Are Games Too Short?

The subject of game length has come up again at work this week, with complaints about Homefront’s short single player campaign of four to five hours.  I got rather annoyed with the double-standards of some people whining about Homefront but being perfectly happy with the length of the single-player campaigns in the Call of Duty series.. they’re all about the same length!

Personally, I think five hours isn’t enough if that’s the entire game.. I really wasn’t happy when I completed Half Life 2: Episode 2 in just a few hours.
However, in most games there are extra modes, and for Homefront and the Call of Duty series, there is a lot of playability in the multiplayer part of the games.. though if you are only interested in single-player, that’s no consolation.

A short game with great action and really memorable sections should be considered far superior to a longer but less fun game.. but it seems that some people dismiss a short game as being poor value for money regardless.  I wonder where this leaves us for the future.. I hope it doesn’t lead to devs padding games with boring travel sections or pointless dialogue..

While talking about Call of Duty 4, we all agreed that the single-player was rather short, but overall the game was fantastic.. even months after playing, we remembered parts of the game we enjoyed.. such as the One Shot, One Kill mission, which stood out as a real highlight.

Another game I look at favourably is Half Life 2, which was a lot longer, but was also paced nicely so that you could stop and look around between the more action-based parts if you wanted to.. and when devs have gone to the effort of creating a good game environment, I’d feel I was wasting that to speed through as fast as possible.

As for pacing.. I recently had early access to a game with rather annoying, nagging NPCs which made me push on all the time and I found myself getting angry with it, especially since I knew the game was fairly short.  Sure, I could have ignored the NPCs, but their constant barked orders were irritating.. this just spoiled my enjoyment in looking around and made me want to get things over and done with just to shut them up.

That’s not the feeling I want in a game, if I’m honest.. so short and rushed rates badly in my books.

I saw an argument last year for games being too long.. since many gamers have unfinished games in their collection, they must be getting bored before finishing them: therefore games are too long.  Now, I have a horrible record for completion, but this is nothing to do with the length of the games in question.  The reasons I don’t complete my games are a lack of time after the grind of work, lots of cheap games (I’m looking at you, Steam sales!) leading to there being more in my collection, and the fact that when I do have time, my friends are around to play as well.. and I’m hardly going to tell them to sling it while I get on with a single-player campaign.  Recently I would also blame WoW, as it’s rather too easy to just pop on for half an hour, which turns into a few hours that could have been used to advance the story in another game.

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