Replay Value is Overrated

Posted on Jun 1 2013 - 9:00am by Thomas Rivas

replay value 300x224 Replay Value is OverratedScarface. The Godfather. Schindler’s List. Shawshank Redemption. Platoon. What the hell do these movies have to do with video games? Absolutely nothing in the literal sense but more than you think. Although these titles are widely considered to be classics of the film industry, they’re probably sitting somewhere in your room collecting dust with your 3 Doors Down albums. And that’s okay (well, not the 3 Doors Down part).  Many of us are guilty of springing for the expensive Blu-ray collector’s editions only to end up watching them on days we get dumped or quit our job. Despite this, you’ll never hear, “Man, that Schindler’s List was a good movie but I’ll give it a 6.5 because there’s just no replay value.”  That’s because we’ve built an understanding relationship with movies – one that unfortunately has yet to carry over to the gaming world.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as online multiplayer. You blew into a cartridge, jiggled it around until your system read it and played a game until you beat it or hit your frustration limit and saved it for later. Whether it took you 3 hours or 3 days to complete, there was a sense of accomplishment and never a complaint about how long it took.  You beat it… so that was that, right?  Hell no. It may not have been in the days after or the weeks after or even the months after but at some point you remembered how fun it was and decided to play it all over again.

Pretty crazy, huh?

Now, if the single-player mode runs under 10 hours and there’s no multiplayer feature, many will grumble about whether the title lived up to its price tag. “Why spend 60 bucks on a game if I’m just going to blow through it in a day or two?” To that I say: If you’re playing a game just to beat it, then you’re playing it for all the wrong reasons. No one spends 90 bucks to get into Disney World and then complains that it only took 6 hours to walk around it. You’re paying for an experience when you purchase a game. One that hundreds of people worked on to bring together. While it’s completely understandable to dislike a game for its lack of entertainment value, questioning its worth solely on length disrespects all their efforts.

And respect is what I think it boils down to ultimately. Gamers have been so spoiled by online death matches and downloadable content that they no longer respect the value of titles that lack both. Sometimes it’s okay to play a game only once or twice. That doesn’t make it a bad game – it makes it a game you only played once or twice. But when certain magazines have a space in their reviews for replay value, it’s only natural for readers to adopt the same mindset. What hope does the gaming industry have of earning respect when its own fans provide none?

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Born in the Bronx and raised in Miami, Thomas Rivas has lived in almost every state at some point, so he’s decided to finally hang his hat where it all started. He’s a pretty big fan of comic book lore and some sci-fi, but anything with a great story catches his attention.

  • http://wingdamage.com mainfinger

    Glad to hear more people sharing this viewpoint! Having just finished Vanquish in 6 hours and debating whether it might be my GOTY, this article feels especially timely :)

  • Terry

    Yeah, having spent way too long playing Silent Hill 4, I say game length has noting to do with game quality. In fact, if you ask me, a shorter game is more likely to get multiple plays than a long one. Just think of all the people who play and finish Super Metroid once a month!

  • http://www.the-other-view.com Valkor

    I find it funny when people complain about replay value because of no online multiplayer or no DLC, like that actually makes the game – and it doesn’t! It’s the oevrall experience you get from it that makes you want to leap back in. Streets of Rage 2 is my all time favorite game and I’ll blaze through it again in a heartbeat just because I enjoy playing it that much. If we wanna talk more modern, I’m big on Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance. If I can play a game 20 times over “just because…” then a) I got my money’s worth and b) everyone who worked on that game did a hell of a good job. If you need to download more stuff to make that game enjoyable, or you think multiplayer will complete the picture than your missing out. Not every game needs DLC and not every game needs multiplayer. Just enjoy it for the experience no matter how long or short it is.

    Great article dude

  • http://www.2d-x.com Jeffrey L. Wilson

    Say the term “replay value”. Say it again. Isn’t it drenched in buzzword talk? I swear, this is not a term that fans came up with–it had to come form some tool at a gaming magazine that wanted to differentiate his publication’s reviews from the next, and then it took off from there to become (sadly) a vital part of the review process.

    The term and application is BS. If Super Mario Bros. was released now, or Contra, Turtles in Time, or a million and one other classics, they would be dinged for not offering enough replay value.

    Punch-Out!! would have zero replay value. Because, you know, beat the game and having fun doing so is clearly not enough.

  • http://wingdamage.com mainfinger

    @Jeff
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard an argument on the subject that makes as much sense as the one you just made.

  • Anzeh

    Comparing movies to interactive GAMES is instant douchébag-of-the-year staple.

    Replay value is important. Sure, it’s not *as* important as the companies behind the market today make believe, but it still is important. It was there in the first Fallout, and stuck around till New Vegas.

    Players want freedom to create what they want and see what happens if they do a full reverse on every choice they took.

    The lot of you almost give a new meaning to the phrase: Ignorance is Bliss.

    • Thomas Rivas

      You make a really good point about comparing movies to games. I never really saw it that way but I’m glad you spelled out your examples so clearly. I guess I am just the douchebag of the year. As for your comment regarding importance, the article says “Replay Value is Overrated” not “Replay value isn’t important.” The value will be different for everyone but the point was that games have to go through too many hoops these days to be considered “good” – replay value being one of them. Games like Mass Effect provide gamers with the freedoms you speak of but you won’t find multiplayer options for that title. While I loved both Mass Effect titles, I would never go back and play them again because the main story was told for me and I had no interest in choosing a different path. So the game has no “replay value” for me but that doesn’t make me appreciate it any less. Nowhere in the article does it say that replay value is unimportant. The message is that too much importance is placed on it. You should read things a little more carefully before throwing out the word “ignorance.” Otherwise you become a victim of your own argument.

      • Chuck

        LOL, BURN!

  • Anzeh

    Forgot to note that multiplayer _sells_. It’s one of the only effective ways to deal with pirating. Check out Amnesia. Zero replay value, yet got a good score, an excellent score if you take in mind that it’s developed by an indie-studio. It got pirate-buttseksed hard, though, because of the lack of multiplayer and lack of replayability.

  • b

    For me, the term replay value is any game that would I would enjoy playing again, and these days, the games would tend be stuff like Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto, etc. I would even consider Vanquish having high replay value as it offers challenges to complete. But now it seems connote 20 hours or multiplayer. There’s also a big difference from present day games to the ones in the past, with the ones in the past being a lot more simplistic and easier to get into each time and games now are more complex.

    I’m not a big fan of the argument regarding video games compared to theme parks and movies. At the moment, I don’t think I’ve played a game that offered such a compelling experience that I would easily say, “$60 well spent”. For me, a theme park and movie with friends would have me say, “Wow, I am so glad I went here” compared to games where I would say, “Wow, I am so glad I tried this. I can’t wait for the next!” This is just me though…

  • http://wingdamage.com mainfinger

    I think one of the ultimate problems with “Replay Value” is that it isn’t as easy to define as it seems. As stated earlier, Vanquish is both linear and short, yet I want to play it again and again. Mass Effect 2 had lots of choices making people say it has “lots of replay value” yet, while I did really enjoy it, I don’t want to play through it again.

    People try to set up rules for replay value and attribute scores to those rules, but ultimately only an individual can decide whether they really want to play a game more than once.