The Theory of Cost Relativity

gonehomeGone Home is one of the best games I have played all year.  In this title, players step into the shoes of Kaitlin, a young woman who has returned home from a study abroad to find her family missing.  What follows is a well-crafted, emotional coming-of-age story effectively told through gorgeous first-person exploration.  I was thoroughly engaged in this game from start to finish, which took just under four hours.  In spite of the positive reviews Gone Home has garnered and all of the praise I shower upon it, many of my peers isolate the cost-of-game versus length-of-play and reply with, “Twenty bucks for a four-hour game?  No thanks, dude.”

This sort of reaction has become rather commonplace in the current gaming market.  It seems that the average consumer believes video games fall into two price ranges: $50-$60 for epic triple-A blockbusters, or free-$5 for silly mobile distractions.  Each of these categories has safe and clearly defined characteristics.  A mobile game should have simple and addictive gameplay presented with cartoony graphics, that may be completed whilst in line at the local Starbucks.  The triple-A blockbusters should have movie-style scripts that are framed in damn-near-lifelike graphics, which take at least 20 hours to complete.  Anything that falls outside of these groups is immediately dismissed; how could a game which only takes four hours to complete be worth twenty dollars?  It doesn’t even have online multiplayer!

Now don’t get me wrong, I can definitely sympathize with this sort of logic.  As a big kid with adult responsibilities, I know that when it comes down to budgeting for video games, sacrifices must be made.  I cannot just go out on payday and buy up all of the latest releases like I used to in college (ah, those were the days).  As it stands, a game should be worth the time and money I invest, which Gone Home most certainly is.

gonehometvLet’s come at this from a different angle; how much do other forms of media cost?  Going out to see a movie in theaters has reached the price of $12 for roughly two hours of entertainment (not to mention overpriced snacks).  Buying a DVD ranges from $5-$30 for a similar length of time, albeit you own the film indefinitely (just like a video game).  Cable TV packages start around $80, and while they may advertise “dozens of channels with hundreds of programs,” in reality, the average viewer has two or three shows they must watch, taking up a handful of hours a week.  The list of media goes on, but the underlying sentiment remains the same: the true cost of entertainment is hardly a static value.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what sort of game to purchase.  Four hours of well-crafted narrative and gameplay may not be worth your twenty dollars, but I certainly hope that my endorsement will at least cause a pause for consideration.  Gone Home was a gaming experience I was able to share with Laura which resulted in total engagement at the time and days of thoughtful discussion afterwards.  It’s all relative I suppose, but it seems quite worth the cost to me.

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