“This is Snake..” the first line voiced by David Hayter in what was arguably gaming at its peak back in 1998. The player would experience the fast paced, exciting but clostraphobic game that defined the stealth genre. Fast forward to today and I have the fifth console installment of the franchise, Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain and after completing the gruelling monologue, I am introduced to the open world, literally, as the latest instalment is an open world game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but with more and more open world games being released and some which were once linear games transforming into open world, I can’t help but wonder if the market is becoming too bloated.

I’ve seen countless interviews from game developers informing the viewer with delight that this new game would be the biggest open world game they have seen, with almost  a tip of the hat to other developers that doing this was the future of gaming. Now whilst playing through The Phantom Pain I find one of many patterns emerging – calling in that helicopter, waiting 2-4 minutes for it to arrive, get back to Motherbase, then getting back on the helicopter, loading another mandatory, and eerily similar side mission, waiting through loading times and then being dropped back into the gameplay – this process eventually takes me out of the gameplay, which inevitably made me lose interest in the entire game after a while. I’m not saying all open world games are terrible, or boring – but is the line becoming blurred between quality and quantity? Are games wasting our time? Yes its cool that you can play tennis and do yoga in Grand Theft Auto V and you can throw horseshoes at posts in Red Dead Redemption and yes, I may be nitpicking, but I also remember crusing around the city in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City blasting V-Rock through the radio, never feeling bored, lost or overwhelmed.

Does creating an open world game always work? Nope. Do you remember Mafia 2, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag or Watchdogs? Hell, even Need For Speed jumped on the bandwagon with Need For Speed Most Wanted. It’s not all negativity though, I’ve recently finished playing The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt, which again had massively expanded from its predecessor, I would consider this open world game absolutely brilliant. I sat there for 2-3 weeks and happily invested 200+ hours into the game, and this is okay – if you have the time. This is another issue with modern open world games, they are almost an investment – you really need to dedicate your time to them.

Now I am not a fan of games with 4-6 hour campaigns either. I also would have thrown Star Wars Battlefront out of the window but it was digitally downloaded on my PS4. But is creating an open world game always the answer for innovation?

Most of us have played open world games, and understand, by definition, know that they will be large. But the majority of them fail to offer a compelling sense of direction coupled with good story telling. “But look at all the side quests and optional things you can do in Skyrim!” My friends would tell me, then later on I would find my very own character lost in some cave for which my character level was too low for, looting crates and dead bodies in the hope for extra currency and/or XP, only to find junk I already have by the saddlebag load of hiding in my inventory. Side quests, if done well can be a brilliant addition to main quests, but most feel like the player is going through the motions, waiting to dig into the main course. More often than not I would embark on a side quest happily due to the XP on offer, I would bring up my map and sigh as the location was a good 10 minute treck on horseback – yes I know fast travel is available, so there are two decisions – you can chose between a loading screen or a long run through the games landscape.

I am (as you probably can tell) playing through Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain again – and I find  myself asking the same questions. I adore being immersed in a story and gameplay, maybe I’m becoming bitter as I simply do not have the time I would like to play the modern day open world games…..maybe I’ll go back to playing The Last Of Us for the 50th time this year.

Mr Oliver.

8 thoughts on “Is Gaming Wasting Our Time?

  1. I love open-world games and hate when they tell me where to go, because I consider figuring that out to be part of the game. But to have endless resets accompanied by variations on “Snake, snake, snaaaaaake!” constantly interrupting my exploration is like brushing my teeth with a hacksaw. It turns a smoothly pleasurable experience into unending agony. I was so worn out by the time Phantom Pain got through its one-hour introduction/tutorial that I hardly had the patience left to get through the first mission, much less explore the world.

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  2. A fine read! Metal gear Solid: Ground zeros was an abomination, an insult to both the fans of the franchise and to all gamers. Charging us for a demo with little content, sure it had some replay-ability but it could of easily been a prologue mission in TTP. I’m glad I haven’t seen more companies do this since, but then again, with EA, the pre-orders and locked content that we see every day in AAA games is becoming more frequent. Long gone are the days unlocking new maps, characters and items through simply playing the game. RIP Golden Eye N64 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Games are definitely wasting our time! I recently finished Fallout 3, around about the time Fallout 4 was coming out, and I realized I just didn’t have the energy to tackle another post-apocalyptic open world!

    If you hack out most of the repetitive (as you point out) side missions in these types of games, you’d be left with a much leaner gaming experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. There seems to be a trend of games focusing on bigger worlds and longer play times, just to make them seem “worth it”. (Unless they have a multiplayer component, then it is no campaign and a few game modes because you’ll play matches for hours and it will be “worth it”.) Except that a lot of these games become wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle. Dragon Age: Inquisition was a big offender of this. Countless of mostly pointless side missions. I wished they had done something like ME3’s war asset system so I can at least feel that helping a sergeant cloth his people will contribute to the war effort. And this all was to the detriment of the main story. Corypheus had so much potential.

    And now FFXV is boasting about 200 quests but has 40 hours of gameplay. I wonder just how fleshed out those quests are. Give me a short, well written game over a grind heavy, convoluted one any day. Also, this reminds me I’ve yet to play TLOU this year. I should find some time to play it through again.

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  5. Ah, so you like gaming…
    Me too… And the last of us is my favourite… It’s also one of the most difficult games I’ve played till now… But I just love it….
    And yes, thanks for following my blog… I’ll make sure you’ll not be dissapointed…

    Like

  6. Hello! I really identified with what you’re saying here, so much so that I linked to this post from my blog where I recently wrote a review for the SNES classic Super Metroid, an early open-world, somewhat non-linear platformer (sure everyone’s heard of it). I agree that this kind of presentation can destroy compelling narratives, but Super Metroid made the exploration the foundation of the narrative. Keep up the good, thoughtful work!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well put. I want to like these massive open-world games in a way – it’s interesting to see gaming leaving behind linear narratives, and developing in directions which most other media can’t take. But the practical result is often that I’m lost/bored/missing the linear structures. I wish more games would experiment with combining the open-world style and the linear style, so as to provide players with the best of both of these (a nice example of this is the Deus Ex franchise, as I think I mentioned on my own blog recently).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If you want to play a game that has both a story that spans dozens of hours and still manages to respect your time, I highly recommenced checking out Bravely Default or the upcoming Bravely Second. Theses games are JRPGs that incorporate features that may become indispensable in the genre. The games allow you to control how frequently you randomly encounter enemies and the menu system is one of the most intuitive in any JRPG series. I really appreciate and relate to this post and hope that you continue to write more on similar subjects. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

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