As a kid, I spent entire summers with spare hours and disposable days of time with which to plunge my mind into my Super Nintendo or N64. But all this freedom would be split between a small handful of games that had taken me years to acquire; whether through sweating over a lawnmower to slowly earn meagre amounts of cash or relying on annual birthday or Christmas presents. Getting a new game was as rare and sacred an event as the second coming of Christ. Like most of us probably did, I played the same few games so many times that every star in Mario 64, every enemy position in Goldeneye and every one of Ryu’s moves was forever etched into the back of my corneas.
Now things are different. I have a full time job and disposable income – I buy several games a month and get a secret thrill at browsing the shelves of my local game store and knowing I can buy anything I want. My younger self would piss himself with excitement. Ironically, the only obstacle now is the one thing that my younger self had in abundance – time. Between working what feels like all the time, having a girlfriend and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, it’s near impossible to find time for gaming. I’ve even started to get up at 7am at the weekends just to get a few hours in before the day begins, but still it’s not enough.
My shelves are stacked with more unplayed games than a Wii discount basket. It’s worse than Chinese water torture to browse through games I own, but will never get to finish – there’s just too many and not enough time to finish them all. This is why I have become a fan of shorter games. While gamers often feel cheated by a skimpy running time, I secretly rejoice when a game is over in 5 or 6 hours. I still have that compulsion to complete a game from start to finish and every time I look at my game collection, I get a crushing feeling of unfinished business, like a pile of unwashed dishes that I regularly reassure myself I will get to tomorrow or the day after. Don’t even mention Skyrim to me – the dirtiest dish of all.
With irresistible upcomers like Bioshock Infinite, Hitman Absolution and having just bought Halo 4, I know that Red Dead Redemption and Skyward Sword will continue to gather dust that has been settling for too long. So developers – don’t be afraid to offer up a leaner, tighter offering. I was able to finish Journey in an afternoon and rather than leaving me feel cheated, it left me with a wonderful sense of fulfilment – one that is becoming increasingly hard to find in an industry where quantity is too easily mistaken for quality.