It can be extremely frustrating trying to fit a gaming habit around your social life, your job, and the long hours of study you are expected to do while completing your degree. Gaming has always been one of those hobbies that consume vast amounts of time if you are fully committed to the cause. Experiencing all that is offered by a classic game is the ideal experience, but in doing so you miss out on 2 or 3 new releases because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
The virtues of what make gaming great are demanding by their very nature. If a game is successful in immersing you into its story and if it makes you care deeply about the characters then you will naturally desire to spend as much time as you can within the world of the game.
We are pre-disposed as people to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the things we love and enjoy, but the sheer scope of the content offered by most quality games puts us at odds with what is seen as an acceptable level of time devotion to a single piece of entertainment. This is no doubt one of the reasons the pervasive anti-social stereotype still surrounds much of the gaming world.
No matter how good a movie is, no matter how much it drags you in and consumes you, it will be over in around two hours. Games that are considered short generally take four or five times that amount of time to complete, and even that is only the main story. When you include factors like multiplayer or collectibles, even for short games it can take around twenty hours to fully experience what the game has to offer.
Gaming is a medium which lends itself to binge consuming. So, when you can only fit in two hours of play time every three days, you lose some of the momentum built up from the previous session.
Have you ever tried watching a movie in three or four sittings? You spend the first ten minutes of each session trying to re-establish where you are in the story. You also struggle to regain the emotional state you were in at the moment you pressed stop. What if the final shot you watched was of the killer being revealed in a mirror? What if a character had just sacrificed themselves? During instances such as this the film is designed so you are an emotional wreck during the next few scenes, but because you are watching it two days later, after having been at work, then you’ve gone out for coffee and had dinner, you are not in the appropriate emotional mindset to properly appreciate what is going on.
This rings true for games as well. Yes, games are built with very clear checkpoints and levels where you are encouraged to save your game, and then shut down the system and move on to something else if you so choose. But do you ever really want to?
From a designers standpoint the whole game relies on you needing to immediately start that next level or that next mission. Quality games make it very difficult to hit that off switch and retire to your desk to highlight key phrases in a textbook. The Last of Us is a testament to this and is probably responsible for more all night cram sessions and extensions than The Ashes, 21st birthday parties and Game of Thrones combined.
This time issue is ingrained into the very nature of gaming. It remains one of the ultimate frustrations with the medium while simultaneously being the reason it is beloved by so many. In the end, the fact that we spend so much our lives inside these virtual worlds only adds to how much we cherish our time with them.
Sure I could go out and have a good night and still find time to watch a movie. But I could stay at home and use that time to explore a mere 10% of Rapture. And you know what? It would be worth every minute.
But as a final counterpoint, losing yourself for eight hours in a game world and suddenly realising you have an essay due in the morning that you still haven’t begun is an adrenaline rush even Felix Baumgartner would be jealous of.