Time Consumption

I have been looking at my /played, and I am not convinced that a MMO has hundreds or thousands of times the enjoyment of Portal or Portal 2. There is a lot more to do, but there is also a lot more of “something to do.”

I am increasingly looking to entertainment that does not have a quota of content to fill. The need to have another episode, another hour of play, another month of subscription fees can be productive, but it also leads to filler. When I read George Martin, I really believe that he needs another 500,000 words to tell his next story arc. He is not fulfilling a contract requirement. When I see a TV show that was written to last 1 or 2 or 3 seasons, I am thrilled, because the creators had a story to tell. When the initial story is over and they are stretching for 100 episodes, maybe they found a great take on “the continuing adventures of…” or maybe they just wanted to get enough for syndication.

Despite this, I know I will continue to spend more time on things that are designed to take up time rather than continuously finding new sources of great, dense content. The world seems basically structured for that, and trying “just one” will consume as much time as twenty entertainment sources that chose to refine rather than bloat. Star Wars: TOR seems to have fallen on both sides of this problem: it is story-based, so it has a finite end point at which players quite; it is an MMO and yet another Star Wars tie-in, so it will “supplement” whatever story it has with bloat like mixing sawdust into sausage. Some cash cows attract quality talent because of their high-profile, high-paying nature, but in terms of getting the best entertainment per hour, we should probably be avoiding established IPs, avoid MMOs, and avoiding sequels.

Unrelatedly, I pre-purchased Guild Wars 2 and got my cousin’s kid the collector’s edition.

: Zubon

9 thoughts on “Time Consumption”

  1. Ugh. I purchased Digi Deluxe, but I really would’a liked to have that Designing Of book.

    Not that I’m complaining.

  2. 2,979 and a half hours over the past 49 months of Guild Wars. Such a great time sink for those of us with no lives. :P

  3. I think it depends on what you think an MMO is for. I came to the conclusion many years ago that, for me at least, playing an MMO doesn’t use up any of the time or interest I have in storytelling or narrative. I still read novels, listen to radio drama and watch movies to scratch that itch.

    The time I spend playing MMOs, which is considerable, replaces all the time I used to spend watching non-narrative television, but also the very considerable time I spent traveling to towns in a 50 mile radius combing through charity shops, junk shops, markets and boot sales for “finds”, as well as the time I spent beachcombing and crafting with what I found.

    MMOs allow me to collect, explore, and craft without leaving the house or spending more than a tiny amount of real money. In that sense, all I require of them is that they are there. They aren’t required to entertain me beyond that. If they do, it’s a bonus.

  4. I think you’re conflating story with game a bit too much. There are many games that people like me enjoy that have no story or pre-set path of things to do. You play them to make your own game within some limits – dwarf fortress, roguelikes, minecraft, etc. The end-game of most MMOs is the in some sense quite similar.

    1. Great point. One of the reasons I love procedural sandbox games is that you usually jump straight into the meat of them. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can play one hour or two hundred, and you’re still playing with the same rules, content, and game logic.

      To me, the most interesting narrative in a game is the one told through the interaction of free player choice and game logic. If the developer injects logically shallow or simplistic scripted patterns (be they QTEs, quests, leveling curves, rigid characters, or epic stories), I immediately feel it as an impediment to free choice and interaction with the game.

      Not saying highly choreographed games like Mass Effect shouldn’t exist, they’re just not my thing.

  5. Great post, Zubon.

    Having many more avocations than free time or organizational skills, I have been acutely aware of how much time MMOs consume. It’s the main reason I’m not playing any at the moment, and am not likely to start soon (no GW2 pre-purchase; I’m not convinced it’s actually what I want in a game right now).

    In the last year especially, I have developed an increasing respect and desire for well-trimmed projects, be they games which let me get right to the good stuff (AI War and DOTA2 have absorbed much of my time of late, both of which replace unlock grinds and filler with immense strategic depth), tightly written novels (M. John Harrison’s Light being my favorite recently read example), or short and sweet albums (Giant Squid’s Cenotes).

    Sadly, while I think it is very possible to offer an MMO-like experience in games while still respecting the player’s time and intellect, it will likely take a very committed indie developer to bring such a game to market. I fear publishers are too stuck on the idea of time sinks to encourage cash shop transactions at the moment.

  6. I like gourmet food, and I like comfort food. Same goes with entertainment. So many people I know have “comfort food” entertainment.

    For me it is MMOs. I am currently playing through Shadow of the Colossus again (this time on PS3) which I would consider dense, gourmet content. It can be tiring, it is so intense. I’ve also noticed that my wife and I tire out of watching seasons of our favorite shows if we overindulge. On the other hand we could have FoodTV or HGTV on all day.

    So yes, it “passes the time” but it lets us do so comfortably.

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