How the length of a game can affect the experience…

A topic I see brought up a lot when discussing and reviewing games is how long the game actually is and how it can make the game better or worse depending.

It’s a pretty interesting topic honestly! Mainly since you really can’t say that a game that takes 100 hours is bad and a game that takes 10 hours is good and vice verse. It really comes down to how a game uses it’s time.

Now I should probably clarify something right now. When it comes to the length of a game I’m mainly talking about how long it takes to start the game and get to the end or see the credits. There’s a lot of games where you can do that but still have plenty of things to do afterwards. For example it might take you around 8 to 10 hours to finish an Uncharted game but if you go back and get all the treasures or play through it on another difficulty setting, that time is going to go up. What I want to focus on is that first playthrough though. As that is the experience most players will have.

With that out of the way though, let’s talk about what I think works and doesn’t work for long and short games! Starting off with longer games.

Personally, I feel like making a game that is more than 50 hours long a ‘good’ or ‘satisfying’ experience can be really tough. Mainly due to the fact that you are asking for a lot of commitment from the player. With how many games are constantly coming out, it can be tough to convince a player to stick with such a long game. However, I do feel like longer games can often have a bigger impact than shorter ones. They can provide experiences that will stick with the player for a long period of time. Or it can leave them with the sense that they just wasted a lot of their time…

A prime example of a game that really benefits from it’s length and the amount of time the player puts into it, getting to know the world and characters, is the Yakuza series. You can argue that a lot about the Yakuza games are repetitive. Especially when it comes to the core game play. However, what really carries the games and makes them so popular is the characters and story. That and despite the combat being repetitive it’s still so satisfying to land those Heat Moves… Back to the point though, characters like Kiryu and Majima are legends for a reason. Players got to really know and grow with them. Something that couldn’t be achieved with a 10 hour game. Games like Persona are so loved for this same reason. By having them be such long experiences, players got to really grow and get attached with every aspect of them, and it really shows!

Now, that’s what can make a 50+ hour game really good, but what can make the experience really bad? It should be pretty obvious, but it’s pretty easy to make a long game feel like it’s over staying it’s welcome.

There have been plenty of times when I have been really enjoying a game and all it’s aspects only for it to just keep going… It eventually reaches a point where I start questioning if I even liked the early game to begin with. Despite having just praised it, the Yakuza series runs into this problem actually. Namely with Yakuza 5. Despite the game not actually being that much longer than other entries in the series, it really feels like it’s much longer and not in a good way. In the game you play as five different characters. Four of them being returning characters with the fifth one being all new. And it’s with this fifth character that things really go down hill. I’ll try to avoid spoilers in case you want to play the game for yourself, and despite complaining about this particular entry the series as a whole is very much worth playing, but here’s what makes the final character feel like a drag. It’s honestly because they feel completely unneeded. The story really doesn’t need this character to be involved. (In fact, during the recap at the beginning of Yakuza 6 this character isn’t even mentioned or brought up!) And at this point, the story really feels like it should be wrapping up, all of the main characters are where they need to be for the final and the stakes have been raised quite a bit already. So you can probably imagine how annoying it is when you have to play through an all new section with a character that feels like they are really stretching to include in the story overall. It’s moments like these that make you realize just how long the game has been going. And that’s when a player will start questioning why the game needs to be so long.

There’s a lot more that can be said on how to make a long game better or worse but I feel like it’s about time we move on to the other side of the argument and discuss what can make a short game better or worse!

Let’s talk about what can make a short game great first. I feel like one of the biggest benefits to a shorter game is just that! Being a short and sweet experience. Going back to Uncharted from earlier, I feel like those games are a great example. Each game can be finished pretty quickly and they never feel like they over stay their welcome. The game carries you from scene to scene perfectly, always making sure there’s some big exciting thing happening that still leaves you with the sense of “What’s next?” If you jam pack your game from start to finish with fun and memorable moments, players will rarely notice just how short a game is. Depending on the genre the game is in, it can honestly be even more important to keep it short. Horror games always struggle with going on a little too long and losing those scares in the final hours. Then again that also depends on the kind of horror game, but that’s a topic for another time.

Another great benefit to shorter games is that they are far easier to recommend to others. As much as I love long games like Bravely Default it can be really hard to recommend to someone when I know they’ll have to enjoy all 90 hours of it.

However, a game being too short is also a very easy problem to run into. Much like a longer game feeling like it’s dragging on, short games can feel like there’s not enough to them. Games aren’t exactly cheap after all, so it can sometimes feel like you aren’t getting your moneys worth when a game just feels too short. Now, leaving a player with the feeling of wanting more isn’t always a bad thing. But there’s a difference between wanting a sequel for a game after you finish it, and wanting that current game to have more to it. Even if the experience up to that point was a good one, that feeling of being unsatisfied is sure to sit with the player more than the parts they enjoyed, sadly.

So to conclude! The length of a game is very important to the overall enjoyment and experience. However, how long or short a game is isn’t as important as how you use that time. Writing off a game just because you know how long it’ll take to finish is never really a good reason to skip out on playing it.

That being said, that is just my opinion on the topic! What do you think? Are 50+ hour long games inherently worse than 10 hour long ones or vice verse? What are some ways you think the length of a game can help or hurt a game? I would love to hear your thoughts on this so feel free to leave a comment on what you think!

And thank you for taking the time to read this all. Feel free to share this post or the blog in general around if you’re a fan, it would really help me out! Thanks again, and I hope you enjoyed reading.

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