Are 100-Hour Games Just A Waste Of Our Time?

It's tough to play games and not sometimes feel like you're wasting your time. Whether you're grinding for levels or fighting endless waves of random enemies, it can be difficult to reconcile with sections of game that feel like padding.

Writing for Slate, journalist Michael Thomsen takes that notion one step further, critiquing 100-hour epics like Skyrim or Dark Souls for their unwieldy length. While Dark Souls is beautiful and evocative, Thomsen says, players can see all the art it has to offer within "the first five hours." The remainder of that time is just a feeble echo of that experience.

There is something in these efforts that shouldn't be dismissed. The 100-hour game is not a pointless exercise because it's a game, but only because the relative meaning of its experience is almost always diluted into a thin, tasteless nothing by the time you've invested yourself in completing it. Imagine if War and Peace were 5,000 pages instead of 1,400, and imagine if, whenever you came to a word you didn't understand, a gust of wind appeared and pushed you back five pages, forcing you to reread everything you'd made it through up until that point. How long would you last? And what would be the point in trying?

I think Thomsen makes some strong points, although he seems to ignore the idea that different gamers perceive value in different ways. A 45-year-old mother of two whose interest lies in the emotional power of video games might view an 100-hour epic as a nightmarish time-waster, while a teenage boy who has nothing but spare time might see it as a fantastic money-to-time ratio. To some gamers, padding ain't all that bad.

Dark Night (After Night After Night) of the Soul [Slate]


Comments

    I wish I had more time to waste 100 more hours in Skyrim >:

      this

    Sounds like he's one of these people who need someone to hold their hand and show them what to do.

    The point of games like Skyrim are to allow you to do whatever you want to in a large open world, allowing you to find your own entertainment in how you play the game.

    It doesn't take 100 hours to finish Dark Souls. To Platinum however, took me 97, Demon's Souls 102, FF13 99, etc. I don't consider them a waste of time at all.

    What's the difference between getting 100% out of a game at 100 hours and playing CoD multiplayer for 100 hours? One game offers a different experience for the most part and the other, you're reliving the same parts over and over. Games that take a longer time to "finish" offer more variety and just downright fell damn satisfying once they're over and done with.

      Also, the definition of "finished" differs between players. Some consider themselves "finished" once the credits start rolling, some consider themselves "finished" once they have enough, others want 100% of all achievements, etc.

    So he'd rather fork out $100 for a game that has horrendously short stories (eg. single player CoD)?

      Yeah, but with COD (or Battlefield or whatever), I think most people are buying it for the multiplayer. And then you're off into 100+ hour territory again.

    way to miss the point people!

    Are you kidding? You can't possibly experience all of Dark Souls amazing art within five hours... Unless maybe you're playing NG+ and you're rushing it. Sigh...

    So very wrong, and the comparison to a book is fucking disingenuous. Games aren't books, games aren't film, they're a completely different medium that operate on ways and on levels that other mediums don't provide, stop drawing literal analogies.

    I've made this argument before and I'll make it many times again. I much prefer a game that doesn't pad out the content to make it look more appealing.

    If you have 20 hours of good gameplay, don't screw with the pacing by stretching it out to 100 hours. If your game is only 5 hours long but well-paced, then that's better than a 10 hour game with the same amount of content stretched out.

    How good a game is shouldn't be judged by how many hours it takes to complete it but by how much enjoyment can be had from it.

    Pacing is a serious issue that many games struggle to deal with. This expectation, especially in RPGs, of length is rather annoying and makes me feel like people are missing the point when they demand longer games.

    With a good game, you'll want to play more. With a long game, you'll feel obliged to endure it. The two aren't mutually exclusive but a short game that leaves me wanting more isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just see Portal.

      +1 to this.

      Mechanics used just to pad games out, like xp-grinding, or mandatory backtracking through every level, are just evidence of bad, lazy design.

      If a game takes you 100 hours to finish, but only 20 of those were enjoyable, then yes, you have just wasted 80 hours.

    All games are a waste of time. As long as those 100 "wasted" hours are a shitload of fun, mission accomplished.

    He has a go at Skyrim? Great. Sure. Let's encourage people to make half assed corridor "games" with no texture at all. That will let us consume them quicker and throw our money at whatever is the next AAAA hype game coming out next.

    Clocked up 127 hours so far on Skyrim and I’ve barely touched the main questline yet (I've only just been in contact with the chick from The Blades). As many know, Skyrim is a game you can 'reside in'. I work full-time and have many ‘RL commitments’, yet I've been compelled to continuously come back to it to 'chill out' in its virtual world. It’s a joyful bit of escapism and because the game world is so well realized (generally speaking and give or take a few gripes) it hasn't gotten diluted or thin. That's a mark of a good 100+ game that, to me, doesn't feel like a waste of time.

    I've already invested some significant time in Kingdoms of Amalur and none of it feels like a waste.
    The majority is just fetch/kill quests, yes, but the combat, world and levelling is so interesting the experience is constantly changing.

    Most of the time you won't find a 100-hour single player shooter and the only 100+ games on console are RPGs or multiplayer games, which really depend on how invested the player is, like sports gamess and sims.

