What does it mean for a game to respect the player's time?


#1

When I was a young whippersnapper, the concept of “value” was frequently part of review rubrics. The question is basically, “Is this game worth your money?” Eventually sites started to realize that was a foolish quesion. As the podcast touched on recently, it’s an intensely individual, circumstantial question. For some people, it’s worth $60 just to give a game a shot. For others, $60 might be prohibitive except in special cases. So, the question of whether a game is worth the money has largely disappeared from the review/critical space (to be clear, I am not talking about the Reddit/Twitter discourse here, where it’s still going strong).

What it’s been replaced with is the equally as vague “Does this game respect my time?” I’ve particularly seen it come up multiple times in discussion around AC: Odyssey and Red Dead 2. The consensus seems to be that Red Dead respects the player’s time more than Odyssey, but I personally find infiltrating and looting a Fortress far more fulfilling than wandering around looking for wildlife. A game like Odyssey is dinged for not respecting the player’s time because of the abundance of meaningless, optional side content, while multiplayer MMOs and ARPGs can have dozens of hours of cookie-cutter story content excused if the endgame is strong.

I’ve never really seen Respecting Time defined, nor why it’s any more of a universal metric than Respecting Money. (Incidentally, I don’t think it’s at all coincidental that when games media was mostly young, single dudes barely making scratch, the question was about money, and now that they’re growing up and having families, the question is about time.)

But, instead of me just ranting about replacing one meaninglessly subjective metric with another, I’ll pose some questions.

What does it mean to you for a game to respect your time?

How does that change depending on the game? RPG vs Action vs Puzzle, etc? Single-player vs multiplayer? Optional content vs quest content?

And the big one: do you find the discussion around whether a game respects the player’s time useful?


#2

I tried not to color the post too much with my own opinion, but looking back I failed miserably. :grin:


#3

While I think there are plenty of problems with simply considering time or money value as a merit on a game’s quality, I will still give the edge to time in terms of importance to be discussed. Time as a resource is a bit more universal, as your income level doesn’t change the fact that we all only have 24 hours a day to fit in all the stuff we want to do*. And given the fluctuating price of games due to sales and subscription services, it makes sense to discuss the more fixed X hours of play a game gives you.

But yeah, a big reason why we talk about games respecting our time is that players grew up and have responsibilities now. Back in the day I certainly wouldn’t mind grinding in JRPGs, because during summer I had nothing but time to kill. Nowadays that is not the case, and I’d rather have the limited hours I have to game filled with compelling content. A game not “respecting my time” is a very personal and subjective assessment, and I would hate to render such a judgement for anyone else.

*I get that having more money often can buy you some time back, but let’s keep it simple for this discussion.


#4

It feels like the games disrespect and respect your time in different ways. This is my opinion:

Red Dead 2 does NOT by any means respect your time by making you pick up every single object you interact with in the world. Sure, it’s realistic, it’s animated beautifully, but I don’t care. You can tell me how deliberate and well-paced it feels, I don’t care. I hate it. I don’t want to spend 5-10 minutes looting a camp of ammo and supplies. I could be doing other things. Arthur can pick up ammo by walking over it, why can’t he do so with a can of Peaches? Odyssey respects your time by allowing you to easily clear a camp of valuables with simple button presses when you are near an area of loot. Mechanically, Odyssey just feels better. I’ve never understood the complaints about Origins/Odyssey’s controls, because for me they’re solid. RDR2 on the other hand just feels bad all around. Red Dead 2 will have Arthur walk SLOOOOOWLY around a make shift path of a dead horse to get to your horse so you can put away a gun to get a new gun. It just fucking sucks.

On the other end of the spectrum, Odyssey does not respect your time when it comes to missions and quests. A lot of the time, you’re doing the same thing over and over again, which is basically clearing camps of enemies. The quests that have you doing something different stand out, and you feel like the game is more an amusement part ride than an actual tale. Red Dead 2 has been fantastic so far in justifying most of all the side quests and activities within the story. It even recontextualizes some side quests when certain mainline events happen in the story, and gives you options within the changing mindset of Arthur. For those wanting to know what I’m talking about, in Chapter 6 Arthur begins to hate himself and what he’s been doing for Strauss after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. His loan sharking starts shifting, options swaying from not taking the money, to giving some of his own money to the people he’s wronged. It’s somber, it’s impactful, and it’s a great evolution of his character. You don’t really feel that with Kass. Her quest, while interesting, never hits those emotional peaks, and there’s just too much garbage in the way that feels outside the main story of her quest. RDR2’s garbage all has a story and all ties in with the character arc of Arthur.


