Are We Ready For Leaner, Shorter Video Game Experiences?

Are we ready for leaner, tighter shorter experiences? Is that something we'd like to see in our video games? Having trudged through most of this year's AAA video games, mindlessly blasting my way from cut-scene to cut-scene, I've started to wonder: is it time the games industry learned to edit itself more effectively?

When suits complained that CBS's 'The Unit' wasn't being clear enough or direct enough with its audience the show's executive producer David Mamet agreed. The subsequent all caps memo he sent to the show's writing staff is now legendary.

David Mamet was (and is) a legend in screenwriting circles and his word was gospel. His memo was a brutal, sharp and to-the -point guide in how to create drama — real drama — and how to sustain that drama.

"ANY SCENE," he wrote (but you can imagine it being screamed), "WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN."

And then...

"I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF "IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

"ANSWER TRUTHFULLY."


There is a problem with video game writing and we all know it. No-one seems to have any real idea what the solution is. That's okay, that's fine. We can live with this. Video games are interesting for a different, non-specific, set of reasons. The video game is a broad and beautiful thing. It defies definition and structure whereas cinema is actively defined by its structures. Video games don't come in three acts. Tetris is a video game. Cow Clicker is a video game. Street Fighter II is a video game. Beyond: Two Souls is a video game.

But when it comes to video games and drama, I wonder if developers could learn a thing or two from David Mamet and his all caps memo. I wonder if video games need a better, more attuned sense of what is necessary and what is superfluous.

Ironically, one of the worst culprits is The Last of Us, arguably the best written AAA game in recent memory.

Towards the end of the game there is great sense of dramatic tension: a misunderstanding between Ellie and Joel. Ellie steals a horse and rides away from camp into the forest. Joel is furious but gives chase alongside his brother. You must find Ellie and quickly. Together you follow her tracks. The whole scene expertly juggles that tugging tension: you feel as though you are choosing your path when in reality you are being guided — simple, clever level design stuff. So far so good.

Then, inexplicably, Joel and his brother stumble across a camp of aggressive humans who, predictably, attack instantly. There's a logical problem with this scenario (why were Joel and his brother attacked when Ellie was able to simply breeze through unhindered?) but the obvious question is 'why'? Why bother with this gunfight at all? Why ruin the simple dramatic tension of 'the chase' to have Joel and his brother engage in another pointless, completely unnecessary gunfight?

Answer truthfully.

Was it simply an attempt to add 'value' to a game in an industry where 'value' equals the amount of hours it takes to play through to completion?

Was it insecurity? Was Naughty Dog afraid players would become disengaged if they didn't get to fire a weapon at least once every five minutes?

Was it dramatic? Was it essential? Did it advance the plot? Of course it did none of these things.

In video game land this isn't too much of a issue. The idea of video games as a series of meaningless obstacles is embedded deep in our psyche. We're used to it. Yet the problem with this scenario is that it impedes the drama. It detracts from the chase. It makes you forget the chase. It actively reduces the stakes. It's superfluous.

I can think of a dozen different examples in recent video games that do the precise same thing. Wind Waker sets you off on a dull collection quest just as you're building the momentum to take down the game's antagonist Ganon. Assassin's Creed II pulled a similar trick. Assassin's Creed III expected us to endure what was essentially a disgustingly indulgent six-hour prologue. Halo was infamous for its backtracking. Dozens of genuinely great, era-defining video games indulge in bogus game extending sections that, in any other medium, would be coldly and efficiently chopped in the editing room. And rightly so.


As a medium video games have stolen from cinema, but the process flows both ways.

Watching Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity I was struck by just how keenly its structure mirrored the way video games provide obstacles to the player. In Gravity Dr Ryan Stone needs to get home, back to solid ground. That is her one sole objective. She has limited resources, and tools which she must use to achieve this goal — like a video game. When she achieves each goal, a new problem arises which she must then solve using a different (or sometimes similar) set of tools — just like a video game. She must learn to navigate herself in a new, frequently threatening, space — just like a video game.

But video games could learn a lot from the manner in which Gravity imitates video games. More specifically it could learn a lot from the parts it borrows and the parts it disposes of.

Gravity is lean. It rarely labours on its mechanics of movement. It highlights the dangers visually and diversions from the main task feel organic, real and — above all — genuinely dramatic.

