Games: Long or Short?

Like every other day I find myself asking what is the value of a game? My normal thought process says, ‘If I’m earning $10 an hour, and the game costs $20, did I play for more than 2 hours?’ If the answer to that questions is yes, then the game was totally worth it. But lately, I’ve been thinking that is a pretty horrible metric.

For instance, I’ve been playing this little flash game called Wonder Bounce the past couple days. I have beaten the game countless times and can now beat it in just a few minutes without wanting to pull my hair out. I didn’t have to shell out a single penny for this gem, but there she is, being an awesome game with lots of value with only 5 minutes of gameplay. At this point I wouldn’t think twice about donating to Darthlupi for his creation. Does a game have to be 20+ hours of gameplay to be worth your money? For me, I’m not sure that’s really the case anymore.

So the question I have for everyone is:

How do you determine if a game is worth it’s cost in cold hard cash, and what game has recently persuaded you to pull out your wallet?

18 replies
  1. Weasel says:

    That’s a very good question actually, and I haven’t really thought about that before.

    Nowadays, obviously, with the economy the way it is, picking and choosing the games that you want to buy is important for your wallet. Most of the time, the amount of gameplay is an important factor, and in most console and PC games, having a multiplayer feature is also a big factor. If I’m only going to play the game once and then never pick it up again, it’s usually not worth my money.

    But at the same time, there are some games, such as Portal or Auditorium, which don’t have a whole ton of gameplay, but are unique enough to be completely worth a purchase. Innovation also plays a big part, as I’m one of the few who picked up Mirror’s Edge, even though it was not highly rated and did not have a huge variety of gameplay.

    It’s a very good question! Thanks for asking! 🙂

  2. djRom says:

    So I just played Wonder Bounce for the first time. It’s a fun game, that could probably be programmed for the iphone and easily make .99 cents a download.

    To answer the question, for me it isn’t about single player at all. I hate playing games by myself, and avoid it at all costs. I won’t even give a game a try if it doesn’t have multi-player. But what it really comes down to is replay value! I can’t tell you how many hours we played CoD4, just because it was so much fun. The achievements just added the fun and challenge of the feeling of playing something bigger than just one match.

    Adding a deathmatch and capture the flag mode, doesn’t really add replay value as so many games have done this. Coming up with interesting ways to reinvent them is also a great way to add replay value to a specific game to get you to buy it.

    Swat 4 is a great example, just by adding non-lethal weapons and handcuffs, you completely change the dynamic of standard team deathmatch.

  3. Jimgee says:

    If it entertains me I cough up the bucks. A few minutes of mental freedom is precious. Hours? Nice, however, not necessary. The reason you game is my very favorite is because I can go at it for a few minutes and get lost in it for hours if I chose to. You have set a high bar for game value! tks…

  4. Lakeshore | says:

    That’s a question I’m always asking myself when reviewing iPhone games. There are games which last only a few minutes, for a single game session but also as a total, because they get boring fast. But, wtf, they only cost 79 Cents!? Even for 79 Cents I get some fun out of these. And if I delete them after an hour, that’s ok. But “ok” is not a good feeling. I like to have good feelings about the games I play. I want to look at the icon and think “yeah, cool game”, I want to think back, looking at the great times I had with these games, like I look back to my childhood and see Jill of the Jungle or Death Rally and Privateer. The 79 Cents games obviously don’t touch this. There are exceptions, but most of them are just too small and too short. You realize this, when you start getting bored and one tiny thought jumps into your head and looks at you: “Isn’t that game a pure waste of time?”…

    On the other side are games like Pinball Fantasies, Zenonia and geoDefense, where you spent hours with. They make fun, they are hard, you can play them for minutes or hour, everything works. And you have a good feeling for them. They are rewarding that you play them. You don’t just spent time, but you improve skills, you get better, and the game gets even harder.

    But iPhone games overall are cheap. You spent 8 Euros – and this is the highest price point. So most times I just give the game a try and buy it. On a console, where I have to pay 60 Euros for a game, this is completely different. In fact, I only bought three games for my XBox 360: Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Metallica. I also bought the Premium Drum kit for Rock Band. And I bought the XBox just for these games. But I don’t have that much time left for gaming at home, so I don’t buy other games for this console.

    My real gaming console is my iPhone.

