We recently got the surprise launch of Hi-Fi Rush, a stylish action driving game from Tango Gameworks. So far, people seem to love it, and it even beat January’s big hit forspoken in its launch week.
There is one criticism of Hi-Fi Rush floating around the Internet, however, and it has to do with the game’s length. There are those who say that six hours is just too short, and while in a way this is sort of a compliment because it shows that people want more Hi-Fi Rush, it raises the question of how long should games be?
Well, there is actually a simple answer to this question. A game should be as long as the developers want it to be. However, people would still complain about games being too long or too short, with problems usually leaning toward the latter. So presumably the question then becomes centered around whether there is an ideal length for a video game.
Now, of course, we can’t just blurt out random numbers and make them fit every title. Skyrim, for example, isn’t going to fit in ten hours, and you could theoretically spend a lifetime on multiplayer games. But there are ways to tell if a game is really too short, and these come down to judging it from a monetary perspective and a narrative perspective.
Handling money first, now more than ever people want to get value for money in a video game. As titles now reach the $80 mark, you will be more than a little irritated if you can only spend about ten hours playing a game.
There is the old method of ideal lengths that give you about an hour for every pound, dollar or euro you spend, but that doesn’t really work anymore because some games pride themselves on giving you as many hours as you want as long as you are motivated to keep exploring, while others like to give you a certain amount of time. A good example of this is to compare God of War: Ragnarok and Elden Ring, the former of which takes about 50 hours to do absolutely everything in, while the latter can offer double that without even beating your first run.
And yet both games were big contenders for the 2022 Game of the Year awards. So in fact, maybe we should move away from getting our value out of our games with the hours we spend. Instead, we may soon be talking about whether a game is worth the money from the experience it gives. Of course time is a factor in that, but as many great games have shown, you don’t need hours to feel like a title was good.
Now of course there are outliers here that are rightly criticized for having significantly short experiences, but the same can be said for overly long games, which erode themselves so that developers and publishers can boast about 100-hour titles.
In terms of story, we can see similar effects, as if a game is going to purely figure itself out, this does have a negative effect on the story as a whole. Instead, if a game wants to go for that cinematic atmosphere, it’s fine to not keep it going for hours, so there are fewer people online complaining about how they didn’t get value for money.
There are games that strike a balance between having an epic scale with a strong narrative core, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but it doesn’t hurt that a game doesn’t set out to combine those elements just to squeeze a few more precious minutes out of you.
Essentially, games and length is not really a debate people should have. Prices are an issue for many because you want to feel like you’re getting value for your money, but value doesn’t just come in the form of hours spent as mentioned. If developers start worrying about being able to brag about how many hours you can spend, there is a real risk that we will lose snappy, quality titles like Hi-Fi Rush and forever be exposed to overly padded worlds filled with nothing worthwhile.