I wonder how Gravity would have worked as a video game. An hour with George Clooney — a tutorial section, essentially — he teaches you the mechanics of movement in space, how to control friction. Then a series of banal tasks to help the player become familiar with what he/she has just learned. Then, disaster. The Hubble space telescope is destroyed, you must find your way home.

Imagine the gymnastics. Imagine just how contrived the set ups would have to be in order for Gravity: The Video Game to be stretched from a slick, lean 90 minute experience to the 12-15 hour experience we have currently been trained to expect from our video games. Imagine how many strange ways we would be expected to repeat the exact same scenario, to essentially overcome the same obstacle in the precise same way. Imagine how the drama would become stilted, strange and — more often than not — forgotten about as we chase pointless blips on a radar. This is almost every AAA video game you've played over the last two or three years.


Of course video games are not movies, but there is a very specific subset of games that seek to imitate them. For the most part they do so poorly. That doesn't necessarily make them bad video games. The Last of Us is a great video game. Wind Waker is a great video game. Assassin's Creed II is a great video game.

But would The Last of Us be a more seamless, meaningful experience with roughly 70% of its combat scenarios cut from the game? I'd argue yes. As players we did not need to engage those survivors on the edge of the forest. Their existence was unnecessary. They were superfluous.

Did Wind Waker need all that padding? Did we really need those extra hours of searching across the ocean for our purchase to feel valid, to feel as though we'd gotten our 'money's worth'? Was that necessary?

"In writing you must kill your darlings." William Faulkner said that. He had a rough idea of what he was talking about.

Wouldn't our interactive experiences feel more concise, have more impact, be more dramatically valid if we were willing to accept shorter, more efficient experiences, instead of complaining when games are too short, or celebrating when a game is needlessly stretched over a tedious 40 hour play period? Are we ready for shorter, leaner more meaningful experiences in our video games?

Answer truthfully.


Comments

    Ohhh really well realised point. I essentially gave up on Bioshock Infinite because of these unnecessary gameplay fillers, and read up on the rest of the story instead. It's a shame, because I kind of liked what I read, but the gameplay had gotten to a point that had detracted from any enjoyment I was getting from the story any more. It's definitely something the bigger budget titles are more guilty of - indie games know how to do away with superfluous stuff a lot better I think.

    And yeah, replaying Wind Waker, I think it could really have benefited from tightening up all the story. There's so much extra things to go find in the world outside the story, I can't imagine it would have made the game feel too short. Hmmm. HMMMM!

    Last edited 01/11/13 1:10 pm

      Don't fib, danedane. We all know you gave up on Biosnot because yer yeller.
      That's right, I said it, YELLER!

        Actually yeah, pretty much. Went back after a gap from playing and kept getting killed. On easy :'(

          I didn't even make it through the first one...

            The first bioshock was a real drag for me; I stopped after two hours. Infinite on the other hand I found awesome, but more because of the story than actual game mechanics.
            That and the fact that once the crow power was mastered the game became amazingly easy, and I like games where you can sprint through levels.

      Then the problem is that the gameplay wasn't good enough. I had the same problem, I got really bored of the gameplay by the end and was basically just trying to get through it as quickly as possible so I could move onto something else. We don't need to focus on making games shorter for the sake of storyline taking place, we need to have excelling story and gameplay both. I have a similar problem with the Assassin's Creed games, the gameplay gets to its highest point around three quarters of the way through the game, the rest of the way it just becomes repetitive and you don't really care at that point and you only want to finish for the sake of the story, or closure if the story is rubbish. A lot of series suffer from this, come to think of it.

      Point is, the objective should not be to remove gameplay filler, it should be to make it not filler, make it meaningful, fun, and as interesting as the first half hour. If you start thinking "this part of the game sucks, why not just cut it out and have it all story focused instead?" then you start crossing into a line where games are becoming too much like movies, in my opinion.

    No. I like my long games. I like being able to immerse myself in a game. I don't like that games are increasingly becoming 'movies', because for me, games are first and foremost, about the _gameplay_, with other things building up the experience. If I want a good story, most of the time, I'd go to a more mature, better storytelling medium. I want to play _a game_, not be a passive passenger on a series of short stops in a narrative.

