While Far Cry 4 is my pick for game of the year, I must confess that I haven’t finished the game. In fact, I’m not even close to the end. There’s just too much stuff to do in the game world, and I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Since the early days of story-driven gaming, we have been conditioned to move forward (or in more cases, rightward), towards the next waypoint or checkpoint to progress the story. Good games have always been more about the journey, not the destination – and that still rings true today. Games like The Last of Us didn’t need any filler to deliver what is arguably the best game of last gen. However, gaming has evolved too, and for many, the road traveled is no longer enough. Now the detours, stopovers, bathroom breaks, truck stops and U-turns in the journey are just as important.
Sometimes it works: I’ve logged a lot of time on Far Cry 4, and yet I still haven’t beaten the game because I’d rather waste time terrorizing those damn honey badgers (they really don’t give a shit), finding random collectibles and journals strewn around the countryside for no apparent reason, or fighting enemies in the arena.
And sometimes it doesn’t: I skipped most of Watch_Dogs’ side activities because they were boring, and they seemed out-of-touch with the main character’s motivation for revenge. You’d think a man hell-bent on revenge would ignore every opportunity to hack into people’s home security cameras, but there it is, in case you wanted to snoop.
This brings me to a bigger question: Are games these days actually too big for us old-timers to finish? Are we being fed too much extraneous stuff to distract us from the meat of the game? And if so, what is the tipping point between a game being just right, and a game being too bloated for its own good?
When considering these questions, I’m brought back to the studio who is responsible for much of this brilliant foolishness: Rockstar Games. Grand Theft Auto V featured three distinct protagonists, each of whom had their own side quests and pointless missions and activities – half of which I probably ended up doing anyway. Go back a little further and you’ll note that they’re also responsible for the wildly addictive Red Dead Redemption. The number of times I caught myself spending way too much time picking flowers or playing cards is pretty embarrassing.
What are your thoughts? Are games too long? And is the length because publishers feel the need to justify the purchase price and appease the demand for a 20-40 hour game? Or are gamers just becoming more demanding about our entertainment?
Final thought: Are all these distractions a reflection of today’s society? Have we all become so addicted to multitasking, and yet also so incapable of prioritizing goals that we encounter failures to launch or failures to land? I know sometimes that’s how I feel…
Meanwhile, I’ll likely just dilly-dally in Kyrat and not finish the game for a while.