#5

What does it mean to you for a game to respect your time?

this can depend for me based on what the game is and how i’m feeling but generally when a game feels like it’s padding out a story with rote, boring content i start to think it’s not respecting my time. persona 5, although that game had problems, didn’t feel like it wasn’t “respecting my time” because it generally felt like the amount of time you spent on it was appropriate based on the type of game it was. that’s…not to say that i didn’t sometimes wish it was shorter, though, because i don’t have the focus to play long games a lot of the time.

i don’t like this phrasing in general though because when i get annoyed at a game for having a lot of padding in it that feels pretty subjective and i don’t think it’s necessarily right of me to get mad at the game devs for not structuring the game in a way that works for me personally. although i do wish people made games shorter because while i still have a decent amount of free time right now i also have ADHD and it can be really frustrating to start a game knowing there’s a high chance i’ll get distracted and never be able to finish it because it’s so dang long and my brain doesn’t cope well with that.

How does that change depending on the game? RPG vs Action vs Puzzle, etc? Single-player vs multiplayer? Optional content vs quest content?
if a game is story based and single player i get more annoyed with games being too long because with multiplayer games, especially MMOs, i understand that lots of filler activities are the name of the game and i can choose to engage with that to whatever degree i want. it’s also easier to stay focused on a game if i have friends to bring me back into it whenever i get distracted. in single player games i do get pretty annoyed when there’s too much stuff going on because it often prevents me from reaching the conclusion of the story, which tends to be what hooks me into playing in the first place.

And the big one: do you find the discussion around whether a game respects the player’s time useful?
it’s useful to me to some degree, for the reasons mentioned above: if a game is said to have a lot of “padding” to it i probably will give it a pass unless it’s REALLY compelling, because i know that i will just get like halfway through it, get distracted by something else, and feel bad about it for months! i don’t need more of that in my life!


#6

It’s easy to say that games like RDR 2 don’t respect my time but I don’t think that’s really whats happening. If I was a teen or a younger adult I wouldn’t give a shit how long the animations are. I literally only have time. I can sit and watch a horse get brushed or whatever forever.

As an adult with little free time I still like that stuff but I don’t think for me it’s a question of respect. I just don’t have that time all that time anymore and that’s okay. How much a single game can take up my time subjectively is not really something I would tell someone as if to say “buy this game or don’t.”

So, personally: no, I don’t think the conversation is all that useful, and I read it very similarly to the “how many hours is 60/80/100 however many dollars worth” conversation. Everyone has different economies of time and everyone has to budget differently. There are times in my life when I have plenty of time to dig into stuff and there are times when I really don’t but I don’t think that’s a value judgement on a game or games in general.


#7

It’s interesting to see folks in here frame the overabundance of throwaway side quests in MMOs as a waste of time. Those quests are there to get you to the next important level, to speed you along to the good leveling stuff, and ultimately the endgame. They are meant to give you something to do that isn’t just mindlessly grinding enemies/dungeons, even if the quests themselves don’t give you anything especially interesting to do. They are there to respect your time.

It’s important for there to be too many of these quests because if there aren’t enough then leveling becomes a slog. FFXIV is a great example of this. A character in FFXIV can be every class, but that means you have to level every class. It’s so painful to level a DPS once you’ve exhausted all the side quests around the world, you’re just grinding Palace of The Dead and wanting to join said Dead.


#8

1- My super hot-take is that “respecting my time” is roughly analogous to signal to noise. Where signal is “core game activities that I enjoy” and “noise” is anything that I have to do but don’t enjoy. Which is super subjective. What I enjoy in the first 5 hours of a game, might be different than what I enjoy 20 hours in. there’s also a meta idea of respecting my time, in that if I investing in a game, I want it to last long enough to feel worthwhile. As an example: Inside, though short, respected my time because it was exactly long enough for what it was.

After a bit of consideration, I also have this core of an idea that respecting my time means respecting my need to be interrupted. So most multiplayer games and non pausable hybrids like Dark Souls are bad at this. Games with non-pausable cut scenes, long intervals between checkpoints: also bad.

2 - Maybe in the details of what constitutes noise, and general tendencies? Multiplayer games are filled with what I consider noise (party finding, waiting for people to ready up, etc…), Action games tend to have less noise (unless there’s an aspect of grinding), RPGs tend to have a lot of busywork, because they haven’t really done a UX pass on their many many menu screens.

