How we consume media - as well as the perception around that consumption - is very different today than how things used to be even 10 years ago. Once, binge gaming or watching TV all day was looked upon as lazy and a waste of time; now, we revel in it. We still have that “it’s so bad,” mentality, but it has become backed with “but it’s so good!” In the age of Netflix, illegal downloads and an overabundance of 200 hour open world RPG’s, we are more willing to simply sit down, zone out and enjoy our entertainment in larger and larger chunks. Is this a good or bad thing? Realistically, it’s not all black and white.
I got to thinking about this discussion point recently thanks to my decision to sit down and watch through a cult classic TV show known as Firefly. The show was (sadly) cut short after only a single season of 14 episodes, then finished off with a movie. Both the show and film are available in full on Netflix, meaning I could easily blast through the entire lot in a weekend. After watching the first two episodes, I decided to reign it in a bit. I could tell from episode 1 that this was going to be something I fell in love with, so I thought hey, maybe I’ll take it a bit slower. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have Firefly blasting into my eyeballs all day today, but the thought got me thinking about other times I’ve power-consumed through some content I was super keen for.
One of the more recent ones to come to mind is Dragon Age: Inquisition. With Origins being one of my favourite games of all time and 2 being a game I actually quite enjoyed even though everyone seemed to hate on, I was super looking forward to Inquisition. I literally took time off work to play this game straight over a 4 day period. It was an intense experience that I know I had fun with.. but in all honesty, I can’t remember much of it now. After knocking the game over during the following weeknights and weekends, I was pretty high on the experience. I nearly wanted to jump back in and start again, but the thought of putting another 100 hours into this game was daunting. I raved about it for weeks, as did most of the gaming media, where it won a decent amount of game of the year awards.
Problem was, after a few months passed, for some unexplainable reason, the game started leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I knew I enjoyed it a ton, loved the characters, thought the world was beautiful, enjoyed the quests… but all I could think about were the parts that hadn’t been so great. The way my characters’ teeth clipped through her mouth every time she smiled. The way I was a little disappointed with the lack of depth in the combat compared to Origins. The way I had to use a controller on PC because the keyboard was maddening. The way I had to hold down a button to attack, choosing my abilities on the fly, not really being able to chain moves together or move about the filed tactically. I knew I’d had a good time with it, deliberately pushed passed and ignored those issues, but for some reason the memories of all the good that game had accomplished was slipping away in my mind, being replaced by the things that had kept nagging at me through the entire experience. I almost wish I had’ve just slowed down, relaxed, and enjoyed the game bit by bit at a time, allowing me to drink in it’s wonder slowly rather than powering through it.
On the flip side, I played through Shadow of Mordor over the Christmas/New Year break just gone. Even though I was still working most days over that break, I managed to put 47 hours into the game over 8 days. I totally binged on that game, powering through absolutely everything and making it my 2nd platinum. After cooling off on it, I’ve managed to do the opposite from Inquisition - at the time I thought this is a very good game, to now thinking damn, that game was amazing. Shadow of Mordor doesn’t have the most amazing story - though I did enjoy the characters and humour more than a lot of people - but the “game” parts of it were just fantastic. The combat was always satisfying yet challenging, even though you are a super powered warrior god. The nemesis system is bloody fantastic, and is worth playing the game just for that.
I think, for me at least, I’ve come to the conclusion that games with amazing moments and thick lore that I want take in are best suited to stretched out play over many sessions, while games that are simply just fun to play are better suited to those focused, hardcore, massive gaming sessions over a short space of time. When I think about another game I tackled last year over the course of 80 play hours, Pillars of Eternity, I clearly remember the story beats being the ones I’d focus on during the shorter sessions, with the deep dungeon crawling combat being my focus over the longer ones.
Do you binge your favourite media, or let it stretch out over a longer period? Have you found yourself in any similar situations, where bingeing something has left you not quite satisfied, or where moderating your time has only heightened your experience? Am I completely wrong, and the only way to consume something is all at once in the shortest span of time possible? Let me know in the comments!