Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Dinner and a First Person Shooter

"[The gamers who were playing] Mario 20 years ago or Donkey Kong 30 years ago, they don't have the same amount of time anymore," he tells Gamasutra. "They have kids. They have jobs. They come home in the evening, they're tired, and they have to manage their lives in a totally different way than a 15 to 20-year-old kid.

"When you are in that situation, and when you sit down on the couch after dinner with your family, if you're given the choice between a movie and you know that's going to be over in two hours and that's it, or a game and you never know when the game is going to be finished and how much effort is going to be required from you, it's obvious. We're basically lazy, right, so you're going to choose the movie."

Video game maker Massimo Guarini wants more movie-length video games. Not sure how fun those are to write or play, but if you've lived your entire life in the shadow of gamers, two hours of the same soundtrack and punchlines ("The hell did you eat?" ∞), as opposed to weeks or months, sounds like heaven. The gamer in my house says, "I mean, that's what your iPhone is for. I'm too focused on the economics." Dude wouldn't spend good video game money on only two hours of fun. And then I said, "What if they came in a five-pack?" Nodding, "Oh. That sounds good. Yeah." [via]

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Ugh, my work blocks all gaming-related websites, BUT isn't that one of the best things about Steam? You can find short but awesome games for low prices.


Um, he does realize you don't have to sit down and play it all at once, right?


@Megano! Clearly Massimo Guarini's least favorite game of all is Monopoly.


@Megano! Now that games on most platforms have achievement systems that respond to specific milestones in play, developers and publishers receive unerringly accurate feedback as to how people are playing their games, and one consistent finding out of all compiled data is that a very small percentage of people who start a game will actually finish it.

It doesn't really matter in most respects - publishers only really care if you bought the fucking thing - but a developer who needs more capital to finish a game's ending, or wants to implement alternate styles of play or branching paths or dialogue, is going to have a much harder time getting approval, because what's the point of pouring money into something very few people will actually experience?


@Danzig! Interesting. I am not one of those people.

Girl Named Jack

@Danzig! That's very interesting. Do we know why they don't finish? I know why I've not bothered to finish games in the past, and it wasn't because they took too long to play; it was because I found them boring.

Your point definitely makes a lot more sense than the quote pulled above (I can't see the actual story from work). I'm having a hard time with the "too-lazy-to-play-a-video-game" logic. I know for me, investing two hours in a long game that I love is much easier than investing two hours in a new game. Even with short games there is a learning curve. It took me forever to figure out that there was nothing to do in Dear Esther. Um. I probably shouldn't have said that out loud.


@Girl Named Jack Not without qualitative research, which I'm not sure exists. We only know that people don't usually get through to the end of games (there's also a higher than expected portion of people who buy games and don't even start them).

Simplest answer would be the one that the guy in the article's getting at - we don't have a lot of contiguous time to devote to games as we get older (I certainly can't pull off the 10-14 hour marathons of my youth). There's also the saturation of the market to take into account - I might be 10 hours into a 20 hour game when another title I'm interested in comes out, and my interest is supplanted. I might intend to go back to the old game but never get around to it. Maybe we just don't like them enough. Maybe we resell them to get big new thing. Publishers really hate it when we do that (an EU court just recently ruled that we ought to be able to resell digital games, which sort of nips the big industry solution in the bud)

It's all sort of a moot point in any case because, if you listen to prognosticators at least, in 15 years there won't be any more linear games to start and finish, just "social games" you log into and hammer away at for a few hours before publishing your stats for the night and going to bed.


@Danzig! As a game researcher, I can tell you that there is definitely qualitative research out there, but most of it is not being shared with the ACM. I'd love to get me hands on a user group that size for suresies.


Agreed Jane. If I want to play a limited time game on my computer, I just load a porn video on it with 5 minutes of battery life left and it's game on.

Otherwise, I like the long video games. They let me shut out the family. That's the fucking point.

Reginal T. Squirge

You always win, that's the best part.


This is why Portal is so great--it's short, but it's essentially a perfect gaming experience.

A lot of indie games are like this too. Short, cheap, and really innovative and fun. Just another reason why the huge blockbusters are doing poorly.


NERD ALERT: I have been playing Diablo 3 lately (with my little brother, holla), and while I do like that it's very long and replayable, I do not appreciate that Blizzard has a little ticker that tells me just how many dozens of hours I've spent on it. If anything, they should just display a message that says "The laundry can wait, there are monsters that need killing RIGHT NOW."

fondue with cheddar

@Yahtzii I'm been looking forward to Diablo 3 for YEARS because I loved 2 so much. But now my computer is too old to play it and a new one is not in the budget right now.

I'm currently playing Final Fantasy XIII-2, and that one also has a ticker which is in the corner every time you go to the pause menu. I try so hard not to look at it.


@jen325 Buy TORCHLIGHT instead! It's cheap ($10-15), comes from some really earnest indie developers and has a huge ecosystem of user-built mods and customizations. Even better: it can be run on very old machines and doesn't require a (*spit*) always-on inernet connection.

fondue with cheddar

@riotnrrd My computer is too old for Torchlight too. :'(

sarah girl

I like the long games, but that's because I'm pretty amateur and play through incredibly slowly. I got Skyrim in January and am still not even halfway through. Definitely get my money's worth!


@Sarah H. I love the Elder Scrolls games, but I don't think I've ever finished a single one. And I spent a good 50-80 post-college-graduation hours on Oblivion.

lavender gooms

@Sarah H. I just started a new character WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. Redguard thief/assassin! I got bored with my Nord hack and slasher/healer.

I forgot how even bears and draugr are NO JOKE at level ten. And forget about vampires.

fondue with cheddar

@Sarah H. I like long games, too. They're more immersive. I don't play games because I'm bored, I play them because I want to get sucked in. I want to escape reality and become a really badass chick who isn't afraid of anything.


Well, here's the thing: if a game was only two hours long in play-time I wouldn't want to pay more than maybe a dollar or two for it. Skyrim was what, $60-70? I got it around Christmas and am STILL playing through. I feel like with all the side quests and stuff I am getting my money's worth in gameplay and storytelling.

Plus, I think with the advent of SAVING YOUR GAME (in what, the early 80s?) I honestly don't see why a game should have to go from start to end in the span of a movie.


@Scandyhoovian I remember pausing Mario and turning off the TV to go eat dinner or hang out with my friends or whatever. Saving a game was a revelation!


I am the youngest of two and spent almost all of my preschool years following my brother around. I have some great memories of watching him and his best friend play videogames- they would try and get me to play the game sometimes but I was always more interested in observing (I am the type of person who looks up cheat codes after ten minutes of trying to solve a puzzle). Same with computer games; my brother got the newest Monkey Island when I was in high school and rather than play it myself I pulled up a chair in his room to watch him go through all the tests, sometimes giving input, but rarely useful. My brother is not a very verbal person and so watching him play video games, even if I'm not playing (especially if I'm not? it seems like we'd have to communicate more and less of my random comments that go unanswered) is a huge bonding moment with us.

Of course, this is how things with my brother and I always go. We communicate through media because we have a hard time with conversation; but if I call him up and want to talk about a book I just read that he recommended, or discuss the latest Doctor Who episode, or reminisce about how awesome Loom was, then we can talk for hours.

sarah girl

@Nutmeg Aww, I do the same thing with one of my brothers. We shared an apartment for a while, and I basically watched him play games as though I was watching tv. It does lead to odd conversations where I say "ooh yes, I watched the first Bioshock! ...played. Well, okay, I didn't play. I really did just watch. But a lot of it! Uhhhh...."


@Sarah H. @Nutmeg Haha I used to do this all the time too, except it was either my brother or our family friend, who we watched more often because he was AWESOME at video games, or we took turns. We stayed up til 2 AM to watch the last two levels and the ending of Majora's Mask once, which is no small feat when you're 12.

sarah girl

@cosmia The best game to watch? Shadow of the Colossus. Ohhhhh man is that great.


@Nutmeg Haha, actually, my brother and I used to watch our dad play computer games all the time. We'd sit on the floor of his office and watch him play Diablo II or Torment or Thief or Dues Ex. He probably thought we were nuts, but it was pretty great. I have such affection for those games, even though I never played any of them myself.


