Archive for August, 2010

Too Short

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

A number of reviews recently declared Limbo Too Short. Too Short?  What does that mean?  Before World of Goo was released, every other press inquiry asked either how long the game is or how many levels it had.  The motivation behind those questions is as difficult for me to understand as the Too Short judgement against Limbo.

One possibility is that people are so use to asking and talking about how long a game is, that the notion is now simply embedded in our conciousness with nobody thinking to question its usefuless, much less its harmfulness as a metric by which we measure games.

But let’s ignore that for a moment and take the question of length at face value. If I say a game is too short, what do I actually mean to say?  Maybe I mean “I loved this game so much I wish there was more of it”, or “I was disappointed because I felt like it was building up to something that never came”, or even “I’m disappointed that I paid for a game I didn’t enjoy.”

I certainly didn’t mean to say “This game lasted 4 hours and I paid $20 for it, so that’s $5 an hour, which is too much” because this doesn’t take the quality of the experience of playing the game into account.  If my experience of the game was lackluster, playing it is a waste of my time regardless of whether it cost $1/hr or $10/hr.  On the other end of that spectrum, Portal would have been a worthwhile experience for me even at $100.

Saying Too Short is like using words like Should, Good, Bad, etc.  These are lazy words.  Socially acceptable shortcuts that allow people to speak superficially about what they really think and feel.  Using lazy words is not a big deal in casual conversation, or if you’re speaking with someone who knows you well enough to understand what’s behind the shortcut.  But if you write about games for a living you should not take these shortcuts you do your readers an injustice by seeding their mind with a negative predisposition that reflects your laziness instead of helping the reader learn about your experience of the game.

If you’d like to read more opinions about this subject, check out what our friends had to say about it:

Jonathan Blow of Number None

Chris DeLeon of HobbyGameDev

Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games

Matt Gilgenbach of 24 Caret Games

Eitan Glinert of Fire Hose Games

Cliff Harris of Positech Games

Chris Hecker of Spy Party

Scott Macmillan of Macguffin Games

Noel Llopis

Peter Jones of Retro Affect

Lau Korsgaard of Copenhagen Game Collective

Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules

Greg Wohlwend of Intution Games

Jeffrey Rosen of Wolfire

Alex Amsel of Tuna Tech

Michael Todd