Tag Archives: pacing

The Length of Games and the Frailty of Memory

Recently, GameSetWatch linked to an article at You Are Lose! asking if a long game can tell an engaging story:

When RPGs or strategy games stretch into the dozens of hours, played over many weeks or months, how am I to be expected to recall something that happened in the beginning of the game?

The longer a game, the more likely I am to put it down for a lengthy time and forget major details about it. This is a major detriment, I think, to games’ ability to tell a story.

The author, Korey, makes a certain amount of sense. As he points out, many games will present information in the opening cutscene that’s not referred to again until hours later. In the middle, there’s a whole lot of content going on. However, I think that when interactive narrative is handled properly, works of equivalent scope need to be longer than their non-interactive equivalents. Let’s look at Valve’s Portal first.

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Freedom Done Wrong

Jim Sterling over at Destructoid wrote a post the other day claiming that linear games provide pacing and structure that nonlinear “sandbox” games do not:

Indeed, if every game was a huge open world, you would soon find yourself growing bored, or at least overwhelmed as you struggle to find time in the day to explore sandbox after sandbox. After hours spent in the hustle and bustle of Liberty City or Tamriel, a game with clearer focus and a set beginning, middle and end can be just what the doctor ordered, providing some experiences that total freedom just can’t manage.

Sterling’s got a point: open games that allow for actual player agency over the path of the plot do tend to have inferior pacing and emotional impact when compared to games with a linear plot. However, Sterling falls into a common trap when it comes to game design: just because they tend to be inferior doesn’t mean they can’t manage to provide that pacing. Game designers just don’t pay enough attention to it. More after the jump.

Continue reading Freedom Done Wrong