The Refractory Period

Illustration for article titled The Refractory Period

The other day my co-worker Sander (he used to work at 1up) lamented his complete inability to finish Mass Effect. Likewise, I'm simultaneously interested in finishing Bully and completely uninterested in playing it. We were playing these titles when our Xboxes RRoD'd, Sander's in late January, mine in March. It is now mid-May.

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So here's a question I wanted to put to the gaming community here: How important is momentum to finishing or playing a game? I'm wondering if, in the timeline of developing, we've reached a tipping point. The 50-hour gaming experience is upon us. In sports simulations stretching an entire season, it can be even longer. How, if at all, can a developer create and sustain momentum in players to complete something that long? Because these campaigns are only going to get longer, not that it's necessarily a bad thing.

But for now, the question that we here can answer: Is there a period of time where, separated from gaming (a week's vacation, a borked machine, a ton of work or school obligations) you're just unable to get back into it?

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I know Bash had a TUD on Friday, but I'm curious here, so Tell Us, Dammit! In the comments after the jump.

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DISCUSSION

I think it depends heavily on the game design as to whether or not I'm able to restart a game after a long absence. There's three main factors that I think determine this the most: (1) the complexity of the controls, (2) the complexity of the storyline, and (3) how boring, repetitive, or grinding-filled the gameplay is.

If it's a game that has really complex controls that take some time to learn to use well, or just a game that has a lot of functionality and a slew of different abilities that you have to remember to use on the fly, then I'll tend to ignore it after a short hiatus just because I know how much of a pain it will be to have to re-learn all of that stuff again.

Similarly, if there's a really complex storyline that's integral to what I have to do, I'll tend to forget what's going on pretty quickly when I'm not playing for a while. I'll end up avoiding the game just because I know I'll have to read up on it a bit for be to be satisfied, though I can understand if other people wouldn't have this problem.

If I happened to leave off in a spot that's really boring, repetitive, or full of level grinding, then chances are I'll remember that before I go to play and end up playing something else instead.

I've got a pretty hefty list of games to play right now, and it's only going to get bigger unless I start plugging away at some of them. Let's see here... Zelda: PH, Pokemon Diamond, NMH, Okami, Metroid Prime 3 (probably never going to finish), GTAIV, and in a month, MGS4. Luckily, I'll be finished classes in a few days.