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Hard Difficulty- a retort to Casual Difficulty's 'How short is too short?'
Posted on Wednesday, October 27 2010 @ 09:57:01 PST

Lost in translation
 
 
(You can find Casual Difficulty's 'How short is too short?' short essay on the website Game Revolution, entitled as the latter in the Features section.)


  Without recapping Casual Difficulty's short essay: I agree.  Gamers who complain precisely over a game’s length and it being “too short” are missing the point entirely.  Literally looking for more bang for one's buck to measure a game’s caliber by is not only unfair but unjust- not to sound too serious or anything.
 
  However, if I’m to use myself as an example, I believe that these very same gamers- or at least some of them-  look for longevity in their games more from a financial standpoint than one of merit.  Jesse Costantino is absolutely right in saying that, with time, production prices have only gone up- but in turn so have retail prices.  And, to use his own food-styled metaphor, in a city (industry) full of great restaurants (games), we the consumer want more on our plate for what we’re paying, and understandably so.  That isn't to say however that quantity surpasses quality.  Indeed, it is quite the opposite.
 
  To put it plainly, Vanquish is a superb piece of work.  Its length places no handicap in my mind upon how "good" it is.  What it DOES do, however, is place it at the back of the purchase line.  Short games are a doomed species.  To use Vanquish as an example: why bother shelling out 40 pounds, dollars or whatever your currency for a game you can complete within a seven-day  Blockbuster rental for 7 whatevers, and use the leftovers for that other title you’ve had your eye on.  Or, to convert that into another food metaphor: why pay a lot for the privilege of a high-street cafe muffin when you can buy a pack of the exact same four at your local supermarket- for less?
Sure, seven days is a lot less time than ownership provides, but one can only chew for so long, no? 
 
  And, if multiplayers are, like Casual Difficulty says, 'underdeveloped' (and I’m not wholly disagreeing there) where does that leave the short, sweet game?
 
  Gamers, I believe, don’t want to chew up and spit out game after game.  They want to be able to recycle! Or, regurgitate, as gross a food metaphor as that might be.  The solution lies in short games finding a reason to come back and replay- and it’s here that achievements/ trophies help.  Though they themselves have taken something away from games (gone are the days of playing Sonic 1 over and over for want of more coins or just to damn finish) it provides, in return, with incentive.  And there at least, games have not changed.  People have always played towards a goal: it’s what makes a game a “game”, whether it concern sports, software or foxy boxing; whether it be to win, succeed in a personal achievement or just plain reach a certain level of enjoyment.  I see achievements/trophies simply as various mini-goalposts that keep gamers coming back to whatever game title you like to score that extra little sense of accomplishment.
 
  Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics.  Game design theorists often complain that, unlike most design industries- from mechanics to architecture- gaming lacks a solid form of jargon, beyond that of genre labeling.  When these gamers Jesse speaks of cry out about “length”, what they might really be calling for is “replayability”.
 
'If a game’s not worth savoring, is it really worth consuming?'

  Absolutely.  I’d like to think we’d starve otherwise.  To use Jesse's food metaphor one last time, gaming is indeed a lot like hunger.  And just because we don’t savour our McDonalds Big Mac doesn’t mean it isn't worth wolfing down with fries.  Anyone for a cheeseburger?
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