After finishing The Last of Us Part II, a game where I think the true horror comes from how long and repetitive it is at times (there are two separate sequences where you play fetch with a dog! In a game that already feels padded!) I started to think about AAA games and length. In the 7th generation it was kind of cliche that most "AAA" games had an 8-12 hour campaign and then some kind of multiplayer. In the 8th generation that multiplayer aspect became less common (which is a good thing, because not every game needs multiplayer) but the average length of many campaigns started creeping up. Now I feel like the standard length of a AAA game is closer to 20 hours than 10, with some exceptions for franchises that are still multiplayer focused like Call of Duty or whatever.
I feel like a lot of games don't do enough either mechanically or in terms of story to justify this increased length. It's one thing to have a game be 20 hours long with constant new areas, mechanics, and story, and another to have that length stretched out through repetition. We're all familiar with the issues of open world bloat, and how open world games can wear out their welcome through repetition, but I think that's starting to happen in linear games too. Maybe it's just the specific games I'm playing, but I can't think of a AAA game I've played in the last few years that couldn't be improved by cutting out about 25% of it and making it a more focused experience*. We all have limited time for gaming, and having to slog through a bunch of samey encounters and environments just to get to the end of a game does not make for a better time.
The Last of Us Part II felt about 5-10 hours too long to me, and while it didn't ruin the experience it did take away from it. There's a point near the end where there's a pause in the horror and violence before the actual end of the game, and I kept shouting at the TV "Just end already, please don't make me do more of this boring, boring stuff." I don't think that was the intended impact of that sequence.
Obviously we all want to get our money's worth from games, and value is important, but games are cheaper than ever. With things like Xbox Game Pass and Sony/Steam/Epic's insane sales most of us have more games than we could ever hope to play in our lifetimes. Most games depreciate in price incredibly quickly, and can be gotten for half off or more within 6 months of release. And padding doesn't really equal value. I'd much rather have stuff like a good New Game Plus or the old God of War games' costume systems that encourage you to play through a game again rather than long stretches of repetition.
There have always been long video games, of course, but I feel like it's almost an epidemic at this point. Not every game has to be 8 hours long, but if they're going to be 25 then that needs to be justified. I'd rather a game be short and sweet and leave me wanting more than long and drawn our and leave me exhausted and irritated by the end.
What do others think?
*God of War 2018 may be an exception here. It's a 20 hour game but it's constantly throwing new stuff at you and has so much companion dialog that I don't think I ever got bored or fatigued playing it. Still, it's like twice as long as God of War III.