Why I'm Rallying For Shorter Games

I played a game that lasted only 10 minutes and it was glorious. It also cost me five bucks. Yes: I am saying that a game that amounts to one dollar per two minutes was worth the investment.

In fact I was so struck by how short the game was, I couldn't help but wonder why we don't have more games in a commercial setting that only last 10, fifteen minutes if played in their entirety. Not games we can play for a few minutes and put down: games that last a few minutes, period.

That game that sparked these thoughts would be the experimental Thirty Flights of Loving, the follow-up to Brendon Chung's indie darling, Gravity Bone. It's a tale of heist gone horribly wrong for a band of criminal schemers, which we have to piece together after a series of smaller, fast paced vignettes and montages.

Chung calls a "first person short story". This is an apt description. A short story, after all, is something that hones in on just a few things and often concentrates on mood instead of the plot. Thirty Flights and its refusal to give the player too much information-which works beautifully for stringing the player along-and its quirky aesthetic and tone fits the bill of a "short story". You can't quite figure out the exact details and context of the plot. But the mood and feel of the game is still carried well.

It reminded me of how recently, I've been reading a whole lot of the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Not his novels — his short stories. I was hooked, and the length had everything to do with it. No filler. Just pure, condensed story — there's no having to read through hundreds of pages to understand 'the point' of what I was reading. Fantastic. I'm a busy person. I don't have time for garbage.

And if the media I'm consuming isn't worth my time, then I move on to the next tab, the next song, the next YouTube clip. Whatever delivers. But there's always something next on the docket.

Notice a pattern here? Length. Speed. Moving forward to the next thing — because we're all hungry for information and our lives are a daily struggle to cram as much in it as possible, in the least amount of time possible.

Many of us bemoan that games are getting shorter and shorter, some of us would even like our games to never end. But maybe we're ignoring the fact that this shortening is happening to media-at-large and it's something that we actually like, speaking generally.

And why wouldn't we like it? Constant stimulation feels...good. Compulsive. At times maybe lacking depth, but good.

Many of the games that will come to top GOTY lists this year, I suspect, will be shorter games. Journey. Walking Dead. Fez. Papo & Yo. Just to name a few.

Notice a pattern here? Length. Speed. Moving forward to the next thing-because we're all hungry for information and our lives are a daily struggle to cram as much in it as possible, in the least amount of time possible

It's not the length that will give these titles the ability to contend for the top prize, of course. Nobody is going to award a game a prize for being short. But being short means that a game has to be conscientious of how it asks us to spend our time, and to be, above all, punchy. Shorter games have to be better games — or else. We might be willing to forgive a longer game for segments that drag on, but a shorter game is burned at the stake for the mistake.

A shorter game forces a developer to focus on only the aspects of a game worth including and experiencing. It's no surprise that titles like The Walking Dead feel tight and well-paced. There's nothing superfluous in it. And, should it be that the game is actually drivel? Well, it was short — you didn't have to suffer through it for too long and, ideally, didn't spend much money on it either.

Consider, too, that not only is our free time disappearing as we are all getting older — according to the ESA's average gamer age, anyway — but stats show that we just plain don't finish most of the games we play. So why do we keep asking for them to be longer and longer when the truth is that most of us don't have the extra time for it, and if we did, we're not even finishing the games anyway?

Give me more shorter games. Longer games have their place, and I don't want them to go away. But I also want to feel that my time is respected, and I want to play as many games as possible. Maybe you do too.

Credit Bloomua/Shutterstock



      This damn ADD generation needs to crawl in a hole and die. You are a blight on gaming as an entertainment form if you truly wish to perpetuate spending $5 for 10 minutes of gaming.

      Games are already expensive enough and you want to promote getting less bang for you buck?
      This article is worse than your "opinion " on cloud gaming. I don't know how a games writer can be so out of touch with what is good for the very industry they are working in.

      If you seriously dont have time or the patience to spend on "long" titles go back to watching your youtube videos because unlike the rest of us we enjoy our games the way they are.

        Why does more time equal more bang? Its not in the slightest a matter of patience or attention span. So you enjoy games, a medium still developing its identity, the way they are, and don't want to see any experimentation and innovation?

    Absolutely not.


    I have 3 hours set aside purely for gaming one weekend. I sit down with a game. 10 minutes later I'm finished. That was awesome I think to myself. Let's play a different one. 10 more minutes I load another. End of the 3 hours I've played 18 games. And spent $90.

    I can totally see why I'd prefer to do that instead of playing 3 hours of a 20 hour game with a $90 price tag that will last me a month. Definitely a winner.

