I like to think about things, and if I don't collect the thoughts somewhere then they'll all fall out of my head. Consider this my "spare-brain-thoughts farm".

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Worth of Gametime

Once again, my nascent thoughts about the gaming world have somehow moulded themselves into written form.

Today's subject is one that I came across when I sat down to play ​Super Mario Sunshine​ the other day. Now, I'm a full-time gaming journalist, and I get paid very little; so to break even I have to spend a lot of time working. It's quite rare that I can sit down and actually play through a game throughout a long period of time, but last Tuesday I had quite some time to myself and coincidentally, the copy of ​Super Mario Sunshine​ I'd just ordered arrived.

So, Tuesday I sat down and said to myself "Today, I will play through this game from start to finish". And that's exactly what I did, which is sort of how this blog came around. It took me 12 hours to complete ​the game, without doing all the additional content (I don't have time to find 200 more blue coins...), and I paid £10 for the game. Now, if I value the worth of a game as £1 = 1 hour of actual enjoyment, then I have profitted highly, and still have a game that has even more content for me to sit down and enjoy some day (Note, I do not advise using this system for solicitation (Double note: I do not advise solicitation)).

Now, if you're still reading; this is when it gets serious (Ha. Serious). A friend of mine recently told me that he'd spend 500+ hours on ​Final Fantasy X ​ on a save file he only started last month​. This kindof staggered me, mostly because it's been a very long time since I could devote myself so wholely to a single game. Now, I shan't be modest, my clocked hours on ​World of Warcraft​ number at nearly 1,000 total hours, but that's a game I've had a on-again/off-again relationship with over the last few years. 500+ hours in just under 4 weeks is a bit insane though, from my point of view.
So, now to the meat of the blog. The Worth Of A Game.

Let's consider my previous system, where a game should have as much enjoyable time as it does cost. Obviously, my friend has gotten far more time out of his game, but he's spent much of that grinding, whereas I had 12 hours straight. We've both gotten plenty of enjoyment out of our purchases, but has he gotten more worth from his?

Now, this creates an interesting dilemna. Since I don't have time to invest into games, but he does, there is a stark difference in how we might perceive the worth of a video game. We're both big fans of JRPGs, but in recent years I've fallen away from them since I can't invest a lot of time into one game (Hence the on-again/off-again relationship with ​WoW​ , I can come back to it whenever I want) in a short period of time, I often have to devote time to other games for reviewing purposes. If I had more free time, I'd go back to the likes of ​Final Fantasy​, ​Baten Kaitos​ and ​The Last Remnant​, but since I don't, I often find myself playing games with notably shorter campaigns such as ​Bulletstorm and ​Jade Empire​, or an open world game where I don't need to invest chunks of time into suchas the likes of ​Skyrim​ and ​Saints Row​.

To someone with more free time though, open world games and JRPGs might be more tempting because they can sink days into them, and still have more content to discover. ​Skyrim​ will constantly offer them places to explore and quests to do, and could take hundreds of hours of time. A person with less time can approach it in bits, but someone with more time can do it in just a few sittings. The same logic applies to JRPGs, but since they're more linear, it's harder to approach them in a multitude of small sittings since you may inevitably forget something, or a quest may drag on and on.

So, now the worth of a game becomes not about the amount of enjoyment taken from it, but the actual person's personal schedule. Now, that changes the scope entirely, and it makes a rather unfair system with which to judge a video game for it's worth. As a reviewer, that irks me, because if a game is good then it is my job to relay that to people with as little information as possible; and I cannot just start adding scheduling into the mix. So, we need to locate a common ground for identifying worth to gametime. Now, the obvious common ground is actually finding enjoyment in games themselves, which has a direct relation to the quality of a game.

So, relevance of quality aside. We still have to place a worth on gametime itself. Does the value of time increase as the amount of time decreases? I'm sure this is a problem that can be solved with a mathematic equasion, but damnit I'm a writer not some sort of mathematician. We need to talk about this in a rational manner.

Perhaps it's something that can only be judged on a personal scale, and not objectively. So does the worth of time spent playing games come down to your lifestyle? Or is it an objective based media that can be supported by a blanket theory. Can the value of a game directly tie to the worth of the time spent playing the game?

It might not be the hottest of topics, but it's certainly something that's worth debate. What do you think?

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