In one of my more banal existences, I made sandwiches at a local delicatessen for a modest wage. While not as soul-crushing as other professions I would later occupy, the job offered enough idleness to foster angst-ridden, pseudo-philosophy worthy of Updike’s A&P cashier. One of my tasks was to dispose of unwanted sandwich meats at the end of the night. I would weigh them, tally the loss and toss.
One night, I was performing my duties when I happened to weigh out ham that was equivalent to exactly two hours of what my employer considered my time to be worth. I was literally about to waste two hours of my life. Before I started considering the ratio of dead pigs to one living person, I promptly quit, as the irresponsibility of suburban bourgeoisie allowed.
I mention this anecdote because I believe it is important for people to know the value of their time. Perhaps not in terms of processed meat, but certainly for hobbies, especially if disposable income is a luxury. A couple of the games we covered in the podcast were criticized for being 8-10 hours in length. For the standard AAA price of sixty dollars, let us look at content by the hour:
“However, to understand the true value of what is purchased is something often left aside, especially in hobbies.”
An 8-hour game would come to $7.50 per hour of gameplay, more than the current federal minimum wage. A general consensus among gamers and critics seems to find a 20-hour game to be ideal, which is $3.00 per hour of game, though the prominence of DLC’s and Season Passes can artificially add to the per hour cost.
Movie lengths, perhaps the most equivalent medium to video games, are generally standardized between 1.5 to 3 hours. According to the LA Times, the average ticket price in 2014 was $8.17, thus the average entertainment cost per hour ranges from $5.45 to $2.72. If priced accordingly (and admittedly arbitrarily), games should range in length from 11 to 22 narrative hours.
I offer these figures as perspective. To price an industry based on another is incredibly simplistic. Also, what an individual consumer considers valuable content and his or her capacity to purchase content are a few of the many things not considered in this article. However, to understand the true value of what is purchased is something often left aside, especially in hobbies. I imagine how reticent I would be in the arcades of my youth if I had considered my purchases in dollars instead of quarters.
I will leave off with some parting questions:
- As gaming develops as an art form, are class tiers developing among the consumer with competing desires? If so, how do we reconcile them?
- Does the rigid cost and lack of codified labeling among AAA games promote familiar purchasing?