    (Mind you I find 60+ hour games to be a little impossible to manage these days. 20 - 30 seems to be a good figure for me.)

    But I'm not against games allowing you to stop at any time you need. I hate when I'm playing a game and I can't stop (cos I need to go) but I haven to spend time looking for a save point or something. Games need to have better save points to allow for shorter play sessions (but you can still have a long play session if you like).

      i remember the psp and psvita can be closed any time while the game is playing, and turned back on to return to the game . i liked that

        That is a great feature and it needs to be a standard feature on consoles for all of us with lives that cant play for hours at at time any more, but still would love to play a game say 20 minutes at a time when we get a chance.

        Hopefully one or all of the next gen will have this, ortherwise im sticking with portables.

        As for a minimum time for me to regard a console game as good value... say at least 4 hrs, but i'd accept a little less if its something particulalry unique gameplay and aesthetic wise -like the Rez sequel who's name is escaping me right now.

        I dont need or really want 20+ hour epics now that im in my 30's, but im sure there are plenty of teenagers that do still, and maybe retirees, hospital patients etc?

        It also temporarily saves your spot when the battery *dies* It actually keeps a small amount of juice to save while the machine is off! Very nice feature IMHO

        Of course you need to make sure you recharge it when it dies because once it does completely discharge you loose your progress xD

    I don't think we should be encouraging games that are much shorter, as it would ruin many great experiences we have when we play through and the story develops. Instead we should discourage games that are unnecessarily long, where segments seem to be present just for the sake of making us play longer. For example when a sub-plot is introduced just to extend the length of the game rather than flesh out the main story.

    Short games are what you play on iOS/Android. They can stay on there.
    Longer games - stay on consoles (includes PC and handhelds like 3DS).

      What a ridiculous statement.

      Quickplay != short game

      Even a game with quickplay design like Jetpack Joyride will still be expected to have a few hours of gameplay, although each play is quick, this is why upgrades and subtle level objectives are included to enrich each play.

      Story Dense games, like the ones Patricia is going on and on about are complete games meant to be given a total of less than or around an hour.

    ... i'm going to have to go with the consensus here and state "No", i've seen far too many games that were too short for the amount of money you pay for them. We've all had this scenario, we buy a game, we sit down & play it, 4-5 hours later it's done and we're left thinking "what? is that it?". BUT, i do think the key thing here is the pacing of the game, whether it's 10 minutes, 5 hours, 20 hours however long it can be, the key is whether it's "time well spent" in terms of engaging content, and i don't mean in just replay value either, i mean leaving the whole experience feeling like you've experienced pure awesome (purely subjective as to what 'awesome' is as it differs from opinion) that you'd wanna play it again just to experience that a second time and see all the smaller nuances within the game.

    To sum it up: we all want more engaging games, not ones determined by length, but ones with stories that keep us honestly engrossed. As well as ones that'll let us play at our own pace.

    Lame, games are already too short and at the same price i for one want my long games back like xenogears, chrono trigger, fallout 2 and so on. Not more RE5 and Dead Space 2!!! dear god so sick of finishing games the same day you buy it!! :((

    "Instant gratification"

    Almost as bad as wanting more 50 page "novels"

    If we go with your analogy - then you are asking Authors to write only short stories as opposed to novels. Yep. great idea! Now go and sit in the naughty corner. with Luke.

    "Shorter games have to be better games — or else. We might be willing to forgive a longer game for segments that drag on, but a shorter game is burned at the stake for the mistake."
    Couldn't disagree more. A shorter game you're more likely to persevere with if it has mistakes, because.. well, it's only going to take 5-15 minutes, so who cares if it's not really that good? Even a short game is liable to have one decent idea, so even if it only has that one interesting point, I can forgive it for being awful. If I finish a longer game and there's nothing satisfying at the end or no real major points that I thought were great, I'm going to lambast it harder than I would dream of doing for any 10 minute game.

    Take "Loneliness" as an example. I didn't like it, though I understand what it was trying to do. Yet, I'd still recommend it to people because it has a somewhat interesting core idea, and it only takes a few minutes of their time. Compare with Diablo 3, which I wouldn't recommend to people to buy, because even though it has hours and hours of gameplay, all of that gameplay is repetitive, and they could go elsewhere and get something better. You linked to the "Diablo 3's problem is that it ends" article - that's not the problem at all. The problem is that it never ends - and it never offers anything different. It's a bad long game, and I'm not willing to forgive it for that. I bought it, and I got my money's worth, but I sincerely wish I hadn't supported it.

