How Fast Should We Play Games?

My obsessive-compulsive tics suggest less of a "personality" disorder and more of a "She's probably just crazy" disorder.

I systematically eat fries and small candies two at a time as if programmed from birth, regularly disinfect my DS despite being the only who uses it, and, about every two minutes, check to make sure no one is behind me.


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.

Similarly, hunting down all of the logs in Bioshock, Dead Space, and Batman: Arkham Asylum not only extends gameplay, but provides a much more extensive understanding of these virtual worlds and the characters inhabiting them. Same with the interoffice messages in F.E.A.R., the funny scribbles on the walls in Left4Dead, and the manuscript pages in Alan Wake.


However, many GameStop customers I encountered during my time as a retail register monkey did not feel the same way. I remember one guy buying Shadow of the Colossus off my recommendation, then returning it six hours later saying, "It was okay I guess, but way too short." My boss stepped in after I accused the customer of probably watching Memento with the sound off.

Obviously you can't instruct people on how to enjoy art. Everyone sees it differently. But with many of today's video games proving to be incredible storytelling vessels, how much of our time should we give them?


Many games contain hidden story information that takes time to be sought out. That's evident in Borderlands. "The most interesting story in the game, to me, was the Patricia Tannis logs," Borderlands' creative director with great hair, Mikey Neumann, when I asked about his game's best-kept secrets, the stuff that made the game worth taking in a little more slowly. "From the moment she steals a dead man's more-comfortable chair to the death of Chimay and onward to her break up and reconciliation with the tape recorder, she told a great story on the edges of a totally crazy game. Then the level designers went off and hid all the echo recordings really well. Bastards."


Even waiting through ending credits often rewards patient players with epilogue scenes. Ico is one example of having post-credits content that fills a pretty important plot hole.

Despite all of the extras and side-quests provided in many titles, some people still speed through them. Is this the result of impatient gamers in an instant-gratification world or the fault of developers for not making games on which people want to spend time?


Perhaps some of it is due to developers becoming victims of their own creativity. The more you offer a gamer, the more they're going to expect.

For the most part, games on early consoles were more focused on challenging the player's dexterity as opposed to telling a story, i.e. Contra, Mega Man, and Battletoads. The goal was to get from beginning to end swiftly and skillfully while racking up as many points as possible. Players rarely cared about game length, because length wasn't figured into quality – if it was a good game, it was a good game. If it was bad, it was bad. You never hear anyone complain that Super Mario Bros. 3 was too short.


It's a different mindset to consider yourself responsible not only for skill, but for everything your character does. In the Uncharted series, story practically takes precedence over gameplay, giving us the perfect example of a video game rivaling a motion picture. This further proves that games are no longer simply about creating a challenge; they're about creating a whole new, immersive universe. This transition from simple to expansive should alter the way we play – it's the difference of seeing your game as a toy and seeing it as a piece of fiction you can get lost in.


I always joke that true gamers see on their map where they're supposed to go, and then go the opposite way. Be it RPG, FPS, RTS, or any other genre, attention to detail and a desire to absorb everything a game has to offer is a commendable mentality – not to mention a great way to get the most bang for your buck.

Two of my favorite achievements/trophies of all time are from Prince of Persia 4 for locating the Assassin and Titanic viewpoints. These awards are not given for skill, but for simply taking time to gaze upon the breathtaking scenery. I consider this a great reminder that no matter how good or bad the game, I should always take time to stop and smell the virtual roses.


Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.

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