the eighty-hour game is a dead end. publishers attempt to justify the prices of their titles with lots of content, and content requires lots of people, and staff size inflates while individual creative control and accountability, conversely, diminishes. and none of this addresses the problem that an eighty-hour game is just an hour’s worth of ideas – if even that (remember, content and ideas are different things) – stretched across a much longer period. an eighty-hour game has seventy-nine hours’ worth of filler. long games waste our time.
the most recent trend in artificially extending the lifetime of a game is the “achievement” (the term with which the concept was popularized – there are others – on the xbox). these are optional, arbitrary goals littered throughout a game in the expectation that players will spend extra time playing just to tick off these boxes on the game’s checklist. it suggests a mentality that views the experience of a game simply as the sum of its parts rather than something holistic – because whatever experience i may be starting to have is interrupted with a message that i’m a quarter-way toward fulfilling my “exchange vacuous glares with one hundred alien lifeforms” quota. but what less to expect from a system that markets a game as containing “80-plus hours of gameplay”?
achievement unlocked is a game the goal of which is just the simple accumulation of these arbitrary goals. there are a hundred. you’ll have unlocked at least two before you even start the game, at which point you’ll unlock four more: one for having started the game, one for having reached the game’s first (and only) screen, one for not having moved yet, and one for having unlocked at least one achievement. the hundred achievments are a combination of the rewarding the obvious (touch five numbers in order), rewarding the arbitrary (touch the developer’s favorite spot), rewarding the investment of time (die on every spike on the screen), and rewarding nothing at all (move left! move right!). all the things that satisfy the compulsive behavior publishers assume we have.
thanks to moogs at selectbutton.