There SHOULD be more 2-hour games. They just shouldn't be priced at $60 US. I'd love to see more, shorter games at the $15-$20 range.


@TheUnchosenOne That's generally what indie distributors / XBLA / PSN store are for. What people are missing are games that are indie-sized with AAA production values, which is a hard thing to make happen.


@Danzig! This is true. Most AAA developers and publishers know people won't buy a 2-hour game at $60, and they refuse to go lower (with exceptions for Wii and portable games, which all cost less). I'd love to see AAA retail gaming get away from the $60 price point.


This is also why I love Steam - I play short perfect little indie games all the time (AHH AMNESIA YOU GUYS, except I can only play Amnesia for 10 minutes at a time before I start having an anxiety attack). I just forwarded this to my boyfriend, who works for GameStop, and who is generally in favour of games that are of movie-calibre (i.e., no more video games with voice actors that sound like this , storylines that weren't written by fridge magnets, etc) rather than movie-length, which I agree with. It's quality, not quantity.

I smell burnt toast

@cosmia Have you ever played Braid? I feel like it's quality, with the painting-like backgrounds and the soundtrack and whatnot. I am playing it right now (for the second time. I let enough time elapse so that I would forget how to solve all the puzzles) and I have so many questions! What do the paintings mean? What's with all the empty clothes in the second to last level? If you haven't played it, I recommend.

RK Fire

Have you guys played Botanicula? I LOVE BOTANICULA SO MUCH IT WARRANTS CAPS

I smell burnt toast

@RK Fire I have not! But I looked it up and it looks so cool! Thanks for telling us about it.


I too am more of a watcher than a gamer, and I watched Amnesia played through on Youtube at night with an easily terrified, heavily accented girl, and it was tremendous.


@RK Fire I am trying to get it to load right now. Stupid cheap wireless connection!


@I smell burnt toast I'm a day late, but yes I have played Braid! I am actually probably too dumb for Braid. My brain is incapable of figuring out the puzzles and whether I need to start here and go backwards or there and then I just give up and YouTube other people playing.

I smell burnt toast

@cosmia I completely understand. Some of those puzzles stumped me for hours of my life, but what helped me was reading somewhere that the creator wanted to make as a simple and pure a gameplay experience as possible, so every single little detail of the game is there for a reason, every little ledge, every pit of spikes. If you look at it that way, then Braid becomes more manageable.


Wait, what? I pick the video game *because* I know the movie will take two hours. I know a video game (at least the kind I play - Epic Mickey, Mario, Donkey Kong, Rayman Origins, etc.) can be saved about every 15 minutes or so, so I can play as much or as little as I want.


@KeLynn Seconded!


See, I have a busy job and a long commute and limited free time, but when I come home, the last thing I want to do is watch a self-contained two-hour movie. It takes too much mental energy to start one discrete thing and finish it in this same night. I'd much rather just slip into something long that's already in progress: a few chapters of a long book, two episodes of a good TV show, or yeah, a few quests/levels of a longer game which I've been playing. I probably didn't start it that night, and I probably won't finish it that night, so I can stop whenever there's a convenient save point. If I forget where I am in Skyrim (which happens a lot), I can usually just go out into the countryside and find some kind of interesting quest. I've been playing a leisurely second go-round of Mass Effect 2 recently, and it's been nice being able to pick it up and drop it at will (doing five missions one night, and then nothing for a few weeks), because the game is structured like a TV show, with a bunch of small, self-contained episodes.

Instead of shorter games, I think the most useful invention is games with modifiable levels of difficulty. I think the poorly maligned Jennifer Hepler was right when she said that one way to get non-gamers (e.g., working mothers) into gaming is to allow people to gloss over combat sometimes (such as dropping it down to Easy or "Story" mode). Sometimes you damn well want to get to the next part in the story, so it's nice being able to do some fast-forwarding instead of being all pure and hardcore and staying up to 3 am killing a High Dragon.

Also, I maintain that the most dangerous set of games for working people is Civilization. One more turn, and next thing you know it's 5 am and you have a major presentation at a work meeting the next day but come one it's only one more little turn and you really have to kill Catherine the Great!