      Dont think thats the point here, point is more culling superfluous gameplay, not increasing narrative. I agree with you, but only if the gameplay is still serving the point of the game. If the point of a game is to increase drama in a certain part like described, then there's gameplay not involved in that drama, then it's superfluous.

        Mark's comment 'would The Last of Us be a more seamless, meaningful experience with roughly 70% of its combat scenarios cut from the game?'

        I'd argue that that would be essentially stripping all of the gameplay from it, making it an interactive movie more than anything. That would be, to me, like removing the combat from Alan Wake - it'd fundamentally undermine the depiction as a game.

          Nah, it would be the same but shorter and more engaging. Also, more exploration. That was awesome.

            Really, really think about how much of the game was combat. Now imagine taking all of that out. Now think about the game you have. Is it still a game? I'd argue not. And that'd come down to preference, personally I had no investment in exploring the world - it was only in the characters, and in the visceral combat.

            Last edited 01/11/13 1:23 pm

              He's not suggesting removing *all* of the combat. I'd also hazard that 70% is probably a bit harsh, I don't think there were too many bits that pulled me out of the story.

              I agree with your point about Alan Wake though, that game scared the shit out of me, and it was entirely due to the combat and mechanics. The story alone would have not been as engaging, for me. I suppose what I'm saying is that it's about balance. It's not about length, it's about adding meeningless filler to make the game longer.

                Agreed - my lasting memories of the game (which I loved and played through entirely twice) were of running through the forest in blind fear, and the plot climax. One wouldn't have worked without the other. In fact, much of the plot was told through the encounters. They generally did a very good job at making the combat worthwhile.

                  My last memories were 'wow this could actually be scary if the game didn't pause and change camera every time there was a threat to make sure I knew with 100% certainty there was a threat.' :D Why! Why did they put that in!

              Honestly, the parts I enjoyed most in TLOU weren't the ones where I was figuring out a clicker puzzle, or engaging in bog-standard cover-shooter vs humans, but when I was instead exploring, rummaging, reading posters, and listening to recorded dialogue from NPCs.

              Hell, even the prologue was a pretty compelling game to me, even if there was practically zero choice involved.

              Different strokes for different folks, I guess. If you didn't consider those non-combat parts of TLOU really much of a game, you'd probably hate Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls.

          I disagree; there were many combat parts in TLoU which made sense to the narrative, like traversing/escaping infested parts of cities (with the zombies, or the hunters) and buildings to get to objectives. These enhanced the story, and also were fun to play. Then there were some groan-worthy parts like what Mark mentioned, which were more Uncharted-ish where the player just mows down goons, because that's what you're supposed to do in a video game. I personally though these bad bits were more obvious in TLoU, because the combat was more intertwined with the story.

          Alan Wake felt about the right length - unlike Halo or large Sections of Half Life 2 - it didn't feel as if it was wasting my time.

    Agree for the most part. Too many games just seem to be padded - I suspect to keep people playing a bit longer so there aren't so many second hand copies showing up on shelves within the first week of release.

    I find the worst culprits tend to be open world games... things like GTA 4, Red Dead Redemption, all the Assassin's Creeds. I haven't got GTA V, but if I do end up getting it I'm sure it'll be the same as those others listed - I'll be sick of it long before I get to the end, and the remainder will be more like work than fun. Although having said that, I'm currently 120+ hours through Skyrim and nowhere near sick of it - I think because it's so densely packed with things to do and most of them don't take very long, as well as the fast travel taking some of the drudgery out of it. Far Cry 3 was also able to hold my attention for the 40 or so hours I spent on it (although Blood Dragon wasn't able to do the same despite being much shorter).

    But yeah, for me the ideal lenth of a single player game is about 8 hours or so... about the duration of an Uncharted game. Although I took about double that on The Last Of Us, but I rarely felt it dragged (apart from the early part in Boston). Tomb Raider took a fair bit more than 8 hours, and that was definitely wearing a bit thin by the end.

      See, to me the wealth of activities available in your GTAs, Red Deads, ACs, Far Cry 3, and Skyrim are all part of the joy of that style of game... You pursue your narrative separately to your other activities, but if you try to complete them all, you'll either go mad or get bored.

