Never Underestimate the Length of a Video Game

I originally set out this Summer to complete 5 video game series, which is a total of 12 games. I, of course, knew that this was quite the endeavor, but I thought that if I dedicated all of my time to getting these games done, that I would probably be able to get the majority of the games done. However, I greatly underestimated how long these video games can be, even if my plan was to only stick to the main storyline as much as possible.

The games that I am playing are big-budget games created by big-name developers. Mass Effect and Dragon Age games are developed by Bioware, and the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games are developed by Bethesda. These companies have tons of people and resources dedicated to making of these games.

There is a lot of high expectations of these companies and these games. With higher budgets mean a high price tag for consumers, and a high price tag means a lot of pressure for the company to deliver a title that will be worth that price tag. One of the factors of value in a video game is the length. No one wants to pay $60 for a game that can be completed in 2 hours. Because of this, many developers make sure to lengthen a game as much as possible without risking its quality.

I only have a couple more weeks until Summer ends and I have only been able to complete 4 video games. Keep in mind that I am playing them twice (once as a female character and once as a male character), but it is still only a third of the games that I want to analyze.

I had hoped to complete one game (with both playthroughs) a week, but these games were not created to be completed so quickly, otherwise the price tag would not be worth it. I ended up taking a week per playthrough, which significantly decreased the amount of games I wanted to complete this Summer. Dragon Age: Origins uses enemies and big maps to lengthen their game, so much so that I spent most of my time grinding through enemies and running to my next destination for hours to complete just a small portion of the narrative.

Not only did I underestimate the length of these games, but I also underestimated how much time the work outside of playing the games would consume. After every playthrough I have to edit my footage down to just the narrative and dialogue portions of the game, meaning that I cut out the grinding through enemies and running from place to place. Then, I compress it so that I don’t run out of storage space on my 1TB hard drive. For many of these games I will have around 30 hours of footage which I will shave down to 10-15 hours of actually useful data. Dragon Age: Origins was particularly difficult to edit because for every three hours of footage that I had recorded, only about an hour of it was useful to my project.

Another time consuming portion of my data collection involved taking notes on the first playthrough so that I could make the second playthrough as similar as possible. The reason for this was so that the only factor that was different between the two playthroughs was gender. However, this means going through 10-15 hours of video and typing out all of my actions and dialogue responses in a document, which, surprisingly, can get quite dull. It is very draining to be concentrating on something so monotonous and boring and so this portion of data collection takes can take 2-3 days.

Add everything together and it makes for a very slow and time-consuming process in which I greatly underestimated how long everything was going to take. Now I know how long each game is going to take and how much time I will need to dedicate to this project. I hope that I will be able to continue data collection into the school year and finish the entirety of this project by time I graduate!


  1. I remember when I asked you if you were gonna do your research here on campus. And now summer is coming to an end, already! I hope you have made more progress and the repeating process of documenting has become easier and quicker.

    I’m not quite familiar with video game programming. But I assumed there must be somewhere they store the data. It would be nice if you could just retrive the data which record the actions and dialogue of the player.

    (And for some reason I have this picture of a player playing games with both hands, each for a gender, at the same time…)