Are video games becoming too long or do we have less time to finish them?

Modern Triple A titles can take anywhere from eight to 40 hours to complete

Longer video games allow for a grander experience, but not all gamers have the time to remain immersed for hours on end. Reuters
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Time perception is a funny thing. A week would have felt longer when you were a child, but now it whizzes by in the blink of an eye.

Some studies attribute this to measuring time against one’s life. A child of five will feel like a year is a long time because it makes up 20 per cent of their life. In comparison, 12 months for a 20-year-old makes up only 5 per cent.

One of the things we might experience differently as we age is the length of video games we choose to play.

Children who grew up in the 1990s – this writer included – were likely given an hour or two hours to play video games. Had you asked me then, this did not feel like a short playing window.

But many of those same children who have become young adults today and can decide for themselves how much time to spend on video games are playing much longer sessions – this writer included.

Does that mean the video games are getting longer or is it skewed by our perception of time? The simple answer is both statements are correct.

Modern Triple A games from large studios average 10 to 12 hours to complete a story campaign, with that number growing to 40 hours in open world games.

Compare that to a game from 1997: Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 only took 7 and a half hours to complete.

Video games are becoming longer and more expansive than ever, and studios spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to craft worlds that gamers can get lost in. Some of the biggest titles also feature downloadable content, plus extra levels and missions to ensure gamers keep coming back.

But how is that impacting the experience for a modern gamer?

Personally, I always look forward to playing a game I know I can spend hours on, exploring every facet and completing every objective. And, yes, if it’s a world I enjoy being in, I will return to it for a new playthrough.

Time does not permit those experiences every so often, though. As we grow older, responsibilities take hold and “free time” is spent prioritising responsibilities or running errands.

Sometimes I find myself choosing to play shorter games, ones I know can be completed in under five hours, ensuring I don’t leave the experience hanging without resolution.

A 40-hour gaming experience can seem daunting. For most, these are best saved for holiday time, when there is less likelihood of needing to interrupt the immersion.

Looking at the most popular video games played today, you see that online games are dominant. Measuring how much time is spent on these tips the scales, mostly because those who play them make them a part of their schedule.

Outside of these online games, shorter indie games are rising in popularity. Their availability on every console, especially portable ones, make them an easy choice for the casual gamer.

Video game companies, especially those that are making full-fledged worlds with a dense storyline, understand that time is the major currency at play. By making their games longer, they allow for a grander experience, one that has a higher potential of being memorable.

The folly of that endeavour is that ageing gamers simply don’t have enough much time to invest in these experiences. The natural choice becomes short and sweet, opting for games that entertain quickly without disrupting a busy schedule.

It's a good thing, then, that I review games for The National for a living.

Updated: January 28, 2024, 12:34 PM