It’s been a while since I’ve played a video game that was so blatantly disrespectful of my time.
As I type this, it is Monday. Here, roughly, is how I spent my weekend.
Saturday morning. I wake up; make breakfast, check my mail. Procrastinate on Facebook. I take a shower, clean the kitchen. I talk to my wife.
I play an hour of Assassin’s Creed III.
I exercise. I come home. I babysit my 19 month old nephew for a couple of hours. “He like lions,” says my wife. I load up Hakuna Matata on YouTube and he loves it. He looks at me. He says one of his few words: ‘more?’
So cute. I load up Circle of Life. He loves it. I’m on a roll. I search for ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. He loses interest. I move onto The Little Mermaid. ‘Under the Sea’. It’s better down where it’s wetter. My nephew agrees. He might have peed himself.
My wife and her sister leave the house with the kid in tow, I have the house to myself for a couple of hours. I could cook, but time is sparse. I get take out; devour it. I do a quick clean of my apartment.
I play Assassin’s Creed III for three hours.
My wife comes home. We chat for 30 minutes. She’s tired and pregnant. We go to sleep.
Sunday is busier. We go to IKEA. Urgh. Two and half hours. I consider myself lucky. We come home. It takes me 30 minutes to cart the furniture we bought upstairs. We have lunch. I go out climbing; two hours. I get home. I have another shower. I turn on the Xbox. “You have to build the IKEA furniture,” says my wife.
I build IKEA furniture. I complain but feel manly. I then ‘unbuild’ the furniture being replaced. I move it downstairs to the garbage area.
We need to go grocery shopping. We head to Woolworths. We buy food. We come home. I put the food away. My wife potters, I cook dinner. I make mince empanadas. I like cooking.
We eat dinner, we clean up. I was planning to play Assassin’s Creed III, but my wife says, “I want to watch a movie.” Fine by me. We watch a movie. We brush our teeth. We go to bed. We sleep.
I don’t consider myself a busy human being. I have a full-time job, I exercise regularly and I’m married. But I don’t have children (one on the way). I don’t work two jobs. I don’t have elderly relatives to look after. I just lead a normal life. I have responsibilities.
But if I could take any of the time back I spent over the weekend I would take back the four hours I spent playing Assassin’s Creed III.
I have never played a game with such a blatant disrespect for my time.
“Yeah, the first five to seven hours are a bit slow,” says a friend. “But then it really kicks in.”
At first I nod. ‘I’ll preservere,’ I say to myself. But then I stop. A realisation. Seven hours? Seven hours.
I have to wait seven hours? Life is too short to wait seven hours for a game to become engaging.
Don’t get me wrong: I like art that gives me space to breathe. I have no issue with pacing. My favourite movie of the last decade is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — three hours plus of stilted dialogue, silence, sweeping shots of scenery. My favourite video game this generation is Red Dead Redemption: a game that indulges in the same sense of emptiness.
Assassin’s Creed III is different to those things. Assassin’s Creed III is just self-indulgent, and I simply won’t let it waste any more of my time. If you’re going to take my spare time for granted, and squander it on ill-designed missions, on a character I have no investment in, in an universe loaded with bugs and bad dialogue — you’re sure as hell going to have to give me a reason to keep playing. So far I haven’t seen one. And that simply isn’t good enough.
I don’t consider myself a busy man. But I work hard, and my spare time is a valuable commodity. Assassin’s Creed III assumes your time has no value whatsoever. It treats your spare time with blatant disrespect. You can waste seven hours on poorly explained missions, ill-designed gameplay encounters, says the game. You don’t have anything better to do.
Actually, I do.
It’s a disrespect dripping in overblown self-importance. You’re invested in Assassin’s Creed III, it says — in the story, in the brand. You’ll suffer these five to seven hours because we say so, because you care about this game; because it’s important to you.
Actually it’s not. It’s really not.
Assassin’s Creed III is a game bogged down and bloated by vanity, in an idea of video games as they no longer should be. Bullet points on the box; dull, narrative-driven design. An imagined past universe where games are collated and judged on the raw number of hours it took to consume it.
That world is dying a slow death and Assassin’s Creed III should be one of the first casualties.
I don’t consider myself a busy man, but my time is valuable and so is yours. Assassin’s Creed III simply wastes it.