One Way Video Games Are Like Prison

One Way Video Games Are Like Prison

Over at Grantland, the occasionally notorious but always thoughtful writer Tom Bissell has weighed in on The Witcher 2. He is… not impressed. In fact, after six hours with the game, he decided he’d seen enough.

“What?” you may blurt, spitting gravy flecks all over your laptop keyboard. “Six hours?? That’s not nearly enough time to understand The Witcher 2!”

He explains his retreat via that pithy (and chuckle-inducing) quote up top. While I’m a big fan of the game, I can’t say that I disagree with any one part of his review. It’s almost as though it’s possible to feel more than one way about something.

Clearly, The Witcher 2 managed to win me over in ways that it didn’t win Bissell. As Jason and I discussed last week, the game gave me a “buy-in moment.”

Tom clearly didn’t have that moment. That quote made me laugh, though, since we’ve really all been there — if a game can’t win you over in 6 hours, does it deserve another 6? Maybe not.

Colluding With Nilfgaard [Grantland]


  • Got to be kidding me. Even in the linear parts the narrative of the Witcher 2 was gripping and mature. and the gameplay was a real challenge. We are the 5 second attention span generation.

    • To be fair 6 hours is more 4320 times longer than 5 seconds, I’d say he gave it a fair whack… Yes the game is great but that doesn’t mean everyone has to like it…. To each their own.

      I have definitly given games an hour and a half to impress me before, if it can’t do it by then it probably won’t… Sometimes I stick it out (especially if consensus is it gets better) but other times I move on.

      • Yep, fair enough I reckon. Hell, some games you can COMPLETE in 6 hours, so if 6 hours isn’t long enough to gauge a game’s quality then they probably needed to get to the good stuff earlier.

  • I am undecided about how to regard Tom Bissell, I read Extra Lives and enjoyed it, but I was expecting a more in-depth analysis on how games matter. Instead it kind of floated around the subject while trying to explain games to complete outsiders who would only walk away from the book remembering that Bissell played a shit-ton of GTA4 while on a coke binge.

    That aside, fair enough that he didn’t like the game, hell he deserves kudos for sticking with it as long as he did as he wasn’t enjoying it. If only more people gave things they initially disliked that fair a go.

  • I’m just about to start. I’m not really a fan of swords and wizards and shit but I thought I’d give it a go. But it’s got 3 hours, tops. Otherwise I might as well be working.

  • There are a couple points and I’ll get the more obvious one out of the way.

    If you are doing a proper review of a game, then I am sorry but it is your job to put in the time to get further into a game than just 6 hours. If you are just a gamer, then it’s reasonable to be grabbed by the game in the first hour. Most of this guys complaints are either disputable (I didn’t get the ice-skating feel at all) or are addressed but he probably would have realised this if he stayed playing the game.

    The second point links back on my comments of the article yesterday called “Stop getting so mad about video game reviews”. In this, I pointed out that Bobby Hunter was fully aware that his review would go against the herd and if he spent some time acknowledging this, he wouldn’t have gotten the response he did. Tom Bissell just demonstrated this perfectly, in that he acknowledged a lot of the points people appreciated and yet still stated his reasons for not enjoying the game. I very much doubt Tom Bissell is going to get loads and loads of hate mail, and the comments will probably be a bit more constructive. Bobby Hunter, pay attention.

  • I agree with him to some extent. A lot of the game is sloppy, a LOT. The sound design alone is atrocious, NPC dialogue repeats painfully too often, ambient sounds are low quality and mixed poorly and so,e of the voice acting is ear stabbingly awful. The environments are indeed glitchy, hit detection seems flawed and NPCs and monsters occasionally vanish. But to me it’s a flawed masterpiece and I’m reveling in the break from American game design. It might be lacking some fine tuning and polish but it’s truly branching story, attention to detail, casual depiction of adult themes and visuals to name a few of the aspects of game design not given as much focus in American game design. It’s a nice change and while it fails to get some of the more basic, simple things right (things that we western gamers take for granted), the execution of the broader aspects of the game are fresh and new and really welcomed.

    Also, he was wrong in saying you can only speed wait until noon, dusk, midnight or morning, every hour of the day is accessible.

        • Even if you couldn’t on the 360, it would still have been highly ironic when paired with his comment on how it makes him prefer to be a console gamer than a PC one.

          • I’m playing on 360.

            Also, I’m a little confused why the game was pinged because of every other fantasy setting leaning on Tolkien lore. He mentioned Skyrim, which has no Dwarves and has catmen and lizard men, not like Middle Earth.

            Anyway, still a good article despite a few holes in the logic

          • Skyrim has no dwarves but it did once, and it does have dwarven ruins. It also has elves. Many varieties of elves. Turning orcs into a variety of elf does not instantly mean it’s different from tolkien. They’re still orcs.

  • I’m with him. “It gets good” is not a defence. However, I do find it remarkable he didn’t love the first six hours of the Witcher 2 though. I thought it was at least as good as any TV show I’ve watched.

    • I was thinking the same thing. 6 hours is more than enough time to get stuck into flotsam, and even kill the kayran if you don’t bother with any side quests. If he didn’t like the first 6 hours, then he didn’t like the game, rather than it having a long, boring introduction.

  • I also like how it doesn’t baby feed you every little trick and tip in the game. It lets you discover things on your own by using your brain instead of being taught like a toddler.

  • Sounds like he’s just sick of the fantasy genre to me. I wanted to tear him a new asshole in true fanboy style, but I can’t. Some of his points are pretty accurate. Still I think the Witcher 2 is the best RPG in YEARS.

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