Thoughts on game lengths, hours and stuff

As far as I remember, I’ve never really paid attention to how many hours of gameplay certain games have. I’ve always read from reviews if the game is long or short. Recently, buddy of mine described that Skyrim is epic game with huge amount of content and places to explore. This was enough for me to describe the fact that Skyrim can provide hours of gameplay. I don’t know if it’s 10 or 20 or 152 hours, but something pretty big. I know my buddy, and when he says that there’s tons of stuff in game, I know what he means.

Portal 2 on the other hand is relatively short game. People describe it as short and that’s enough for me. Short, medium, long are pretty close to the accuracy I can accept for games. To me, seeing that game has 20 hours or 100 hours of gameplay doesn’t tell much about length of those games. If one game is 8 hours and other 16 hours, which one is larger? I doubt that 8 hours game is half as short as the other game. I doubt that very much.

It’s different with movies and books. Movies can be 2 hour long. Books can have 400 pages. These tell you something about how much stuff there is.

But for games, the “game is 12 hours long”, in my proud opinion is:

  • Very subjective figure given by developers, and doesn’t really tell much about how much stuff there is.
  • While time as unit is quite same to all of us (who don’t travel as fast as light), then 60 minutes to you is pretty close to 60 minutes to me. But, when you and me play game X, you might say that it provides 7 hours of gameplay and I say 14 – we both are right.
  • Accompanied with other information (ranging from game budget to different reviewer’s opinions to filesize to whatever factual information), we can get some idea whether game is “2 hours long” or “perhaps closer to 30 hours long”.

Bottom line is, these estimations are given by developers.

The same developers who say that “adding feature X is no biggie, I’ll knock it together in 2 hours” and when you come back 3 days later they say “I’m 90% finished, but there’s some bugs that appeared after adding feature. This might take couple of hours more”.

To summarize: I never paid attention to “hours” listed. I don’t see much idea why they are used or generally accepted as a way to tell “how big game is”.

What you think?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. [I think] The negativity and subjectiveness of how long a game is stems from money and demographic. Effectively it comes down to this:

    Child – Bored & Poor
    Adults – Busy & Rich

    As a child I was allowed maybe 3 games a year and I used to rationalise my choices primarily on length – my first 3 games on my PSX were Tekken 2, Worms & Final Fantasy 7, the last of which I spent hundreds of hours enjoying.

    As an adult I can afford to get every notable new release every year but don’t because I just cannot find the time! I’ve got a full-time job and a hell of a lot more responsibilities than I had when I was a child. Today I actually look for short and quality experiences like Limbo, or games where I can get in and out like Fifa.

    The reality of the games industry is that the majority of the vocal community comes from the first demographic, the young and bored with a very small disposable income. This demographic prioritises and focuses on games filled with content and longevity – ultimately measuring it by hours til completion.

    Really interesting post!

  2. Agree!
    Keeping track of hours of gameplay is nearly useless! Sometimes people say that XYZ game is 18 hours long. But I had finished such games in 10-12 hours. Still some games of 18 hours Gameplay can be enjoyed for 25-30 hours. Its not about *hours Gameplay, its about engagement!

  3. Agreed. Do they factor in the collectables that they add for fattening up the game’s length. Probably. Do they factor in that you may play said game three times, nope. Good thing they don’t or people would be knocked out cold if they heard “Skyrim can be played for 360 hours or more!”

  4. I haven’t paid any attention to those hours neither but in some cases it seems like it adds as “safe purchase” attribute to the game, you know?

    If you’re short on money pondering whether you should buy the game or not you can see that you’ll have 8 hours of fun+ among other neat features and that may help to buy a game.

    But like I’ve said, for me it doesn’t matter, I just like quality game nevertheless it’s 3 or 200 hours in length.

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