In appreciation of games that are only as long as they need to be

In appreciation of games that are only as long as they need to be

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Insert Penis Joke Here

Tucked away in Joe Keiser’s review of South Park: The Stick Of Truth was a mention of the game’s (approximate) runtime. This quickly led to some commenters dusting off a classic video game conversation topic: judging a game’s merit based on price relative to length. Although plenty of people were down on Stick Of Truth’s 15-hour length, the shorter games defense force made some darn good points. (Since when is 15 hours short? Yeesh.) DL, for one, has learned to embrace shorter trips:

The $60 price is certainly a challenge, but once I reached a certain point in my game collecting, I found that I was repeatedly investing way less than 15 hours in $60 games and leaving them to collect dust unfinished, my satisfaction unfulfilled. I’m willing to purchase this game at full price knowing that I have a chance to enjoy it in its entirety, allowing me to move on to the myriad other titles I want to play but struggle to make and find time to complete.

Gone Home was a wake-up call for me after many years of trying to find my way back in to video gaming. I found that I could more effectively commit my time to complete a game if I knew it was manageable over a few days. For Gone Home, I had three nights of entertainment for the price of one night out at the movies, and now I have a complete story to remember, discuss, and relish. If I extend that out over a couple of weeks with Stick Of Truth, its value is a bit lower in “cost per hour,” but I know I’ll be getting every penny invested into the game out of it.

Duwease weighed in as well:

To be honest, we are in a golden age of affordable gaming, where time is the premium resource over money. (This is especially true for myself, a father.) “60 HOURS OF GAMEPLAY!” now reads more like a threat than a treat. It’s basically informing me that, if I want to encounter the interesting parts and finish the plot, there’s going to be an awful lot of repetitive tasks that I’m going to be doing in between.

I get why it persists, though. When paying full price, most of us still regard length as value, despite the quality (although 15 hours of fun for $60 is still well above the curve for entertainment value). And that padding is relatively cheap for the developer. Fetch quests, collectibles, and reskinned enemy encounters are a lot cheaper to churn out after the heavy lifting is done on the important events. But I do hope we perhaps turn the corner one day and realize that going home tired and bloated from binging on quantity at a cheap buffet isn’t quite as rewarding as simply sating your hunger on a meal where every bite was appreciated.

It’s All Part Of Growing Up

Matt Kodner reported from the multiplayer games showcase of IndieCade East, an annual games festival held in New York City. One of the games on display was Tenya Wanya Teens, a bizarre game about adolescence and farting on skunks from the creator of Katamari Damacy. Tenya Wanya uses a custom controller that’s constantly trying to trip you up. Mr. Martini found the controller metaphor to be particularly apt and had some advice for youngsters:

A constantly changing controller is a great way to simulate adolescence. My main memory of that period is desperately fumbling for control of something, and then having that thing change right before I felt comfortable with it.

Speaking of which, if there are any middle schoolers in this comment section, please heed this advice: Wear sturdy pants. Do not wear sweatpants. I know sweatpants are comfortable and a great way to show that you don’t care what other people think of you, but they provide no pant structure. Pant structure is extremely important. You want pants that have enough tensile strength to suppress any sudden, uncontrollable forces that push out against the pants. Please trust me on this.

Also, tell your parents you need a prescription for Accutane.

The Future, Spike?

The futuristic video games from Spike Jonze’s Her didn’t just appear among the answers in our Q&A about fictional games we’d like to play, they were the inspiration for the question. NakedSnake, however, wasn’t as taken with the holographic cave exploration game as Gameological contributor Samantha Nelson was. NakedSnake wrote:

I just watched Her last night, and I was really struck by the contrast between how awesome the video games looked and how terrible they seemed to play, particularly the cave game. The game is powered by 3D holograms and fills up half your living room with images of strange alien landscapes. When actually played, though, it seems like the only experience available is a remorseless and frustrating slog. Taking aside for a second the fact that you move your avatar by literally walking with your fingers, which would look and feel stupid, the movie clearly shows that Joaquin Phoenix has been walking around, lost and listless, through apparently indistinguishable tunnels for ages before he finally encounters [a character] whose only real interaction is to curse at him. What’s worse, though, is that this seems like plausible vision of the future of gaming, where gimicky user interfaces combine with breathtaking graphical effects and produce experiences that are both boring and frustrating.

­Roswulf had a different take:

It’s interesting, I didn’t see that at all. To me, the gameplay in the cave game was entirely based around building a relationship with a hostile AI through discussion and negotiation (which is thematically linked to the movie as a whole). Until you could persuade that foul-mouthed jackass to help you, no amount of wandering would get you where you wanted to go, and no amount of button pressing could solve a puzzle.

It reminded me of a greatly improved version of Starship Titanic, which is a game I absolutely love the idea of but found too limited by practicalities to actually enjoy.

That does it for this week. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week.

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