3 - I find it interesting from a design perspective. What should we expect from games in terms of time-respecting experience? Am I unreasonable in my needs? What are the design trends that are good here? Is wanting our time to be respected the kind of thing that will scare off new ideas that aren’t fully polished yet, or will they lead to good (if janky) experiences being lost?


#9

It’s a hard concept to distill down to something that makes any sort of logical sense or consistency, and it’s going to vary greatly between the personal tastes of everyone involved.

If I really had to try and boil it down to a workable answer, I suppose to would be the difference between the pure amount of time something takes, how inherently pleasurable the activity is, and what meaningful benefit I derive from it in the long run. A relatively minor inconvenience can become intolerable over time if I’m required to do it to progress while at the same time a huge waste of time doesn’t matter to me if it can be ignored completely with no detriment.

For example, a game that I love that I feel is massively disrespectful of the player’s time is MGSV. The fact that I can’t get from one side of the map to the other without dragging my ass the whole way or getting a helicopter ride to and from mother base is insulting. The absurd cardboard box fast travel system that is never explained to the player doesn’t help either as they’re few and far between. There are constant built in time sucks for R&D (that can go away with REAL money hooray!) and most missions start you an annoying distance away from anything you’d want to do. None of these things are avoidable, you absolutely must engage with them. I tolerate these things because the core action is so good, but holy hell I could have cut a dozen hours of my playtime and lost nothing of value.

I haven’t played an AC since Black Flag, but people constantly complain about a map that looks like someone barfed objectives onto, but it never really bothered me. Almost all of those icons are utterly meaningless, and I can move past them with no regret. Oh boy, a treasure chest. I already possess more gold than the visible universe so… I’m good. Yes, if you have a compulsion to do everything, or meaningful progress was gated behind these paper thin time wasters, that would be a problem, but the last time I dipped into the series they weren’t.


#10

A proposed objective metric for respect of time: start the game with 50 time-respect points. Subtract 5 points when you think “get on with it,” 7 when you think “what, again, really,” 20 when you say either phrase out loud.

Seriously though, I’ve accepted that my idea of “respect for time” doesn’t match what a lot of players look for. I tend to get frustrated when games repeat challenges or ask me to grind out progression goals when the systems involved aren’t interesting enough to make the process worthwhile for its own sake. Common example: a JRPG where walking through a dungeon lands you more than a dozen trivial random encounters. A JRPG fan doesn’t count that as a waste of time because each enemy gives XP and money, so you’re a little bit better off after each fight. I count it as a waste of time because I mashed through a load of fights that didn’t offer me anything challenging or unique, and the designers could have easily provided a faster progression curve with fewer but more meaningful encounters.

Another example: permadeath. I’ve seen a number of folks online mention that they see permadeath as disrespecting their time unless the game has some kind of persistent progression system so they can get a bit more power out of each run. Like the manor in Rogue Legacy, or finding blueprints and spending cells in Dead Cells. I’m dead-on the opposite. That style of progression model always feels like the game designer expects me to grind out runs until I get enough power to reach the end. I’d rather play something like Spelunky where you start from scratch each run but, hopefully, gain skill and knowledge from the experience.

In conclusion: “respect for time” is vague as hell and should always be accompanied with a specific criticism, because on its own it can mean entirely opposite things to different people.


#11

Without being too reductive, I often feel like this is just sort of a flowery way of saying that you don’t like a game or parts of a game. Like all experiences I didn’t enjoy have obviously not respected my time I guess. Is every time a game makes you do something you don’t want to really an act of disrespect? Aren’t we ultimately responsible for respecting our own time by not engaging with things that don’t interest us? Idk, the phrasing always seems strange and unconstructive.


#12

I think as long as I am liking a game, I don’t care how long it is. But that argument tends to sway more towards short games and quality as opposed to long games and quality, because I will definitely start hitting a point in RDR2 where I’m ready to beat it (not that I’m there quite yet, but a game with so many side quests that I want to do in addition to a long ass story will certainly fatigue me). I love the realism of RDR2 but not to the point where it feels uber tedious to pick up every piece of loot one button press at a time.

I tend to think about this a lot in terms of what I paid, and now especially with my thinking way more about the culture a game was made under, if I don’t mind paying a higher price for a game. If a game is super short but I enjoyed it, I don’t think I really mind no matter what price I paid.

It honestly comes down to how much time I have in a day to sit down and play a game in relation to how much time I’ll have in that week. I so often fire up RDR2 with just over an hour of time to play, and get virtually nothing done because I have to ride my horse across the entire map or get distracted buying a new coat and cutting my facial hair while talking to citizens of Saint Denis. But the game obviously wants that to happen and wants you to feel totally lost in that world, so I guess I’m doing right by the design of the game.


