How long? How long does it take for you to fulfil your wishes; vindicate your expectations and needs; derive pleasure from it? You have to play for what- half an hour or so (/until the end of time)? It is not something you think of when you get a new game or even try and guess when you’re following the release of one.
The definition of ‘satisfying game session’ varies depending on who you speak to and what it is they want out of it.
There are those for whom gaming is all about the achievements. They sign up for MMOs or ones that have a connected community from a game client, like Steam, or through the games company, as with L.A. Noire. It’s all about “winning” in comparison to your peers via league tables, badges, levelling systems. The sense of achievement in accomplishing a task inflates our esteem and we love it! You feel satisfied when you get to the next stage; you unlock a special gift; you unlock a special badge people can see on your profile; you survive against the odds of numbers (or die less than everyone else on that server)…
Perhaps also this includes puzzle lovers. Clicking the dots in the right pattern; the lines matching up just so; the blocks disappearing; getting all the items of a room; solving the riddle to unlock the next stage in “Alice is Dead”. In the act itself you are vindicated in your need to solve, and resolve, and organise, and tidy, and straighten, and clean, and alphabetize, and your not compulsive at all! It comes down to time and your own body clock.
Maybe there is the right filling of blood and guts- a gore quota- that allows you to proceed with your day.
Or better yet, for you it’s about the plot. Plot driven games will have already predetermined game turns with the aim of being just the right length for player engagement. The same way a writer knows how long the chapters are going to take, how many heart wrenching blows are in each, or whether they’ll be a string of cliff hangers from scene to scene. You can’t decide, and telling you would give the game away (excuse the pun).
And there the point… I knew it was here somewhere. People don’t play games with the need to know. Most of us need such encompassing escapism that any idea of a deadline or window would ruin the experience. Rather than falling into the immersion of another world or distraction we’d worry how long we have left.
For fellow gamers out there, I would like to share a trick I am trying out. I work ridiculous long hours and haven’t properly sat down to play in years. Time freed up recently and I went and bought a slew of games I’d love to try. Should time re-entangle later I may not get round to playing them. And why? Because I never make the time for it.
Some among you may have the opposite problem of never getting stuff done, because there is always a new awesome that was just released.
What I suggest is being aware of satisfaction during the purchasing stage. You look at the new game and assess how long. Not for the whole thing. How long will a satisfying game session take. If you can then guess when you’ll have that kind of time you’ll know when to “crack it out the box”. Also, when to opt for another with the correct session time. You can’t be judged, you can play often, you will still play all the games (whether it means your entire day off or not), and you can still enjoy all the endorphins that come with playtime.
Whether in rounds, stages, deaths, scenes- work out how long it will roughly take.
Tetris- level 10 .’. half an hour. Battle tetris- 3 rounds .’. 10 minutes (includ. loading time).
Oblivion- quest plus travel fuck about time .’. 3 hours. Skyrim- quest plus travel fuck about time (plus random dragons) .’. 6 hours.
Something for the lunch break, waiting for the bus, after work, and on your day off. See what I mean?