced additional exploration or puzzle-solving that has nothing to do with the main plot.

Now some games, most prominently, Naughty Dog games, tend to hit the 10-15 hour spot. I can accept the extended length here despite it breaking the rule I outlined earlier. Yes, the gameplay that stretches out the length of the game doesn’t speak to the core plot or themes, but for the most part, that combat is enjoyable in and of itself. In the case of, say, Gone Home, there is no way I could enjoy discovering items and audio diaries for 15 hours, as that gameplay just isn’t engaging enough alone to keep me. But in games like Uncharted 2, I look forward to the combat just as much as I do the narrative. But even games like this sometimes overstay their welcome.

Recent Naughty Dog games, like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Part II, overstayed their welcome just barely. Overall, I love both games, but in their final 2-3 hours, I began to wonder why wasn’t the game done already? It feels like after 15 hours, I’ve seen every gameplay trick or mechanical quirk they had, and I’m only playing the rest to see the conclusion of the narrative. Thank God the narratives are so great, but it doesn’t seem fair to force the player to engage with undesired aspects of the game just to get more of the desired aspect. Luckily, (LIGHT SPOILERS) The Last of Us Part II does add a new weapon, a new environment, and a new faction in its final hours, but even that doesn’t make the continuation of the story past a perfectly good stoping point sting any less. But my disdain for game length, in this case, has less to do with the actual hours played and more to do with the specific games themselves, as I’ve enjoyed other genres of games for way longer.

In the case of Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Horizon: Zero Dawn, I remained enamored with everything those games had to offer for well over 50 hours, and I’m closing in on 100 hours in AC: Origins. Games that hold my attention for this long have skill trees that not only take a long time to fill out but also incentivize your hours of play in the world. The stories in these games aren’t pressing enough to require urgency, which welcomes the numerous side stories and characters I run into along the way. But above all else, these worlds have unique art design that draws my eye more as I play. I’ve seen deserts in games before, but infusing it with the culture of Egypt made it unlike anything else. I’ve seen jungles, tundras, and snow in games before, but clashing it with exodic technology made it unlike anything else. This is the biggest factor for a game hooking me in for dozens of hours, as even games, I absolutely adore, like Mafia III, falter with this, and it’s one of my biggest criticisms of them.

So, there are definitely aspects that will get me hooked on a game for longer than I’d usually want, and some games even get more time out of me, like Titafall 2 and Risk of Rain 2. But in those cases, that excessive amount of time isn’t required for me to see the base level of content in the game. It would take a lot of encouragement for me to willingly play a game that required 100 hours or more just to see the end of the campaign. But if that game has the right mix of elements, then even that I might be willing to try.

(Continued)

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