Monday, 24 February 2014

How Much Does Game Length Matter?

Much has been made of the length of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes' story. Reports say it can be beaten in two hours but others are keen to point out its massive replay value. However despite the potential for numerous replays people are posting in forums and comments sections everywhere that they will not spend £30/40 on a game that can be beaten in 2 hours (assuming, like most, you consider a game beaten at the end of its central story). My question is this: how much does the length of a game matter? 

Of course length affects value for money, I've said before paying £40 for a 60 hours game and £40 for an 8 hour game seems stupid, and it often is, but are there times when this isn't the case? What if in the 2 hours of Ground Zeroes you have a far more emotional and enjoyable experience than you do in the 60+ hours of Skyrim? What if something in Ground Zeroes effects you on a deep emotional level? Maybe it changes the way you see the world, the way you think about life or your perception of certain issues. Maybe it changes you in a way that you can't quite explain but that you know has happened all the same. 

A good example of this can be found in films, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is far longer than Fight Club but Fight Club had one of those strange, intangible effects on me that means I know I'm not quite the same man I was before I watched it. The same thing happened with the books both films are based on, so in both cases I found more value in the shorter experience. 

Take players who enjoyed Journey or Proteus, they are short games but they pack a significant emotional punch, more so than Uncharted or Call of Duty can realistically claim to. People say Journey really changed them and impacted them in a meaningful way, wouldn't you pay £40 for that? (I know Journey specifically wasn't £40 but that's not the point).

My point is it's foolish to write off an example of an art form, in this case Ground Zeroes, over its length when art is about emotion and not length. Ground Zeroes could end up being one of the finest slices of gaming ever made. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover and you should never judge a game based solely on its length. 

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