      It's probably the same attitude of not leaving food on your plate. Good food I paid for, dammit! Even if I'm full and no longer enjoying it.

      Achievements and completionism have a lot to answer for, but it's incredibly liberating to toss that compulsion aside.

        This is actually what I'm finding to be the true joy of the free games from PS+. I download them, play them until I'm sick of them and then stop playing them. Because I didn't pay for the game (well, ok, probably about $1 when you spread the cost of the PS+ sub across all the games you get in a year), I don't feel the same obligation to "get my money's worth" by playing it all the way through to the end even past the point where I'm not enjoying it any more.

    I've heard a lot of whining about the ACIII prologue but I really liked using Hatham. Still making my way through this tome of a game and am enjoying it a lot more than the reviews would have me believe was possible.

    I guess when we look at value in our games, sometimes less is more. But when I watch Gravity, no one is going to charge me $60-$100 for the privilege. If I'm spending that kind of money I want a decent amount of content.

    I loved the Tomb Raider remake, but it was a shortish game, and not worth it's pricetag on release. At $47 I was a lot happier to pick it up.

      That's a different question altogether: the pricing model for big games is broken, can it be fixed?

      I have a suspicion that it can't. The bulk of the cost is in the engine, art assets, writing, etc, and so they need to charge $60-100 regardless of the length of the game. Then they add extra encounters at relatively low cost to try and justify the price point to consumers.

      I, like Mark, would be happy to play these shorter experiences, but I would also expect to pay less for them. Unfortunately I don't think these two philosophies are compatible for grand experiences like The Last of Us or Tomb Raider.

        You're a lot more eloquent at expressing my point than I was, because you nailed the problem there.

        I'm all for a shorter more meaningful experience, but the price points hurt. A great example would be FTL. A completely different kettle of fish, I know. Indie seems to have the freedom to cut bloat, and charges accordingly.

      Hatham was billion times less irritating than Connor. I would have gladly played the whole game as him instead.

        I spent so much of the game resenting Connor purely because he wasn't Hatham.

        I am in like... opposite land on AC3 to the rest of the world. Not only did I like the modern day stuff in all the AC games so far, but I also felt like the 'prologue twist' was unexpected and satisfying.

          I never understood the hate for the modern day sections either.

          The problem with the "twist" was that it was pretty damn obvious given the vocabulary they were using... and the fact that the portions about Haytham being a templar SHOWED UP IN THE CODEX before the twist was revealed. Fail.

          Also, the fact that everyone was "ZOMG You have a templar ancestor"... hey guys, remember AC2? You know, where Altair hooked up with a templar and turned her around and they went and had sons?

          The modern day stuff wasn't (mostly) the problem, the problem was that AC3 was a "open-world" game that prescribed one exact methodology for doing EVERYTHING, completely undermining the POINT of an open-world game.

          Oh, that and there was bugger all parkour to be done because there were only ever half a dozen buildings in a row and then oodles of gameplay featureless terrain. Meh, AC3 was just unequivocally awful.

      Hatham was kind of a reverse Metal Gear Solid 2. The promise of playing as Connor then being forced to play as Hatham for several hours. Not only that, but it was rather restricted and limited as Hatham and didn't let up until after Connor joins the Creed. By then 5 hours have gone by and only then were you allowed to explore.

      I did like playing as Hatham and the twist of him being a Templar was good, but I can definiately see why people were annoyed by it.

    We are at a point in time where game developers need to decide whether they truly want to make games or whether they want to make movies!

      Mmm not really a fan of this argument though. Not all games are driven by narrative, and the ones that are just are that other option for gamers to choose from. A lot of people like games with a lot of narrative, they're still a very different thing from films and books and whatnot. Don't see it being a bad thing that we have that option there.

      I think it's more a choice between 'games that are trying to be like movies' and 'games that are games' ie: relying on innovation in interaction, rather than cutscenes and linear narratives.

    But would The Last of Us be a more seamless, meaningful experience with roughly 70% of its combat scenarios cut from the game?

    Id argue no, actually.
    I completely understand what you are saying, and i do agree that some games tend to spend too much time "padding" out games to 15-20 hour because it is expected.
    However, the reason you fight those survivors is to show that their are people out there to kill you no matter what. Also to show the player how to fight because the last part of the game has you fighting military personnel and it would be much more jarring if you suddenly because a tremendous badass at fighting at that point in the game.

