How Fast Should We Play Games?

Lisa Foiles has written a piece for Kotaku suggesting that games should be played slowly. That gamers should experience most or all of what a game has to offer, and burning through a game as quickly as possible is somehow not as good.

It also took me three years to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy – not because I lack the mental competence to read quickly, but because I refused to miss any details and frequently paused to imagine myself in the middle of the action. Tolkien gave me a masterpiece. I wanted to make it last.

I do the same with many video games, spending weeks, even months playing through story and character-driven titles. Hey, I paid good money for these games and the developers spent a lot of time creating these worlds for my enjoyment. I want to get the full experience.

How Fast Should We Play Games?

Obviously, this is a case of different strokes for different folks. If someone likes to play games slowly, then that’s their prerogative. However, I would suggest that almost everybody, except children, should be playing single player games very quickly.

Wait, why not children? Children have nothing better to do. Even if they go to school, they have tons more free time than adults, and no responsibilities. They also have no money. Most children are lucky to have few, if any, video games at all. Pokemon is popular because kids actually have the time to catch them all, as they well should.

Why not multiplayer games? Multi-player games, at least good ones, are basically sports. Unlike a single player game which is a sea of authored content to be unlocked and enjoyed, multi-player games are about competition with other people, not enjoying the scenery. You can play Counter-Strike over and over again with no end, just like you can play Baseball over and over again.

For you adults, why is it good to rush through a single player game as quickly as you can? Why is taking your time and enjoying the scenery not such a good idea?

First of all, the scenery in most games is shit. Take Borderlands for example. The plot missions have all the interesting stuff going on with interesting environments and bad guys. The side missions are boring as all hell. Kill ten skags. Ok, kill these different colored skags. Yeah, they’re all in the same boring desert area where everything is brown. What’s the point? You’re just wasting your time. Just forget your compulsive need to get 100% completion, and only do the good parts of the game.

Someone recently told me a story about how they played Half-Life 2 for the first time,and they found the part with the boat to be interminably boring. I totally understood where they were coming from. The first time I played HL2, I stopped to smell the roses. When I was in that boat I moved very slowly. I killed every bad guy, and tried to find every stash of loot. I did the same then during the driving part. I stopped at every house looking for ammo and health.

Later, when I replayed HL2, I learned my lesson. I didn’t stop. I just put the pedal to the metal, and hauled ass through the vehicle sections as quickly as possible. There is no doubt in my mind that that is how the designers intended for those sections to be played. I mean, you’re trying to save your friends and the world, you better be gunning it! Not only that, but as soon as you start to go fast, the whole area turns into an insanely awesome action movie chase with explosions and jumps galore. If you’ve already played HL2, I suggest loading up the boat section and flooring it to see what I’m talking about. Faster is better.

Lastly, I don’t know about other people, but I don’t have much free time. The vast majority of my time is spend at work, sleeping, and socializing. What little time is left is further reduced by cleaning, running errands, cooking, eating, and generally taking care of life. Oh, and then I spent time on productive side projects like a podcast an such. There’s really not much time for video games in there.

If I were to play a game that took 40 hours to beat, that would eat up all of my video gaming time for months. You might say that’s a really good deal. Sure, if you’re short on cash, then having one game that is fun for a very long time with lots of replay value is good for you. Civilization 5 is coming, that’s the perfect game for you.

The thing is, I have money. I have so many unbeaten, or even unplayed, video games on my plate I can’t even remember them all. That doesn’t even include the insane number of free or cheap indie games that are available on the PC, or old classic games I’ve bought on Steam, or multiplayer games I still need to practice more often. I’ve still got unbeaten and unplayed Wii games, and I can’t even remember the last time I turned on my Wii.

Someone in my situation, and I suspect many gamers are, probably shouldn’t devote all their time to one really long game. If there is a long game you want to play, just burn through to the end as quickly as you can. You’ll experience the best parts of the game and skip by the parts that are not as good or necessary. The benefit is that you’ll be able to play a lot more games.

Yeah, I guess there’s something to be said for slowly reading Tolkien over the course of three years. But seriously, If I don’t want to miss anything, I can re-read it. It’s not going anywhere. I could probably read any Tolkien book in a week. At that rate, I could re-read the entire trilogy probably over 30 times in three years. I think re-reading it 30 times will allow me to remember and experience every detail a lot more than reading it once over the course of three years.

But of course, I wouldn’t re-read the same books 30 times. I would read different books. If someone asks what books you have read, and you’ve only read three in the past three years, that’s pretty sad. If you want to be well read, you need to read many books. Variety is the spice of life.

What’s better, experiencing every single insignificant detail and side quest of some incredibly long JRPG, or experiencing the best parts of maybe twenty games you could have beaten in that same amount of time?

Life is short. There are zillions of video games at this point, not to even count movies, books, comics, shows, plays, and other entertainment media. You only have so much time to enjoy any of them. Make sure when you invest your time into something, that it’s a good one. If it’s not good, just stop. Your time is more important. If it has good and bad parts, just skip the bad parts. Think about what your time is worth to you before you accept that fetch quest.

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