Fifteen Minutes of Game

Today's post is a look into my own playing habits and why I am unaffected by the lure of MMOs.

If you ever attended any talks on breaking into the games industry, you may have heard the concept of the "elevator pitch", where novices are asked to distill their game ideas down to 15 seconds, or an average ride in an elevator. The purposes of this are to help designers’ fine tune and condense their game ideas, as well as focus their thoughts on the best elements of their games.

Taking this concept further, I've noticed something about my play-style recently. A game has about 15 minutes for me to get into it, or the chance of me finishing the game is lessen. The reason is that if I run into something that is either bad design, or annoys me that early into the game, that means I'm going to be dealing with it for the remainder of my time.

That doesn't mean that I should be completely enthralled by the game, just that nothing should be bugging me within the first 15 minutes. In most cases, you can see any UI issues, design flaws and technical problems early. If I run into a situation where I do get annoyed, such as with The Witcher 2, then I usually play the game until I see enough. Even though The Witcher 2 was on my must play list for some time, because of the issues I had with the UI and combat, I stopped playing after starting chapter 2.A more recent example of this would be with Fallout: New Vegas, I was annoyed early on with the design (a discussion I'll save for another time,) and after a few hours of playing I had enough.

I find that if I do run into issues further into the game, I'm more likely to push through them to finish, such as when I got stuck playing Catherine but eventually got through it to beat the game. I think part of my response has to do with my analytical nature. All the analysis and design entries I've written have made me very critical on design. Barring any final stage design changes, I don't need to play an entire game to see what it has to offer. I seem to go through game content like a lawnmower chopping up grass, if I spend too long on just one game I get bored; in one day, I will play anywhere from 3 to 5 different games.

Because of this mentality, whenever someone asks “if you were stuck on a deserted island with just one game, what would it be?" I couldn't answer that. The thought of just playing one game, even one of my favorites for a long time would drive me crazy. This kind of thinking also leaves me as having the completely wrong mindset for MMO games. I can never feel like I'm getting my money's worth with subscription based MMOs as I might play 30 minutes to an hour a day, and then skip several days when I start to get bored.

These days, it's becoming rare for me to finish games as I find myself playing enough to get all the information out of the game then moving on. On one hand, with each new game I play, I get more knowledge that helps me with my analysis and design. Still, it would look from the outside that I don't enjoy these games as I don't finish them. I do enjoy the games I played, but I digest content a lot quicker than most people. Another thing that helps is that I've gotten pretty good at playing games and it is rare that I get completely stumped in a game.

One last thing about my play-style is that I like to come back to games after enough time has passed so that I can experience it fresh again. Games like Shadow of the Colossus or Killer 7, which aren't known for their replay-ability, I have played several times over the last few years.

While I doubt that everyone also follows the same play style, there is still some knowledge here. As a designer, look at how newcomers play your game for the first time. Being new, they will have the freshest eyes on if there are any problems with the UI or understanding the design. While not everyone is going to finish your game, you can at least make sure that they will be satisfied a little longer.

Josh Bycer

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