    Only RPGs, and some racing games, demand more than 20 hours from players.
    I think we should be grateful there are games out there which have that much content rather than arguing they shouldn't.

    One man's padding is another man's fun

      If I spend $100 bucks on a game and I see the end credits the same day I feel like I've been kicked in the balls, thanks to this after I played Gears of War I haven't even been tempted to take a closer look at the sequals..

    Depends on the game I guess. I've put 110 hours into Skyrim but I'm still going back because there's new, varied content in there. The thought of a 110 hour COD campaign is nightmarish because the gameplay and settings lack the variety that a typical 100 hour game has. By the time I've finished a shooter campaign I'm generally over it, they don't need to be longer than they are. Games like Half Life 2 are an exception because they offer the variety.

    I'm on the cusp point of this - I find a very long game difficult to make the time investment to, and therefore I'm kind of put off because of the sense of obligation I'd feel to get my money's worth (I'm someone who likes to get to a game's credits). But on the other hand, I'm not earning enough to be happy paying $100 for a short game. I think later, when I'm working full time rather than studying, I'll feel better spending money on a shorter game or even not playing a game to completion as it's not such an issue of money being 'wasted'.

    I don't believe developers should feel the need to change much, other than making sure there's enough STUFF in a game, single player or multiplayer, to be worth the cost of the game. They're not going to have much control over whether the buyers feel they can make that time commitment or not.

    Dragon Age Origins + Awakening with full side quests is a good 70 hours. I don't regret that.

    Skyrim bores me after 30 hours of samey sameness.

    And shooters under 10 hours flat out annoy me.

      I have to agree, for me, Origins did went way faster than ME1 and I think I knocked that over in 12.

    Skyrim No, Final Fantasy Yes.

    The difference, to me, is what you're doing in that time. In Skyrim, I was exploring a world, experimenting with powers, and enjoying varied combat. 99% of the time I was playing I was enjoying myself. I rarely ever felt forced to do anything I didn't want to (they even put quick exits to almost all of the dungeons, so prevent you needing to backtrack).

    In Final Fantasy (I stopped playing after FF8, but as far as I've been told, nothing has fundamentally changed since then), you get a bit of story, then grind to level up for hours, then get a bit more story. The grind isn't fun, it's brainless and repetitive. There's the rare challenging fight where you have to employ some degree of strategy, but for the most part it's just routine buff, nuke and heal.

    When you're doing something not fun or productive for hours, just for the privilege of getting a few seconds/minutes of story cinematic, then you're wasting time. It's like if you were watching a DVD, and they made you have to press the Play button on your remote 1000 times before you could continue on to the next scene. That is a waste of time.

      Agreed to this.

      Generally, if you've enjoyed a game enough to put in 100 hours, it's never a waste of time, it's getting a lot for your money.

      Personally, in games like Skyrim, where I spend that amount of time exploring and discovering new content all the time, not a waste at all as that time is spent with new content. In Gears 3, where I spend that time playing different multiplyaer modes and maps and socializing with friends in TD groups, although it's the same content no match ever plays out the same.

      Final Fantasy is definitely payoff vs grinding, and if the payoff is big enough I can put in the hard, repetitive yards. FF XIII, X and XII were case in point for that, the payoffs were so good I was happy to do the grinding necessary. XIII not so much.

    I think some of the meaning of his argument has been lost in the brevity. I don't think theres anything wrong with what he's arguing here - that the quality of the gaming experience can sometimes feel diminished if it's wrapped up in a lot of extraneous activity that doesn't particularly add to that experience. Now, what the 'value' of the experience is depends on the player, but clearly from his perspective, the value is isn't in grinding.

    Personally, I tend to agree mostly. Sometimes I just cant be bothered with Skyrim anymore, as it just feels like too much hard work to get the game moving (but those times are rare, admittedly). Demon's Souls was just a case of self abuse I found. From my perspective, the experience of that game was more about glorifying the challenge up to the point where everything else began to suffer. Any value of the characters, the world or the story was lost in the unending pile of punishment that you had to sort through just to experience it.

    But again, the value depends on the player.

    Are 100-Hour Games Just A Waste Of Our Time? The answer is: Only if you didn't enjoy it.

    I've played through dark souls three times and I still love it. The only game I ever replayed straight after finishing it. That means the first 100 hours must have been good.

    I'm onto my fourth playthrough of Dark Souls and I still adore it and find new details I'd never noticed.
    If he's referring to games that artificially pad their running time out to 100 hours, then sure, I'll agree. But he ought to have picked a better example cos DS is nail-biting for every moment you're playing.

    A fair amount of the games I've spent 100ish hours on are the ones that stay with me, the ones with worlds I've inhabited fully. Ate, breathed, slept and learned from.
    So I disagree with the majority of this writer's opinion.

    How is 10 hours somehow time less wasted than 100 hours?
    Honestly, if you consider playing video games a waste of your time then you probably shouldn't be playing them, I'm not sure how peole come up with the fallacious thinking that there's some arbitrary limit on time played that turns games from fine to 'zomg time waster.'

    I've come across 5 hour games I thought were too long for what they were conveying, and I've come accross 40 hour games I wished were double the length. Even then too long or too short is a relative term.

    No.

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