It's tough to play games and not sometimes feel like you're wasting your time. Whether you're grinding for levels or fighting endless waves of random enemies, it can be difficult to reconcile with sections of game that feel like padding.
Writing for Slate, journalist Michael Thomsen takes that notion one step further, critiquing 100-hour epics like Skyrim or Dark Souls for their unwieldy length. While Dark Souls is beautiful and evocative, Thomsen says, players can see all the art it has to offer within "the first five hours." The remainder of that time is just a feeble echo of that experience.
There is something in these efforts that shouldn't be dismissed. The 100-hour game is not a pointless exercise because it's a game, but only because the relative meaning of its experience is almost always diluted into a thin, tasteless nothing by the time you've invested yourself in completing it. Imagine if War and Peace were 5,000 pages instead of 1,400, and imagine if, whenever you came to a word you didn't understand, a gust of wind appeared and pushed you back five pages, forcing you to reread everything you'd made it through up until that point. How long would you last? And what would be the point in trying?
I think Thomsen makes some strong points, although he seems to ignore the idea that different gamers perceive value in different ways. A 45-year-old mother of two whose interest lies in the emotional power of video games might view an 100-hour epic as a nightmarish time-waster, while a teenage boy who has nothing but spare time might see it as a fantastic money-to-time ratio. To some gamers, padding ain't all that bad.