How do you value a game?
This is the question that has dominated my thoughts of late. For you see, when ruminating over what to write as a column this week, I decided upon noting my favoured games of 2013 thus far. However, this list basically consisted of Bioshock Infinite and nothing more, which is a little disappointing.
Not to say there hasn’t been any good games yet so far. The likes of Injustice, State of Decay, The Last of Us have all been well-received, and yet I cast my eye over the release lists for 2013 and was less than excited. The truth is, I haven’t really been pushing my efforts in gaming of late mainly due to doing so in dribs and drabs, but also because of money.
Now, yes, this is something I have moaned about last week, but this time there is a different focus. Someone I know was recommending The Last of Us to me. They were feverish in it’s many virtues, and that it was a deserved Game of the Year contender. They commended it’s story, it’s gameplay and new, fresh spin on the whole zombie genre. Basically, they were pushing me toward Game with cash in hand and the first step in this brilliant title.
But then they said something that made me wary: “it’s the best 15 hours I’ve ever played.”
15 hours. 15 hours for a £40 title. Now, admittedly, they conceded that it had massive replay value and a very engaging multiplayer, but that 15 hours made me less likely to want to buy it. It bought together memories of playing Batman: Arkham City, a solid sequel to a very good game, and finishing it in under a week. Luckily, I had only rented it for a quick perusal, then found that perusal was all I needed to enjoy it. I was glad I hadn’t bought it, for fear it would then sit dormant on my shelf.
So for me, 15 hours does not justify a purchase. I want value for my money, bang for my buck. I remember buying Dante’s Inferno, another great little hack-and-slash game, and completing it in 6 and a half hours. That worked out at a shade over £6 an hour of gameplay, which is a little steep. Especially in comparison to open-world titles like Fallout and Saints Row, which gave 30 hours plus enjoyment and spectacle. Even games like Dead Island, or my recently re-discovered joy Burnout Paradise, give a lot for what seems very little.
I will admit, that some games can give an extension of life through the Moral Choice system, or even DLC. Borderlands and Dishonored come to mind as titles which live longer thanks to experiencing the game in a different way, or adding hours via additional stories/chapters. Hell, even my loathing toward the Call of Duty franchise has to tip it’s cap in this regard. Yes, it’s Single Player is very short, but the focus on Multi and the fanbase it has birthed, means a CoD game can last years.
(Of course, annual releases cannot allow such a thing, despite the abundance of DLC maps and such.)
So, for a game to appeal to me these days, there has to be more than a short story campaign. As I am not a multiplayer kinda guy, that means a very long, or very varied, story. Otherwise, I do not feel willing to part with my cash. Maybe that is why games like SimCity or Champ Manager appeal, not because of their quality but because of the giant openness they provide.
Either way, the upcoming season hopefully should have some meatier titles, as this year so far has been a bit lean for my tastes.
(PS: quick note from me, Oli J. My first collection of short stories, Filmic Cuts 1: Sunshine and Lollipops, is now available in paperback. Buy it, so I can actually afford writing any more articles like this one moaning about money…)