  5. will
    will says:

    These are great responses so far! I think as a whole, multiplayer games may even need to be a separate category when talking about worth. Games you play with yourself vs with others seem like they would have a different personal value. Multiplayer games really help a person enjoy and participate with someone while single player games can serve as an arena for self-reflection, escape, and other needs/emotions. What defines worth in a multiplayer scenario? Could it be replayability, the connection your play group shares while playing, or is it something else entirely?

    Jimgee you are indeed right, just a few moments of mental freedom is precious! I couldn’t have said it better myself. One could easily argue game worth alone be based on the feeling a game/experience provides for you, rather than the length in which the feeling is provided.

    I also find it very interesting that Lakeshore’s iPhone is his/her main gaming system these days. Different platforms surely present different values that would effect a games “worth”. I would find it hard to consider the iPhone as my platform of choice, because it’s almost too convenient that I feel like my mobile games are just not as special anymore.

  6. Lakeshore | says:

    Do you need to feel special to have fun?

    I must of course say, that there are games which fit better to bigger screens. Pinball Fantasies makes more fun on my 24″-iMac and friends of myself play RTS games on the big lcd in full HD. They make jokes about the screen of my iPhone. But the 42 inch lcd fits rather rarely into my pocket…

  7. Jacob says:

    I typically consider the “perfect game” to be one that I will continue to find fun and continue to play for, well, ever.

    Have I ever found a “perfect game,” you ask?

    Well, I don’t know. I’ve found some that have been fun for a couple years (like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Bros., etc.). And I guess I’ll never really know, since I don’t plan on living forever.

    But I hope you get my point that I see a game’s fun factor duration to be one of the major points in deciding whether to get a game or not.

  8. Karl says:

    I’ve been an active boardgamer, wargamer, and RPGer for more than 30 years, long before we really had any computer games. And I’ve always used this formula to determine what’s the value of a game, and it seems to work for both board and computer games. I take the current cost of going to the movies (fully weighted: Popcorn, drinks, whatever) and work that out to an hourly rate (about $10 an hour right now). The I compare that to the amount of time I ENJOYED myself. This is obviously the most subjective part of the metric, but it works. If you worked through a tutorial and that was work and not fun, then i don’t count that. But an enjoyable tutorial that walks you through the game would count. Don’t count the boring, uninteresting, un-challenging moments.

    For example, in boardgames (where you often are waiting for other people to take their turns) you can only count the times you were playing. In those moments, how many of them were you entertained? Say four players play a game for two hours, you were personally probably only playing for 30 minutes. Were you having fun for ALL 30 of those minutes? Say you were only having fun for half that time, That works out to 15 minutes of entertainment for 2 hours of play. So, for a $50 game you need to end up playing it at least 40 hours (in your lifetime) to get a net zero value of cost to fun. When considering whether to buy that game, you now have to think “will I get together with my friends and play this game that much?”

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  10. Carpe says:

    I have been finding myself buying indie games more and more often lately. Why do you ask? Because I find that too many large game studios have gobbled up most of the developers that show good potential, just to turn around and use corporate management to stifle innovation and creativity. Too often I see a game that uses the same old ways of doing things, and I really really value something fun, original, and creative, paired with good gameplay. I will be buying the no less than 3 games this weekend from small developers, because they are the people I want to succeed and make something else for me later. As a person who prides myself for being able to think like a developer, and one who has dabbled in game creation, (my strong point being level design for FPS’s), there are far too few game creators, developers, and publishers who think outside the box.

  11. Jon T says:

    I kind of agree with Carpe. When I was younger, I loved gaming. But after a while, all the games just became rehashes of old games, and that got really old really fast. I don’t even own a modern console anymore. In the past 5 years, the only games I have paid for are Auditorium and World of Goo. Portal and Echochrome were others that I enjoyed.

    As a developer, these are the kinds of games that are inspiring to me. But also, I enjoy them because they are challenging and thought-provoking. So many games start out with a 3D world that tries to mimic reality. If I wanted reality, I wouldn’t be playing a game. Games, like mathematics or painting, can be the medium where we ask questions like, “what if reality were different?”

    That said, I did enjoy Rock Band for the social aspect of it. That’s the kind of thing that is universal — non-gamers will pick that up without a 2nd thought. Wii Sports and Wii Fit have entire families playing together. Anything that can bring people together like that is something special.

  12. George W. says:


    “For example, in boardgames (where you often are waiting for other people to take their turns) you can only count the times you were playing.”

