Size doesn't matter. It's true. It's genuinely true. The saying doesn't exist just to make you feel better about your bald little half-incher.
Much like many of you, I've been spending the last few days trying to decide whether to pick up Dishonored or XCOM as my big game purchase of the week. When I put my question to my buddies on Twitter, a lot of people came back with comments like these:
"DONT GET DISHONRED MATE NOT WORTH THE MONEY MATE ITSONLY 4 HRS LONG"
"GOTTA BE XCOM MATE. APARENTLY DISHONORUD IS ONLY 4 HOURS TERIBLE VALUE MATE."
"FIFA ALL THE WAY MATE YOU GAY OR SOMTHIN LOL."
(I should say that the tweets I received were actually spelled properly, but I think I just had a mini-stroke while I was quoting them.)
What is wrong with us? Why are we so obsessed with the length of games?
I think it all started in the PS1 era. Whenever you picked up a Squaresoft game, you would find some ridiculous boast on the back of the box. OVER 100 HRS OF GAMEPLAY, it would say, and you'd turn to your friend and say, "Wow, over 100 hours of gameplay. That's really long." And your friend would go, "Yeah, that sounds like some amazing length there. Sounds great, mate." And then you'd buy it and go home with some horrible mistranslated pile of horrible that you'd have to endure for 100 horrible hours.
Your friends would visit and say, "Are you still playing that thing?" and you'd say, "Yeah, it's terrible but it's really good value." With every passing hour you'd come closer to the realisation that you'd look back on this time when you're on your deathbed. You would remember the 100 hours of miraculous life you wasted on the adventures of a whining 14-year-old sap with a sword-gun, with character designs by a Japanese paedophile.
In the wake of these bloated monstrosities, developers started to think that they could only please us by fattening up their new titles like big ugly bleeping robo-geese. Tomb Raider games got fatter and wider. Any new IP was pumped full of gruel until its skin became thin and ready to burst. We all demanded bigger, longer, more.
Look at Grand Theft Auto. When I played Grand Theft Auto 3 I was blown away. I was all like, "This is the fuuutuuure!" and dancing around my room throwing rose petals in the air. I expected that any further Grand Theft Auto games would get more sophisticated and more detailed. I expected the cities to have more life, and feel more real. What I got was some big fat white turkeys, their flesh quivering with all the flab that had been pumped through their gullets. "Hey guys, look! There's some empty countryside now! Hey guys, look! There's a lot more faceless buildings that you can't enter! Enjoy!" Grand Theft Auto became a big bloated corpulent slab of stupid that remained celebrated by the young and the foolish, like some digital Boris Johnson.
Man! When Morrowind came out, I had to go and buy some more rose petals and fling those around my room too. (I had to do a lot of hoovering in those days.) "THIS IS THE FUTURE!" I screamed, as I murdered women in their mud huts and moved all my own s*** in. But then people demanded bigger and more and longer and wider and broader, and we followed a path right down to the big stupid beached whale that is Skyrim. An enormous idiot, flailing on the sand, unable to communicate in any meaningful way, but happy to spout some mind-numbing "lore" whenever you kicked one of its big fishy gills. If whales have gills. I don't think they do. I don't think whales are even fish.
Size doesn't matter. Resident Evil 4, which has a reasonable shout for being the best video game ever made, is only one hour and fifty minutes long. No, wait. It's twenty-three hours long. No, wait. It's actually both these lengths. One hour and fifty minutes is how long Derek Taylor's speedrun of the game is, and twenty-three hours is how long it took me to finish the game. Neither of these lengths are hugely relevant to how great the game is, but you can be sure that if the developers had felt like they needed to fill the game out to hit 75 HOURS OF GAMEPLAY, very few of us would still be speaking fondly about their work. I think that Resident Evil 4 is probably the best-paced game I've ever played, and that's pretty much down to it only having as much game in it as it needed, and never having had a big syringe full of feed rammed down its throat.
So, Dishonored then. My friends in the industry are raving about this thing. They're telling me about how beautiful and original it is. They tell me that it's a joy to explore this digital place. It's a game that has come from the heart. It's wonderful.
Is it really four hours long? Probably. Dark Souls, that masterpiece, can be smashed through in an hour and a half. That would be like watching Rocky on fast forward. Evil Dead II is about 84 minutes long. 84 minutes of tight, blinding brilliance. You don't even interact with it. You just sit there while it happens in front of you. I've bought it about seven times, different editions, just to partake in that same, non-interactive 84 minutes of joy again and again and again.
We have to stop caring about length and size. We need to focus on what really matters. The weight and impact of the thing. The brilliance of the thing. Forget about the numbers. Because in the end, what really makes a difference is what your heart oh wait that's me at 1000 words I'm done.
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