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Why do we rush to complete video games?

You may have noticed that we started a Grand Theft Auto V review a few weeks back. 

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You may have noticed that we started a Grand Theft Auto V review a few weeks back. 

The aim was for Callum and I to compare our experiences of the game through a conversation that focused on our personal experiences. You may have also noticed that, so far, there hasn’t been a second part.

And the reason is this. It became clear early on that Callum was streets ahead of me, and has long since completed the main storyline. In contrast I am taking much longer, I’ve quite deliberately decided to take my time with the game.

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I was having trouble appreciating Grand Theft Auto V, and in part this was due my dissatisfaction with the story, particularly the way it is front loaded into the opening 10 hours. So I decided to relax, slow down, explore a little, pace my progression and take some time to enjoy the world that Rockstar has created. In doing so my enjoyment of the game has multiplied ten-fold. Los Santos is now my playground, a place to indulge in races, side missions, and exploration for no reason other than to satisfy my curiosity. My foot is off the gas, I’m sucking it in, and I am having a blast.

It took Rockstar 5 years to make Grand Theft Auto V. And 48 hours for some people to complete. Why do we rush to complete video games so quickly?

In part it’s due to anticipation. The hype machine is now so refined at building buzz that as soon as we get our hands on a game we feel motivated to complete it, consume it, and know it inside and out. And because of the ever-increasing buzz for the next big release, a game has to be put to bed as soon as possible.

The release cycle at this time of year is relentless. Each week another triple A title (or two) arrives, and the media swiftly switches focus from one game to the next. There is no time to stop and appreciate a release, no time to enjoy the subtleties of design and game play. There is a sense that if you are not playing the current hot title, you are somehow behind the times or not a ‘real gamer’. There’s ‘NOW’ and there’s ‘Retro’, but there isn’t a place for the ‘reasonably recent’.

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Ubisoft have two marquee titles coming soon, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Watch Dogs. They are different games of course, but certainly seem cut from the same cloth. And they released a mere four weeks apart.  Are these titles that you would want to play concurrently? I know a lot of players that will burn through Assassin’s Creed 4 in those four weeks so they can pick up Watch Dogs on day one. Is that what a 50 hour game deserves? How do you make a valid assessment of a product without time to think, and most likely without seeing all that the game has to offer?

I have become a fan of second take reviews, those that take a slightly more balanced look at a game, a review written without the looming spectre of a publishing deadline. These reviews, such as Tom McShae’s recent piece on Bioshock Infinite, can take a more focused look at all areas of design, story and game play. They are free from the PR noise and release buzz where contrary opinions are not allowed and are often more accurate assessments of a game’s particular qualities. They avoid the rush to judgement that sees games like Uncharted 3 praised by large swathes of the press, only to be brutally re-evaluated a month or so after release.

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To consider a game in full you need to take time to examine its elements, test its boundaries and understand what its creators were trying to achieve. So that’s what I want to do with Grand Theft Auto V. I want it to last a while; I want to appreciate the details that were laboured over for so long. I want to soak up every ray of Blaine County sunshine.

I wrote last week about cancelling my PlayStation 4 pre-order. It’s all part of the same desire. So again, I say have patience, look back at the recent past, try Dark Souls or Monster Hunter 3, compare Grand Theft Auto V with Saint’s Row IV, and decide for yourself whether Gears of War: Judgement was crappy. Or revisit a game you have already completed and play it again from a new angle and try to find new elements to enjoy.

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UPDATE

Mere hours after posting this piece Ubisoft announced that Watch Dogs is delayed until 2014. Now we can all….relax!

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Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Paper Mario: The Origami King, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe.