Saturday, January 1, 2022

Editorial - Quantity vs. Quality: Striking a Balance with Game Length

Longevity is a habitual issue when it comes to videogames, whether they’re good or bad in terms of quality, and as gaming can be an expensive hobby (though somewhat less so even by inflation), one can find it difficult to decide which titles to invest their videogaming buck into, and the various issues with mainstream and independent game reviews and videogame journalism in general definitely don’t help things. However, I firmly believe in the mantra of “quality over quantity,” and think that length is only a major issue if a game isn’t very good, as I have encountered my fair share of gaming turkeys that have wasted my time, and will in this editorial analyze the topic of game length.

In recent time, I have attempted to adopt the “six-hour rule,” similar to one RPGamer writer’s “five-hour rule” (I prefer six since it’s an exact quarter of a day), where one decides after the aforementioned interval whether to continue slogging through a game. Super Mario Sunshine, as part of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo Switch, was one game to which I had successfully applied the rule, given the game’s difficulty even with the assistance of guides. However, there come times when one needs to play a game for more than five or six hours to gauge its potential quality, as had been the case for me when I decided after twenty-three hours of Bravely Default II, that I had enough, given that I had only come as far as two out of seven chapters.

There are many times where a game’s longevity can feel artificial, especially if they involve plentiful repetition as a result of perpetual death, or in the case of roleplaying games, the need to farm for money and items, and/or grind for various types of levels. Other things that can needlessly prolong a game include sluggish text speed like in Xenogears (inexcusable since many games from prior generations such as the original Dragon Quest allowed for it to be adjustable), not to mention poor direction on how to advance a game’s central storyline or attempt to solve dungeon puzzles without assistance from the internet.

Given that time can be far more valuable a resource than money for players such as I that work full-time, I definitely yearn for games to pack a sizeable gameplay punch without taking forever to finish their central storylines, although I do definitely appreciate long games as long as they’re actually good and don’t feel padded at all. However, since money can still be a consideration for many players, games need to accommodate both those who wish to spend a long time with them, preferably through things that can enhance lasting appeal such as multitudes of sidequests and New Game+ modes, and those who wish to get through them in the quickest time possible.

Price, admittedly, can also be a consideration whenever players are seeking their next title to purchase and play, and when a player with limited funds has completely exhausted what they had been playing, whether through completing all achievements, completing all sidequests, viewing all paths of branching narratives, and so on. Games that are fairly short and generally lack replayability, such as the mentioned first installment of the Dragon Quest series, should naturally not require a great monetary investment, whereas games that are lengthy such as Persona 5 and its enhanced rerelease can have average prices for titles of their respective generations yet still be worthwhile purchases. On the other hand, retro games that haven’t had contemporary rereleases can be expensive and generally not worth it.

Ultimately, when it comes to videogames, quality very easily trumps quantity, and I can safely say that most of my top games, such as Muramasa Rebirth and its respective DLC, not to mention Tails of Iron, which I recently finished, aren’t very lengthy games, yet pack major gameplay punches. As I’ve said before, length is only an issue if a game’s quality isn’t very high and it has the potential to waste one’s time needlessly, also money if a player has invested a sizable portion of their money into the game. When given a choice between a six-hour masterpiece or thirty-hour mediocrity, the former definitely wins hands-down.

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