Rampant Games - Want players to finish? Let them quit!
Jay Barnson wades in on an issue peripherally related to game length - Want Players to Finish the Game? Let Them Quit!
There are a lot of important features to an RPG that make the experience really stand out for me. But these days, with my “grown up” schedule, the two most important features for any video game (not just RPG, but I’m focusing on RPGs here) are the following:
1. Make it easy for me to play a short session (~20 minutes. Or less).
2. Make it easy for me to get back to the game after taking a (possibly extended) break.
In other words, make it painless to quit and encouraging to come back to later.
I’m not saying I’ll only play an RPG for 20 minutes at a time – but I have problems starting a game these days that I think I’ll have to commit more time than that in order to get anything out of the play session. Once I get going, sure, I may end up playing for a whole hour or two, but that’s inertia. And taking a hiatus from a game is nothing new to me. I tend to play a lot of games, and even as a kid, I’d often take a break from some of my favorite RPGs to play with something new and shiny, only to come back after a few days / weeks / months and finish the game.
And that’s what it’s really about. I keep hearing game company CEOs talking about how players rarely finish the games, and they really only play for something like 8-15 hours, so why not make 8-15 hour games? The truth is that a lot of gamers – especially RPG fans – love the big ol’ marathon games, too, but we can’t play them like a marathon (anymore) to the exclusion of all other games. But I, for one, am happy to play a larger game in shorter segments over the course of weeks or months, maybe coming back to it after a long break or two. I want games that fit my life, not the other way around, but I do not think that should relegate me to some casual-gaming ghetto.