Game length has become a hot button issue in the past couple of weeks, leading to some heated discussions among gamers in regards to what is the “proper” length that a full priced, AAA game should be. It was recently reported that Ready At Dawn’s upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive title The Order: 1886 is a lot shorter than one might think, sparking this whole game length debate. The article states that the game was played by a YouTube content creator with the handle PlayMeThrough and that he was able to complete the game in roughly five hours which has led to the widespread belief that this game is a maximum of five hours long, which is debatable considering that HowLongToBeat.com states that the game is between 7 and 11 hours in length.
At the time that all of this was reported, this was the only full playthrough of the game that anyone could go off of as the game hadn’t come out yet, but PlayMeThrough isn’t the only person who played the game before its release. Many other people who had the chance to play The Order: 1886 before its release claimed it can be anywhere between 7 and 13 hours in length and has moderate replayability, especially if you are a trophy hunter. It seems the game is only five hours long if you want it to be (ie doing a “speed run”, etc). Yet this hasn’t stopped people from taking to social media to decry the game, stating that it isn’t worth anyone’s time simply because it’s five hours long, which isn’t entirely true. The conversation and subsequent criticism of game length has since spread far and wide, creating a whirlpool of negativity and misinformation. I’m here to share my two cents on video game length and why I think it’s an unimportant aspect of a game as a whole, hoping to bring a more positive spin to a negative story.
I’d like to start by stating that I have nothing against people who are seeing that the game is short and deciding not to buy it for financial reasons. Games aren’t cheap and if you think you will not get your money’s worth then by all means wait until you are sure you will like it and/or can afford it, no judgment from me. My issue is with the folks who are told that The Order: 1886 (or any game for that matter) is five hours long, which isn’t entirely true, and immediately start bashing the game and declining to buy it based on that alone without furthering their knowledge on the subject. Not only is the game longer than five hours if you want it to be, but length isn’t all that makes a game worthwhile. There are many other reasons why a game like The Order: 1886 should be played and length shouldn’t be the deciding factor when debating a game’s worth.
For comparison’s sake, there are plenty of short games that may be completed in under 10 hours which are popular and have been generally well received such as Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge and Devil May Cry. On top of those are an even larger amount of games that can be under 10 hours if you speed through them such as The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Halo 4 and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – all of which are award-winning games. That’s also not including the plethora of popular indie titles which usually range between 3 to 10 hours in length. So seeing that a game is short and declining to purchase it solely based on its length without considering its quality or how much you wanted it previously is, in my opinion, a very shallow mindset to have when it comes to game quality. Again, length in relation to personal purchase decisions is a different story, I am focusing more on the folks who claim the game is poor in quality based solely on its length.
Gamers have been complaining a lot over the past few years about the quality of games. Too many games are being remade for next-gen with no real motive other than profit, too few new games are being released with original narratives, not enough games have value and there just aren’t enough good games coming out. All of these complaints are legitimate, there has been a lot of staleness in AAA game development lately, but this just makes my mind even more boggled when people belittle The Order: 1886, or any game for that matter, simply because of its length without looking at the overall quality of said game. The same people who I have seen complain about the staleness of games are the ones saying that The Order: 1886 is too short and therefore not worth the purchase, which is baffling. For a long time gamers have been trying to get video games recognized as art to the world outside of the gaming community, yet the intense criticism of a small aspect of what many would consider an art form continues, which seems very hypocritical to me. I rarely see people determine the value of other art forms in this way by saying “that movie was terrible because it was 2 hours long instead of three” or “that painting sucks because the canvas is too small”, so why do those criticisms befall games?
For me, a game’s value comes from the quality of its gameplay, its narrative and its overall presentation – not its length. Gameplay, narrative and presentation are things that affect the quality of a game, that alter the player experience for good or ill. As I stated above, plenty of great games have been released with short lengths yet they still received awards are and considered successes among gamers. I am not here to state that The Order: 1886, or any game, should be praised regardless of its length but rather that the criticism of games should not revolve around length since length is not what makes or breaks a game, quality-wise. When we focus on aspects of a game that hold no weight on its value as a whole and criticize them, we neglect to see the full spectrum that the game has to offer and allow other, more legitimate flaws such as bad gameplay or poorly written narratives slip by. Being critical is important to creative development, but understanding that being critical for the right reasons is crucial. It’s not that length should never be scrutinized, but more that it shouldn’t be the only thing focused on when debating a game’s entire worth.
What compelled me to write this article and weigh in on this discussion was the fact that I myself have been noticing a trend of negativity among the gaming community, specifically when it comes to games. It’s as if many gamers aren’t happy with playing games anymore, every game has to appeal to every single person at the same time or else it’s worthless. I must stress that while I do think criticism is important, as stated in previous articles, I also think that it has become the standard rather than the exception. People seem to want to criticize rather than praise, they want a game to fail rather than succeed, they want to be negative rather than see the positives. While some criticism is important, it’s getting out of hand. I personally choose to be positive and to not judge a game before I play it or based on something I find as trivial as length. I can’t say the same for others, I don’t expect everyone to follow my lead, though I can say that I seem to enjoy video games way more than most people I know due to my positive outlook.
Here’s the thing: I’m not asking for everyone to like everything, for all things to be golden and full of rainbows, but I yearn for a time in which we can all be less critical and more accepting of small flaws. I also wish that some people could learn to realize when something is just a personal criticism and when it’s an actual flaw, the latter being the thing to focus on. My concern is that nobody can win at this rate; developers can’t fix games if there are massive complaints about every single little aspect of the game based on individual opinions which leads to gamers not getting better games, rinse and repeat. Instead of saying “this game sucks because it’s too short, no one should buy it”, say “this game is fun but sadly I think it’s a bit short, not sure if it’s worth the $60”. There is a big difference in the way these are worded yet they still express the same basic criticism – game length. More than anything, I just want everyone to be able to enjoy video games and see the good in them rather than focus on the bad, making the bad way worse than it actually is and ignoring the good completely.