Scarface. 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?