Notes on the Industry: Why Episodic Gaming is Great for Grown Ups

For adult gamers with full-time jobs and social lives, gaming can be a lot to fit into a hectic schedule. The solution? Episodic gaming.

With the great gaming boom of the 1990s, many people who consider themselves as "gamers" no longer fit into the under 18 demographic. The 2013 Essential Facts Study released by the ESA  notes that the average gamer age is actually 30 years old - with a majority 36% over the age of 35. I'm in my late twenties, and I've never been so glad to be below average

That said, the older I get, the more difficult it becomes to make time for video games in my life.

When I started working a full-time 9-5 job recently, gaming got cut out of my entire schedule for the first month. When I came home, I had to make dinner, socialize with my husband, and if I wasn't exhausted after that, maybe I'd get caught up on my television shows. 

I'd look at my video games longingly. With the semi-recent release of Final Fantasy XIII - Lightning Returns,  I contemplated re-playing the previous two games, ultimately deciding that they were too much of a commitment the limited free time I had. 

After the price dropped, I finally picked up Ni No Kuni and to my chagrin, was only able to play it for a couple of hours one weekend before I got overwhelmed with other commitments.

Let me re-iterate that for you guys: an amazing game I waited to play for years that is basically like playing inside a Studio Ghibli movie was sitting on my shelf unplayed because I simply didn't have the time for it. How sad is that? 

Then I discovered episodic gaming. 

I have gotten into comic books recently, and when I heard about TellTale Games' The Wolf Among Us (based off the Fables series from Vertigo), I decided to take a chance and play it. After all, I needed something to spend my hard-earned money on.

Episodic gaming fills a niche for gamers who long for something more compelling than a smartphone game, with less of a time committment than a AAA game. 

So I sat down one Saturday afternoon and played through the first episode of The Wolf Among Us. Two hours later, I had completed the first episode and felt accomplished and satisfied as I went about the rest of my day. 

The experience repeated itself when the second episode of The Wolf Among Us was released, and I began pondering why the experience was so fulfilling when my time committment was so brief.

Here's what I came up with. Episodic gaming fills a niche for gamers who long for something more compelling than a smartphone game, with less of a time committment than a AAA game.

In other words, Episodic Gaming is great for grown ups.

  1. The limited time committment makes downloading and playing a game like The Wolf Among Us a stress-free event. I may only have 2-7 hours a week for gaming, and this type of game fits perfectly into a busy schedule. 
  2. You get your money's worth. The story-driven nature of episodic games makes them just as engaging as larger titles. You can find cheaper games that are just as engaging (Candy Crush anyone?), but I'm willing to pay extra for games that don't put me in a skinner box
  3. You're getting a lengthy game in small bites. Most episodic games end up having between 3-5 episodes, so your overall game time might reach over the ten-hour mark. Since the game is broken up and released in stages, you never have to commit more than two hours at a time. 
  4. You can feel the accomplishment that comes with beating a game without playing 30+ hours. You know that feeling you get when you beat the final boss of a game and the credits role? It's a pretty great feeling, and you can get that feeling while still having a social life. 

While this type of gaming is still in its infancy, it's clearly still filling a niche in the gaming community. Considering that Telltale Game's The Walking Dead garnered a ridiculous number of accolades, including "Game of the Year" from various sources, it's time other companies caught on and started developing episodic games of their own. There's a whole crowd of people just waiting for more. 

Published Mar. 18th 2014
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I definitely agree that episodic gaming helps those who actually have busy lives.

    The only thing I disagree with is the part about getting the same level of satisfaction. I remember playing 40- and 50-hour (and longer) RPGs back in the day, and finishing those always gave me SUCH a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. No matter how good some of these episodic games are these days, 30 minutes or an an hour of play time just doesn't deliver quite the same feeling.
  • Kate Reynolds
    Senior Intern
    I'm a completionist - so I rarely complete games to my level of satisfaction (sadly). Usually once I beat a game it's like, "Okay Now I can go complete it 100% before I can feel any sort of satisfaction." Then by the time I've done that, I'm so tired of level grinding/treasure hunting/whatever to actually enjoy my victory.

    I enjoy that I can complete an episode (and find all the achievements and extras) in a concise amount of time. Since I'm able to do it all without getting burnt out, the win is just as good for me as with longer games.

    That's just me though! So I can totally see where you're coming from with that.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I used to be a completionist; just don't have the time anymore. Of course, this really only encompassed RPGs, which I don't think I'd ever play in episodic form :)

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