The Problem of Choice: Why Big Games Are Hard to Play

We all want games that have plenty of content, but too much choice can also make us not want to play. Is there a perfect in-between?

A great way to attract gamers nowadays is to advertise a large amount of content. Gamers want large and long games, and the want stuff to do that isn't necessarily part of a main storyline. There are a lot of games that do this sort of thing, some more successfully than others. However, it has been proven with game sales that gamers like to have a game experience with a lot of choices.

Part of the trick with this, however, is to make sure there aren't too many choices available. There are a lot of large games out there where there are so many choices on what to do that it freezes the gamer. Too much choice can make me not want to play a game. One good example of this would be Minecraft. It's a game built on tailoring a custom experience to the player by allowing you to essentially build your own game world. You can create your own games within the game, which is where it's success comes from. However, if you aren't really sure what you want to build, you can be frozen by the vast number of options you can go for. It can be a turn off to many players.

You also have to make sure that the things you do have some weight to them. Skyrim is a great example of a game that both does this right and does it wrong. It contains a lot of quests that can alter you character's standing with many factions, and in some cases can alter the way parts of the world look. However, it also offers up several menial task chores that result in smaller rewards, and sometimes fails to distinguish between which is which. Menial tasks don't exactly create an engaging experience, and can turn gamers away.

The last thing that usually needs to be done right is that a game needs to have an interesting main story that will draw you back to the purpose of the game. Skyrim is an example of a game that does this wrong. The main story of the game, despite involving dragons, is actually largely uninteresting, and there is much more engaging lore in many of the faction side quests. On the other hand, games like The Last of Us offer a brilliant and engaging story with few side objectives other than collectibles, which are hardly engaging.

The trick is to strike a balance between story and extra content. A few games, like Fallout 3 have a pretty good balance. The problem with this is it can be a bit subjective, some gamers are going to be looking more for the deep story, whereas others will be looking for things to do on the side. No two gamers are exactly alike. Still, a balance between story content and side quests is important when trying to create an engaging game.

What do you guys think? Which games do you think strike a good balance between story and side content? Sound off in the comments.

Featured Correspondent

Lifelong gamer, heavily dedicated to Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Sonic, and Pokemon. Will also flip out over hardware related stuffs.

Published Oct. 27th 2017
  • Mech-Phree_1557
    Featured Contributor
    I guess I can summarize my thoughts of this article by saying this..I never finished Skyrim. I brought the game and was definitely intending on finishing it. But it still is sitting on my steam account waiting for me to update it. The game is so big I always feel like their is TO much to do where I end up doing nothing. Everything is so open ended in nature it feels like too much content to go through.

    Years ago I used to be able to really get into MMO'S and Dungeon crawlers where you can sink in over 100 hours into something easily in a few days. Now I don't exactly want that. Sure , i'd like a game to give me 40 plus hours of playability, but I need one that is more open linear if you will. Something like Dark Souls instantly comes to mind.
  • Ste Grainer
    Featured Correspondent
    When I was younger and had far too much free time, open sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto were amazing time-sucks. I loved exploring and doing all of the extra side stuff to get 100% achievements. (Did that on both GTA3 and Vice City)

    Now that I'm only able to play for a few hours a week, I find I prefer the more casual games that are pretty linear and directed because I know I can move closer to the finish line in that short span of time.

    I do enjoy games that have optional side achievements (like Assassin's Creed, Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, and Plants vs. Zombies 2) for those times when I still feel the craving to play after I've beaten the proper game.

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