@TheBourneApproximation CIVILIZATION OH MY GOD. It gets dangerous for me when I decide to make a mock-version of A Song of Ice and Fire countries, and then it's 5 AM and I'm like "Wait just one more Technology to discover and then Winterfell will have Submarines before Montezuma."

lavender gooms

@TheBourneApproximation Yes, thank you! This is exactly why I never want to watch movies. That's too much free time spent on one thing only!


As someone who is more of a video-game watcher than a video-game player, I enjoy the shorter games! People around here have been taking about "getting your money's worth," but if the game is good, does it matter that it takes less time? Two of the favorite shorter games that I've viewed recently are Heavy Rain and Limbo, and they're both fantastic--my boyfriend, who was doing the playing, certainly didn't complain about them being too short, they were the right length for what they were.


@frigwiggin My partner loved Limbo! I much preferred watching him play that Vs watching him + friend play Call Of Duty on zombie mode. for eight hours. Ugh.

fondue with cheddar

You can't compare movies to video games, though. Watching a movie is passive, but when you play a game you actually accomplish something. Sure, it's fantasy. But you still get a feeling of satisfaction from setting a goal for yourself and reaching that goal. You're challenging yourself, you're strategizing, you're planning—it's much better than sitting back and watching a movie, in my opinion.


Also, is this a safe space for me to admit that I found my old Nintendo DS and have been playing near-ridiculous amounts of Harvest Moon?


@cosmia As long as you don't point and laugh at my ownership of a Sega Genesis solely to play Toejam & Earl.

/has no gamer cred



Except that awful one where they tried to make it more 'lifelike' and the cows weren't adorable and freakishly happy when I brushed them. I wants the happy really fat cows Natsume! Also more girls to marry!


@KatPruska I never got past N64 and MarioKart. Seriously considering Wii purchase JUST for Mario purposes.


@TARDIStime I hate wii mariokart, I bought an old N64 off of ebay just for mariokart. NO REGRETS!


I think there's a lot of space in the game marker for lots of different length games. And just because it can be played in two hours doesn't mean that there can't be more post-storyline exploration, or reason to play it again. Weeee.



Cause you know I will. AND they re-released it as an iphone game where you can buy individual episodes for like, $1.

It's got to be the funniest, most clever, insane game ever. YOU PLAY A DEFENSE LAWYER! And you have to figure stuff out and work with testimony and OMG GET IT. GO GET IT RIGHT NOW.

(There is also a CROSSOVER with Phoenix and Professor Layton and if they don't release it in English I will literally die)

sarah girl

@Jade I LOVE PHOENIX WRIGHT!!! I'm actually playing through the Miles Edgeworth game right now on my DS (although it isn't as good as the Phoenix ones, sadly).


I don't have the attention span for movies. I love movies, but they don't pass the time the way a video game can for me. The active involvement in the entertainment goes a long way with me. And like other commenters said, I like the work-in-progress aspect of a long game, and obviously you do not have to play it all at once. Apples and oranges, really.

Confession: I just spent the past week and a half replaying Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door from the beginning. NO REGRETS.


Not sure if anyone mentioned this (because I'm too lazy to read all the comments) but Journey was designed to last around the length of a feature film, between 1.5-3 hours. And it happens to be the highest rated game on Metacritic this year.
XBLA, PSN, STEAM and the rest of the indie scene have long-since shown that shorter games can be just as fun as AAA titles (and can turn a nice profit while having a lower price point). These distribution platforms also happen to be putting out, for the most part, far more interesting content than any of the major companies (see Journey, Fez, Spelunky, Minecraft, Monaco, The Witness and Maquette for a few examples).

Ten Thousand Buckets

Left 4 Dead did something along that line - one of the modes consisted of campaigns with several different map options that could be played in an hour or two. The maps may have been randomized for replay value.

Even doing longer games with more definitive story breaks could work. You'd probably still want to keep going, to find out what happens next, but it would at least create a natural stopping point every 2 hours.


My husband & I are into the longer games because we think the ROI is better. He did the maths once on exactly this scenario. At least around us, a movie tends to cost more than some of the indie games that are a similar length. But he's also a Steam sale fanatic.


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