Gaming Preferences Change Over Time
I think I’m probably not unlike many of my peers in this.
I used to really consider the amount of time I would get out of a game when informing my purchase decision. If all goes well and the game is good, I’d have hours upon hours of enjoyment ahead of me. If, for whatever reason, it was a bad game, I would need to get creative; to find the best thing to do in the game and hope that it provided me with some amount of entertainment. Luckily, I grew up in an era where games media was beginning to flourish. I rarely had instances where my purchasing decisions were the wrong ones. I was also lucky enough to grow up in a time where open world games were really getting good and becoming nearly the default format for games. Games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Minecraft were some of my happiest purchases. Open world games allowed me to let my young mind wander free in a new world that I hadn’t seen before.
The shift came in college. Games in general were put on the back burner. I managed to find myself spending very little time at all gaming, and what time I did have for it, diving into a game like The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption 2 sounded like daunting tasks that I was sure I wouldn’t finish, no matter how much I enjoyed it. Any lull, any dip would lose me.
Now, instead, I find myself struggling through even the shortest of games. Again, not for lack of interest, but for lack of time and for convenience. More consistent and sustained traveling has prevented me from maintaining any significant momentum over the course of time.
I play games for their stories. I always have (with some notable exceptions), so I find it all the more frustrating when I can’t complete the story for any game. If it has a story, my first priority is to get through it.
Now, my priorities in gaming fall into two distinct categories: multiplayer games with friends and story-driven games. And it seems like the rest of the gaming world agrees. Although the landscape of games has only become more broad in recent years, it seems that developers are starting to agree that the biggest map and the most activities outside of the main quest may not be the best way to put a game together. Many modern games blend the elements of linear, story-driven games with semi-open worlds. God of War is a perfect example of this. The map guides the player to each location, but remains undeniably open for exploration. Recent Tomb Raider entries also come to mind when thinking about the blend of linear and open-world. Games like Assassin’s Creed and other open world titles clearly have their place, and they are some of my favorite games to run around in. But it seems that the gaming world is more interested in hearing well-defined, interesting stories than in listening to multiple semi-developed stories. With notable exceptions, the gimmick of multiple endings in a game just for the sake of making it seem like the player has more of a say in the game seems to have been largely eradicated. When done well, it’s accomplished to great effect. But you don’t see very many titles adding it in as a half-baked feature rather than being fully integrated with the development of the game.
Although fun multiplayer games and titles with a great story have typically been my most enjoyable experiences in gaming, a smaller budget and more free time gave me more incentive to lean towards lengthy open-world games. Now, I’m happy to stick to games that tell a great story and that don’t have the filler that many long open world games have.
And with advancements in storytelling in the world of games, these days even titles that are endlessly playable tend to have stories that are more than interesting enough to play through.
The difference here has some clear economics to back it up. I can now buy more shorter games whereas before I could only afford one or two games, but I had much more time to play them. Now, I have the ability to purchase just the games I want to, rather than the games that will give me the most bang for my buck. The only downside being that I feel I don’t have the time to put towards lengthier open world games.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love to dive into some open worlds. But in prioritizing shorter games I’ve found myself able to finish more and get the full story that I’m wishing for. And thanks to game developers, it’s easier than ever to find the games that best suit everyone’s economic situation and time constraints.