#13

I don’t think this is necessarily fair. I think you might be right in some instances, but this might stem more from people talking about games who might not be thinking through what they’re saying before they say it (coloquially speaking, “chatting shit”). I think people stretching the definitions or meaning behind phrases is a linguistic problem in game spaces, even beyond tedious ‘dishcourse’. The temptation to employ a phrase if it is passably appropriate is often at hand and definitely applies to an old term like this.

Personally, I use this to communicate an exasperation at a particular game mechanic. The example I typically go back to are JRPGs of the Persona 4 variety. In these games, if you Game Over (which can occur if your main character is killed, even if the rest of the party is fine), you go back to the title screen. In a dungeoneering context, this often straight-up losing 15-45 minutes of progress. In a roguelike, that would be fine – for Persona 4, a game where tactical decision-making is only one element of your reasons for dying (early in the game, it’s more likely to be a slow attrition of your resources), it feels like a, well, waste of time.


#14

This is literally the exact situation that inspired me to write the original post. Not only does Red Dead make you press a button for each item, you have to hold down the button and fill a meter. Meanwhile, I can loot an entire camp in Odyssey in the time it takes Arthur to check two drawers. Most of the time you don’t even need to stop moving.

I get what Rockstar is going for - they want you to be doing something the entire length of time it takes Arthur to do it. But it’s weird.


#15

The phrase just feels…overly dramatic to me I guess? It feels like such a leap to go from people saying they are exasperated or frustrated with aspects of a game to saying that this game, and the developers of said game too, are now actively not respecting my valuable time by including certain things, things that are often entirely optional (I hear the “respecting time” argument often brought up in discussions about collectibles or fetch quests and other content that can often be ignored with little to no penalty).

Something about the phrase frames things in a way that I think feeds into the uglier topic of gamer entitlement. That there are huge swaths of people who think devs owe it to them to account for all of their personal preferences in delivering a product, and anything less is a malicious and “disrespectful” action on the part of the creators. It just rubs me the wrong way.


#16

You and @Foxtrot both hit on part of why I don’t really like the phrase. It often seems like a catch-all for “I didn’t think this part was interesting.” Maybe I should keep podcast discussions (which is where it comes up most often) in the Shooting the Shit category. And I do think it carries a connotation, intentional or not, that the devs made a conscious decision to waste the player’s time.


#17

I put whether a game is respecting my time on a simple binary of “Does this game drag more or less than Dragon Age: Inquisition?” More, it’s disrespecting my time with its dull fetch quests that are more necessary than they should be. Less, Its content is well curated and makes sure I don’t face dry spells of the routine and/or underproduced.


#18

There is one case I can think of where “disrespect my time” ought to have the connotation that the developers did wrong, and that’s when a game includes frustrating tedium with the intention to encourage the player to spend money to skip the frustration. At that point, the relationship between the developer and player has already become adversarial, and the player didn’t start it.

In most cases, it’s just an idiom that might sometimes be useful but has an unfortunate literal meaning.


#19

The main reasons a game can make me think it’s “not respecting my time” basically all can be simplified by saying it has an long main game loop that is extended by mundane or repetitive tasks (i.e. walking across a big world to accept, then find a quest) and repeated by just scaling everything up (i.e your damage and the enemy’s health / your crowd control options and number of enemies) instead of introducing mechanics or story beats that change the game in a meaningful way.

Persona 5 also comes to mind because it has a bit in common with what I’ve already said (I still like it a lot even though I stopped playing only 90 hours in), but also because repetitive design choices really padded out the time I was disengaged while I was playing. If I just reached level 90, you don’t need Joker to tell me “I can now fuse Personas up to level 90!” for the 90th time. If I have a conversation with my cat before bed, I don’t need to have that same conversation worded slightly differently every night for the rest of the week. If I walk into a safe room for the hundredth time, I don’t need a cutscene explaining what a safe room is.


#20

To me, I find the phrase no different than “overrated” another phrase I feel gets a lot of hate it doesn’t deserve. When I say a game isn’t respecting my time, I don’t mean it as a personal dig at the devs, it’s just a fast way to communicate the more complicated idea of “this game feels like things take far too much time to complete than the pleasure I’m getting out of them.” I don’t doubt that in almost every situation the developer had something in mind for why these actions take so long, and I’m almost certain that with rare exceptions it was that intention was never to cause me annoyance.