    Say for example that fight you talked about didn't happen and you just found Ellie. What would the purpose of that whole experience been (one that you said you very much enjoyed up to that point). True it could have ended with the lesson that she shouldnt go out on her own, but their would have been no catalyst to why it was so dangerous. We have known throughout the story that she didn't really want to be with Joel, so it wasn't an exercise in telling the player that she wanted to go out alone and be damned with him.
    That whole scene went to show that, yes she can escape and take off on her own but its a far more dangerous place out there than she thinks and she cant survive by herself. Not yet.

      Maybe a better example would be Skyward Sword which had the worst, most pointless padding I've ever seen in an otherwise quite good game.

        Havent played Skyward Sword, but i understand exactly what you are saying.
        Its a shame that the one stand out thing about The Last Of Us, for you, was this.
        I thoroughly enjoyed it :)

        That goddamn musical tadpole thing was horrible and completely unnecessary.

    I never finished The Last of Us, it didn't grab me for some reason. I think it's a fine line between a game being too short and then dragging it's heals.
    RPG's are a different kettle of fish though, i sunk way too many days (literally) into F3, NV kinda lost it's charm on me though.

    Are publisher's ready to charge us a comparable price for leaner shorter games? Most certainly not I assume

      I think so. Look at the Far Cry 3 expansion thing. That was cool, short and worthwhile.

      But I think you make a good point.

        Only reason that worked was because the investment had already been made into the engine as part of the original full-priced release. There's no way they could have justified charging so little for something so big as a from-scratch product.

          Yep, I knew that argument was coming. You're exactly right.

          Yeah, but on the other hand, Michael Biehn doesn't work cheap.

          Oh... wait. Yes he does.

        What expansion?

          Blood Dragon

            That wasn't an expansion.

              Its full name is "Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon", and basically every site on the web refers to it as a "standalone expansion". I think that's good enough to justify Mark calling it a "Far Cry 3 expansion thing"

              Last edited 01/11/13 2:39 pm

                and I never agreed to that. "Far Cry: Blood Dragon" was good enough for me, adding in the 3 only makes it confusing as it has nothing to do with Far Cry 3.

                Also has nothing to do with modern gaming, which is why people loved it so much.

                  Do Ubisoft normally ask for your agreement when naming their products? :P

              It was the future!

                In the futuristic world of 2007!

                Last edited 01/11/13 3:30 pm

                If by future you mean a world where DLC is standalone so people who don't want go in for $60/20hrs can get a much more manageable slice of the game then bring it on!

      I just finished a comment about this above. I don't think so, because it would probably cost them about the same to produce.

      There are a few examples of this, I think. The recent Deadpool was priced well (on PC at least) for what it offered. If you're into that kind of thing.

    As a father of 5, I'm all for shorter video games.....Its hard squeezing enough me time to play fully epic games. Though I don't want all of the games to become shorter and knowing the games industry and its all or nothing approach to making games that would be my fear. Also I don't know if I want to pay a whole lot for a 4 hour game........call of Juarez:gunslinger was a good shorter game priced perfectly. they should do more of that...

    PS
    to any game publishers reading this I don't actually mean only make 4 hour cowboy games, I know how you lot get confused by what gamers want.

    Isnt that what speedruns are for? - I remember Crysis 1/2 Campaigns having most if not all the padding trimmed from them- I had a lot of fun with Crysis Warhead before realising as soon as I got into it all - It was over. (my play time was something like 3-4hours from start to finish)

    Then theres grindy games.

    MMORPG's, Final Fantasies, Pokemon, Call of Duty - These games will test your patience as you strive to be the best.
    There's something about the almost infinite grind that appeals to some and not for others.

    But thats what makes gaming so unique - you can have both.

    I suppose the "movie" equivalent to grinding is like a movie marathon or watching all episodes of Breaking bad/Walking Dead/GoT/Family Guy.

    This exact same debate came up after the original Portal was so successful as a lean, tight, well-paced and awesomely written 2-3 hour experience. Everyone was on board for more short-form games like that.

    And they never happened.