    I disagree. There is nothing to say that a board game can’t be fun during other peoples turns. Risk, for example, is (at least for me), still ‘fun’ during other peoples turns. There is talking, laughing, horror at the number of reinforcements other people are getting.

    To quote Will: “Multiplayer games [can] really help a person enjoy and participate”

    To only count the time you are playing is not neccessarily representative of the amount of fun you’ve had.

    Having said that, the idea of comparing it to the amount of fun you’ve had, as opposed to time spent playing is a good idea.

    Personally, I like to have played a game before I buy it. Mainly because this is normally at a friends, and therefore means I will be able to play multiplayer with them.

    Is it worth it? Some form of satisfaction at the end of it is usually a good sign that its been worth the money.

  13. wasim says:

    Why not both?

    Certain games have appeal because you can sit down and play them for hours on end or pick up and play. Putting aside adventure games and the like, puzzle games are a good example of this. It is tricky to have something which fulfils this criteria.

    Wipeout HD for example, in terms of gameplay is not a long game. However, the challenge to unlock trophies, online mode and perfecting your skills is not taken into account. You can have a quick session or spend time in Campaign or Racebox.

    The DS, for example, is good for portable gaming but I’d rather sit down and enjoy playing games. Metroid Fusion and Golden Sun are two amazing GBA games which I enjoyed playing like I would a console title. I find that games, short or long, are best enjoyed if you are in an environment you can relax in rather than being on the train or whatever. The surrounding atmosphere can have an impact on your enjoyment of a game.

    In general, games need to be engaging and this includes sequels. A sequel doesn’t mean you are limited in your creativity. Flower on the PSN is a short game, gameplay wise, and it’s value for money is questionable. This is not important because it is so creative and is something unique and it is something you can come back to. A short but amazing game is always preferred to 40+ of mediocre gameplay.

    I think demos are helping because they allow people to try something new and they may not rely solely on a review. Good games will be talked about and even if it may not be a mainstream hit, much like movies, it will still be remembered and always have a loyal fanbase.

    It’s like having a book, 300 pages plus, but you get bored or you muddle through it. It was ‘alright’ and you managed to get some enjoyment out of it. On the other hand, you can have a short story which takes you to another world and is one of the best things you will have read. You don’t read a book just for the number of pages it has or because it will take twice as long to read than another book, that would be silly 😛

  14. Tobi says:

    I see myself having 2 options:

    A: I buy a game I know i play for many many hours. for the most part this are online-multiplayer games like battlefield2, diablo2, quake3, demigod etc.

    B: a game, which has an amazing amount of creativity and therfore gives me an experience i´ve not seen in any other game so far. here i dont need to play 20+ hours 🙂

  15. Skatlan says:

    I’m a french newcomer, lol ^^ (ok, not really, I know auditorium for three years)

    For my part, I dont judge, I just give my point of view, hope it could help : “paying” is not a question of time, fun, creativity, replayability, multiplayer, or any stuff than can be put in those kind of “categorized words”.
    I pay for what I want to be left of humanity, if someday we should fall for whatever reason.

    I dont pay for some games I played for thousand hours, or movies I see a hundred time, even if it brings me more fun and pleasure, mostly.
    But some games, music, movies, or people, whatever… things that make me feel like… like it “counts” for something, like it’s worth… I dont know, worth the fact I pay for that, to help people being it understand they do something great, that bring humanity forward.

    Yeah, I know, it’s kind of stupid, linking cold hard cash with that, but I dont care, I know money can be just a pain reliever in those days, so… if it could help.

    Let’s just figure a world like the politics want us to believe in, where a single “downloading pirates of the web” can bring down huge society and organisation. What do you want to survive, if everything must crush down, even you ?
    Auditorium, or the last “call of duty” ?
    I dont even call it a “question”, it’s purely rethoric 😉

  16. benniberlin says:

    What is fun?

    it is very subjective – the good thing is: lots of subjets do have lots of desires in common.
    What keeps me in an game? Challenge, growing skills, variety, competition (even with myself,…)
    What frustrates me? if i am stucked and can not find be any means a solution. (like within those games where it tells you that you have achieved 98% and you can not – NOT – find the missing 2%)
    What trickles me? Easy start (so not long preloading of whatsoever)
    How do i measure the value? developer skills. Give me a demo to judge.

    In fact: I liked auditorium a lot (would say that also on other sites). Unplayed Multi-Sense- Experience. Wow!
    Why did i stopped? If you had “all” levels (almost), then whats the news in playing again.


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