    I can enjoy shorter games, but they are for exploring a single idea in isolation. They cannot, due to their short length, explore complex ideas, moral quandries or provide social commentary in the depth that longer games can.

    You're arguing for constant stimulation in the form of lots of short games. This kind of attitude is what gives us awful long games. It's what gives us the testosterone and explosion fueled experience of Modern Warfare 2 and 3 and their ilk, where particle effects are substituted for anything of substance and real interest. It's what gives us repetitive gameplay and "Button! Awesome!" and its ilk.

    Please, whatever you do, don't argue for constant stimulation. Argue for intelligent stimulation.

      You should check out patch 1.04 which just landed for diablo III. It's done a lot to alleviate many of the ills people had with the game. As for your comment about the game being repetitive... what did you expect? Did you not play diablo II?

        Yes. It shits on 3. Your point?

          "As for your comment about the game being repetitive… what did you expect? Did you not play diablo II?"

          Reading comprehension my friend. Diablo II was very, very repetitive. Why would you not expect that from diablo III

            Diablo 2 was immensely fun. Though repetitive it was creative and fun. The ability to build a character by stats, actual challenge, the fact it was innovative at the time and the ever important part: it was downright playable and very well designed and never felt cheap. D3 really cannot say any of these.

    There is definitely room in the market for long games and short games. I'd barely even call 30FoL a "game", even though it and Gravity Bone are two of my favourite things. We need more games like 30FoL (or even like Portal) that serve a specific purpose in an appropriate length of time instead of going too long, but there'll always be room for longer games

    Don't wrote articles, on topics you clearly have very little knowledge. Gaming and sitting on YouTube are very different forms of entertainment.

      Because you clearly know everything about this.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    this is clearly the article of a game reviewer loll. of course you pros want the games to be shorter, we on the other hand play games more sparsely, have to pay our hard earned money for em and we would like to get some length/value out of em

      But length doesnt equal value

    Xenoblade could lose a few hours and I'd be happier. Aside from that, no.

    I think most of you are being unfair. Patricia writes great, thoughtful articles. But gamers are also tightwads, as we sawfrom kates article suggesting that subscription mmos are dead and free to play us starting its reign. So i think the cost element is a huge reason why people are railing against the suggestion. Lately i have been looking into my shame pile andi am thrilled to find sharp, short, brilliant pieces like botanicula there. I can get through those without needing days, and u can then return to the now popular endless genre that is mmos, which kind ofhighlight the difference between time killing games and time using games. The fact that do many of us play games centred around playing long long hours is fascinating when they rarely have stories that drive us (the secret world an exception) and they are effectively anti story. What Patricia is appreciating is form, and i totally get the point. I think between COD and MMOs we are more forgiving of storyless shell games that are ready the soap opera or reality tv equivalent in games- they don't make us think, they don't require our engagement, just our moneys and constant return. I think that's why people who take a break from an mmo can feel rejuvenated about the hobby- they realise, oh yeah, i play games for the stories, not the kill streaks and epic loot.

    Oh Hell NO!

    Bang bang done. What a complete waste of money. If you want short games go play them on your phone. They DO NOT and WILL NOT be a stample for home gaming.

      The very fact you sum up the game as 'bang bang' is pretty telling of your thoughts about what a game experience can be

    I really enjoyed Thirty Flights of Loving.

    More than happy to pay for shorter, sharper games - it's just another type of experience, and one that works well to exploit its length for maximum impact.

    Nice article.

    i dont think anyone is being unfair too Patricia, but when you say stuff like this (but stats show that we just plain don’t finish most of the games we play. So why do we keep asking for them to be longer and longer when the truth is that most of us don’t have the extra time for it, and if we did, we’re not even finishing the games anyway?) Just isnt even remotely true and trying to state it as fact leaves a bad taste in the mouth feels like im reading sumone's blog. IMO if you play games for strange epic stories like Shutterspark said check this guys work out, Love the oldschool feel http://www.stasisgame.com p.s. stat pulling is the work of the devil

      xenman, stasis looks exactly like the sort of thing I would enjoy. But my shame pile is already vast! I will keep an eye on this one though.

    Great to see the open minds of game culture coming to engage with new ideas in comments sections.

      So wait.... we are not allowed to be angry at the fact someone comes in writing an article about "why something should be", without giving any support to the other side.

        Does this article warrant *anger*, because you disagree with it?

          It warrants anger because at best it is just click-bait to rack up page hits. At worst it's serious.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      I just lost it. That is the funniest most offensive post I've seen on Kotaku! I will enjoy it till it gets removed. Awesome.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuxedo_Mask lol

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