    The reason is that for every journalist clamoring for this, there are two or three waiting to dock a game a few points in reviews because it's 'too short'. And when review scores are directly correlated with whether a lot of studios get a bonus nowadays, there's a fairly large incentive to keep games fairly big.

    I prefer my long video games. This episodic content, the likes of The Walking Dead and Half-life 2 just tick me off.

    Yes, I prefer watching my TV that way too. Instead of waiting every week and watching with ads I'll wait for a season or half season to bank up and watch it over a weekend.

    I think it depends on what the game is trying to achieve. Is it attempting to be a strong piece of interactive storytelling, or is it a play experience loosely tied together with a porno thin plotline?

    I suspect the reason the padding blows out to be too bulky in games is BECAUSE it's a game. Developers of tripleA titles are targeting the larger portion of the market, and that's the part which wants the interactive sections. If you market a game as a mildly interactive movie, you are targeting a specific niche in the market, and that means less $$$.

    It's the same as movies. Blockbusters demand massive returns due to massive investments, and that means catering for the lowest common denominator.

    Last edited 01/11/13 2:16 pm

    Far Cry 3... I've been playing that, recently. Blood Dragon was fantastic, and I played it first. And it really did feel like the leaner, stripped down, to-the-point version.

    But after playing Blood Dragon and moving to Far Cry 3 proper, I'm GLAD for all the extra busy work in the jungle. All the extra options, exploration, unlocks, customizations, skill choices, and more. It feels more full, more detailed, more complex, like Blood Dragon was really more of a wicked-awesome tutorial.

    I'm just having so much damn fun navigating that island, killing and collecting. The padding of quests/achievements/unlocks gives me the illusion of an excuse for reasons to repeat those game mechanics I'm enjoying, and that fake reason enhances it.

    Padding definitely has its place, but I think the real key is that it's optional. If I wanted to, I could decide, "OK, I'm done with this now, cheque please!" and go blitz the story quests instead of all the hunting/collecting/racing fluff.

      Also it's pretty. I stood up on Earnhardt's gazebo and just soaked in the sights and sounds. Real nice. I mean every living thing is trying to kill you, but all the same... nice.

      I think what you're talking about is the optional stuff, as opposed to TLOU which is completely linear. I totally agree that the optional stuff is great (i think i did 98% of the extra stuff in FC3) if you do just like mucking about with the game mechanics, but the crux of the issue is the narrative structure.

    "But would The Last of Us be a more seamless, meaningful experience with roughly 70% of its combat scenarios cut from the game? I’d argue yes. As players we did not need to engage those survivors on the edge of the forest. Their existence was unnecessary. They were superfluous."

    Yes... *and* no. Playing TLoU was intense in a way that was absolutely tiring, the combat was oppressive and exhausting. And that's probably the way it should be, to make the player feel that survival is *rough* and *hard* and *exhausting*; the combat makes the player feel what the characters should, right?

    If they are going to force movie length games on us the least they can do is charge cinema prices.

    I've never understood the price vs time argument in games. A new release movie is $30 and runs for an hour and a half.
    So a 4 hour game for $60 has exactly the same time to price ratio as a movie. If they are designed to tell a story and be a narrative I'm happy to pay more. If I consider it to much I'll wait until it comes down in price and not buy on release. So I would be happy with this but if everybody does this I don't know if it is feasible for the dev studio/publisher

      Where in the world is a new release movie 30 bucks for you?

        http://www.jbhifionline.com.au/dvd/recommended-releases-movie.htm

    I'm all for shorter games. Max Payne 1 and 2 only take a few hours to get through, fantastic from start to finish. Yes there are gameplay only sections which aren't progressing the plot constantly but I enjoyed that about it - was showing the crap Max had to put up with. Plenty there to keep the narrative moving forward frequently as well.
    Also shorter games like Journey, Brothers: Tale of Two Sons, Thomas Was Alone. Brilliant, and not large amounts of hours required to complete.

    It really depends on the game. Games like Portal, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and... Well, most ddownloadable games benefit from being short, mostly streamlined experiences without the extra padding.

    However, one of my fave games of all time is Dragon Quest VIII, and I don't think it would be the same without all the intense grinding and extea bits that don't truly need to be done.

    Honestly, I think Pokémon X amd Y could use the extra padding.

