Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quality versus Quantity

"Fahrenheit? Yeah, I hear that's an incredible game but I'm not going to pay full price for something I can finish in two days."

One of the things that I keep running into in talking about games with people is the concept of quality verusus quantity. At one end of the market, you've got a game like Fahrenheit or Psychonauts, generally agreed by critics to be among the best games of the last couple of years, but easy to finish within a couple of days. And at the other end, you've got something like Dynasty Warriors, which uses unlockables and level grinding to keep you playing the same twelve or so stages for potentially over a year.

Dynasty Warriors is great, don't get me wrong. (Says the man who has 7 separate DW titles sitting in his PS2 game collection.) But it's unimaginative, it's repetitive, and each successive sequel is pretty much identical to the one before it.

There's this theory in the game-playing world that buying games is some sort of investment/return equation - the more hours of gameplay you get per dollar, the better a bargain you've got. A Final Fantasy game, clocking in at over 100 hours of gameplay (mostly grinding) is inherently better than a short, scripted cinematic game like Fahrenheit with around 8 hours of play.

This probably seems natural to any regular gamebuyer. Heck, it even kind of looks natural to me. But it's garbage.

Take movies. When was the last time you looked at the offerings at the cinema and went, "I could see film X, but it's only 100 minutes, whereas the latest Spielberg/Hanks monstrosity is about 190 - clearly a better bargain!" I mean, they cost the same admission, right? Why wouldn't you factor in how long they're going to keep you entertained?

This is about the way the world sees gaming. It's seen as a timefiller; it's a way to occupy yourself. It's not in any way seen as an experience, or as a medium capable of delivering a message, or a medium capable of art. But is this perception causative of the way we choose what game to buy - or symptomatic of it?

Imagine if games were cheaper; let's say half the price. If a new game cost you $40 Australian, and a second-hand one cost you $20, would you be more willing to buy your games based on the experience and the art, rather than the length? Even if you were still only buying, say, one game every three months (as many of my friends do)?


Shan said...

Got all that figured out. I buy the good games and play them, aka WoW, and when they bore me or when tuesday night mantainance hits i go and play my 500+ old school games on my emulators. (Fyi: alot of games are no longer copyrighted so it's legal :p )

There's a hugh list of old school games worth going back to and if you're worried about forking out good cash for a new game you can always grab the demo somewhere just to be sure.

Dw was a great game....was. Now it's just snoresville though i think if they were to nick a storyline from a half decent eastern movie and make the cinematics a little more interesting it might pick up again.

As for game longlivity, it can last as long as it likes but if it makes your "remove software" list within two hours of playtime then it wouldn't really be much of an investment.

Julia B said...

I like short scripted games that are easy to complete. They make me feel like a real gamer without having to put up with the long hours and ligament damage.

But then, my favourite game of all-time is still ADOM, which I haven't finished yet and honestly doubt I ever will. I just keep dying, dammit!

Ooooh ooooh ooooh!! Ben just got the *old-school* Bard's Tale for me. The new one was ...not as good as I had hoped it would be. Ah, two dimensions and two control buttons (shift and alt) :-)

Josh said...

Some games, like Black, are just so short that it is hard to justify the full price - even though in their hearts they are fine games.

When it comes to games like DW - The Girl and I love certain subgenres, like coop-you-versus-an-army for instance. So we've got most of these even though we know they're derivative ... at least its new maps/missions/etc. I hope in a future of downloadable content, though, games like this and/or the Baldur's Gate/Champions of Norrath series will focus on new updates for existing games, rather than the old EA trick of tweaking old games and repackaging them.