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Massive, content-jammed games are bad for the industry and bad for gamers

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Before you head straight for the comments section to crucify me, just hear me out.

There seems to be a growing trend in the gaming industry. More and more developers are creating games that require players to invest hours upon hours in their game. In fact, games are actually designed that way. Developers want you to spend as much time as possible on their title alone. Games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, GTA, Fallout 4, Skyrim, and the grand-daddy of them all World of Warcraft immediately come to mind.

Granted, the notion of a game that can keep players busy for hundreds of hours sounds great. Throw in regular DLC drops and updates and the entire scenario sounds like a win-win for everyone. Developers and publishers continue to make money from the game long after principle development was done and gamers get a lot of value for money, if you compare the price of the game to the amount of hours you spend playing it. The theory seems water-tight, but experience often proves otherwise.

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Let’s use Destiny as an example to illustrate my first point. If you really want to experience everything that this game has to offer then you need to play it regularly. By regularly I mean almost every day. If you don’t then you’ll quickly find yourself behind the curve, so to speak. Most of your friends would have progressed their characters significantly during your absence, resulting in two possible consequences (I won’t count paying to level up your character). Since your buddies have characters a lot stronger than yours they’ve probably moved on to bigger and better things, meaning you need to find a new party to help you work through aspects of the game that require grouping up with others. It’s almost as if the game punishes you if you miss out on a few days of hard grinding.

And that brings me to my next point. A common trend amongst open world games is padding. This is the act of filling games with content for no other reason than to fill games will content. Fallout 4, Skyrim, and Dragon: Age Inquisition are all major culprits of this. These games often throw quest after quest at you that involve little more than travelling to a designated point, and either killing or retrieving something. Padded quests or mission rarely add much to a game, other than something to do, and ultimately feel like a repetitive waste of time.

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Before I start to sound like a raving troll, let me get to my point. Many games these days seem to lack experiential depth because they are overly long and overly large. After a certain point they don’t evoke any emotion. This is best illustrated by referring Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s Peak-end theory. The Peak-end theory is a psychological rule in which an experience or event is judged based on what we experience at the peak (the most intense point) and at the end of the experience or event, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

Let’s compare two games to make this simpler. Fallout 4 starts really well. In fact, I’d say the first 20 hours or so are the best part of the game. Then flat-lines as you quickly realize that you’ll never be able to save all those accursed settlements, the big twist happens well before the ending, and when you finally do embark on your final quest the game just kind of ends, as if it died quietly in its sleep. Finishing Fallout 4 left me feeling empty – it was a "none" event.

Contrast this to games like Telltale's The Walking Dead or Firewatch. These titles don’t necessarily offer players hundreds of hours of content, but one can argue that because they are shorter they have a greater ability to leave a lasting impression on you. The games know how to build up to a climactic conclusion. Finishing them feels more meaningful and significant. Impactful, fresh experiences are a large part of what gaming is meant to be, right?

What do you think? Do I have a point, are we going to see the gaming industry dominated by shallow titles that require a lifetime to play, or am I delusional? Comment below to continue the discussion! In the video below you can also check out what local YouTuber and funny man Gareth Woods has to say about the same subject

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