    There are so many games out there that lean heavily on filler content to make the experience seem "fuller". It really gets my goat.

    Tomb Raider annoyed me a lot more than The Last of Us did because it just seemed so damned absurd. At least in TLoU there's a reason why you're playing as a remorseless killer, willing to kill dozens, nay hundreds of men. In Tomb Raider, you kill them practically just because they're there.

    Oddly enough, I think that Call of Duty (at least COD4, not sure on more recent entries) and even Homefront did something incredibly right by only have 4 or 5 hours of campaign. There wasn't more story to stretch out, so they didn't stretch it out.

    On the other side of the spectrum, we have JRPGs that have felt like they are more grinding than gameplay. 100 hours is a nice big number but when most of that is running around getting random encounters, that isn't much fun for me.

    Journey and Portal are two of the most well-regarded games to come out in recent memory. Both can be beaten by a first time player in under 3 hours.

    If I was given the choice between two great hours of gameplay or twenty hours of gameplay that average out to be somewhat okay with some parts excellent and some thoroughly mediocre, I'll take the two hours any day.

    There's loads of room for both leaner, more narrative driven games and for lengthy padded drawn out affairs. Do you want your game to have narrative based gameplay or do you want gameplay to inform the players narrative? Someone above mentioned spending hundreds of hours in Skyrim but was starting to get sick of Tomb Raider after 8 hours. These are 2 perfect examples; the narrative in Skyrim comes from your poking and prodding and pottering around the world, who remembers or really cares about the main story in that game? On the other hand something like Tomb Raider is driven by the story with the gameplay being incidental and caused by the story.

    I think the biggest problem with AAA titles today is their designers think they can have a foot in both camps when really they should choose one side and either spend more time removing the narrative dissonance that occurs in narrative driven games and ensuring the gameplay adequately supports their narrative (making it fun as well is important) while those who want gameplay to drive the narrative (like Skyrim) should work on making their worlds more malleable and interactive to encourage gameplay based narrative.

    I find it hard to agree as The Last of Us was possibly one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played while I thought Gravity was a terrible movie.
    That said I agree with the concept to a point. Taking TLoU for example, some of the combat could definitely be cut out/shortened and it really wouldn't hurt the experience (arguably it might help it) but it's a very fine line. There were some amazing, tense moments in that game and to some degree the insane amount of infected, hunters, etc combined with the lack of resources (assuming you aren't playing on easy) at certain points really makes it feel more insane.

    On the other hand there are games like Bioshock Infinite which (though I loved story-wise) really would've been better with about half (or a quater) the amount of combat that was in it.

    There's also the question of are we just talking 'combat' or 'game content' though because other games (say Portal 2) revolve around the puzzles/mechanics involved. Cutting that down may make it more enjoyable for some but personally I'd have loved Portal 2 just as much if it was 10x as long.

    For me it's really a game-by-game/subjective idea. So do I think it's something the game industry should look at/change? No. Not as an entity anyway, just certain games that need it.

    Are We Ready For Leaner, Shorter Video Game Experiences?

    Yes.

    As long as they are "good".

    We are also ready for bigger, longer video game experiences. And for exactly-the-same-girth, exactly-the-same-length video game experiences. The criteria should be on high-quality experiences, of no fixed size or time-frame.

    I think Naughty Dog have been particularly guilty of these things this past generation. The ship in Uncharted 3 was awesome from a tech standpoint but when it was finished, the plot hadn't moved forward at all.
    This is why Portal was so liked, people complained it was too short but it didn't need to be any longer. It was short, it was polished, it didn't outstay its welcome and if you looked closely there was a very deep story about Aperture Laboratories that remains in the minds of gamers today, albeit in the form of a meme (the cake is a lie).

    In the end though, a good game is a good game and length wont really change that. Longer AAA games like Assassin's Creed II, Infamous 2, The Last Of Us, Halo 3 and countless others are all brilliant in their own way. Shorter games like Portal, Limbo, Gone Home, Fez and (again) countless others are all brilliant in their own way.
    So yes, we are ready for 'Leaner, Shorter Video Game Experiences' because we've had them for years. One of my favourite games of all time is Ico, which was a brilliant game that lasted all of six hours in my first play through.

    EA and Activision have been providing this for years.

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