Playing Games Like You Watch TV Or: Why It Took Me Over Two Years To Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition


I’ve spoken about my gaming habits plenty in the past but I’ve noticed another shift in the last year or so. If I have an hour spare now in the evening I’m much more likely to play an online game, not something single player based.

While it sounds contrary to the above, I feel like I want to invest more time in single player game sessions than ever and really lose myself in that world, which conflicts with my gaming schedule – essentially the odd hour here and there in the evening. I’m finding that I don’t want to play something story based for 45 minutes or an hour. Or at least that’s how I feel about open world games, I’m certainly still happy to play an hour long session to complete a chapter of Uncharted or a main mission in Tomb Raider. More linear games still lend themselves to that style of play. I’ve always played those kind of games like TV shows anyway, a chapter or two at a time over the course of weeks rather than days. I’ve never been a gamer who will rush through a 15-20 hour game in a weekend.


Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good example of this new play style, a game I likely would’ve rushed through before is now a title I’m planning to play over the course of months rather than weeks. Crucially, I also feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of the game by taking the time to explore and discover smaller content along the way.

I think there is an accompanying parallel change in multiplayer games, which are doing a much better job of getting you to come back and play more often. There has been a positive change in a huge amount of games whereby new content (new levels/maps or characters) is being added free of charge for all players. This is important because, firstly, it means the player base isn’t split (some that paid have the new content but others don’t and they can’t all play together) and secondly it gives people a strong reason to come back to games they might not have ever returned to before this trend. In addition a lot of games are rewarding players for logging in and playing, which keeps people interested for longer.  I also feel like there are a ton of pick up and play online experiences that last 5-10 minutes per game, which align perfectly with the time I have available.

If I only have 30-45 mins spare why waste my time on an open world title and have to turn it off just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the game? I’d rather play a few rounds Overwatch and a game of Rocket League. It’s also occasionally quite nice to play something that has a set beginning, middle and end. I guess it’s similar to watching a really good eight episode TV show knowing it only has one season and tells a complete story within that.


Big, sprawling open world titles are definitely still attractive to me, Horizon is one of the best games I’ve played in the last 4 or 5 years, but I just need more time to play and invest in them. Dragon Age: Inquisition took me over two years to finish. Why? I suspect the TV season-like structure helped, along with the change in my own gaming habits. What I loved about the structure of Dragon Age in particular was that your main hub in the game was your ‘War Table’, where you and your colleagues/advisors would plan your next tactical move and which mission to take on. On this table you had a selection of smaller missions, including favours for your colleagues that would reveal more about them and strengthen your relationship with them, but also one bigger mission that moved the main story on considerably. So for me, the game became like a TV show in so far as I would spend a few weeks playing side missions, levelling up and getting some character development for my team before doing the big, climatic ‘end of season’ mission and then putting the game down for a month or two.

Another huge title in terms of scale is Fallout 4, which I’m still playing 18 months after I started. Why? Well for similar reasons to Dragon Age but with the added decision from the outset not to follow the direct path for ‘character reasons’. I decided to make my character more selfish than my usual created characters, for example my elf Inquisitor from Dragon Age or Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect. In Fallout, Bella would be a character that was, for the most part, more interested in her own current affairs than any grander goal – which has been great fun and I’d recommend everyone to try playing a character like it at some stage!


Another issue with mainlining games is burnout, doing the same thing over and over again is certainly not fun and can severely lessen your enjoyment of a game. However, I think there is a huge difference between repetitive gameplay over a longer period of time in hour sized chunks and repetitive gameplay experienced in bigger 3 or 4 hour time slots.  I genuinely believe that the reason I still enjoy long running game series like Assassin’s Creed, where you are essentially doing the same thing in every iteration of the game in a different setting, is because I’ve never really sat down and played them for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

Episodic gaming kind of solves this play style problem, although it doesn’t always necessarily do the best job. Titles like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are great games, although each episode usually runs the length of a film which runs into the same problem for me time-wise. Hitman, which is perfectly suited to the episodic format, is another title with lengthy levels (a positive when I have the time to invest) although the inclusion of smaller one off assassinations does mean that is a game you can also dip into here and there.

Life Is Strange 1

Some people are quick to mainline these huge games and I just don’t get it. Why would you want to rush through these big titles? Where Uncharted is like a film, games like Skyrim, Mass Effect or Dragon Age are like having 10 seasons of a TV show in front of you. Finishing these open world games as quickly as possible by doing just main quests would be like having a cut down version of the TV show that just focuses on the main character and no-one else. Sure you’d get to experience the story at the centre of the show but without any focus on other characters. Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer without any development of Willow or Xander? Or an Orphan Black with no focus on Donny or anyone except Sarah? Indeed, imagine a Mass Effect that didn’t bother to flesh out your crew but just double downed on the main story.

I’m as guilty as the next person of binge-watching TV shows but I do feel that for games it is a little different – as I mentioned above my confusion isn’t really based on people playing games quickly, it’s what you might be missing along the way. Even if I binge something like Jessica Jones I am still seeing all the story the creators put in there and want us to see. If you mainline a game you could be missing a wealth of interesting content and potentially things that might be integral to the wider plot of the game.


Even in this age of on demand binge watching it can be nice to watch a TV show week by week – one of the biggest luxuries of the ‘old’ approach to watching TV or playing games is that you have time to think about and appreciate the content you’re consuming. I’ve found that in games but also in TV. Recently, Legion was a delight to watch week by week and I actually think I needed that time between episodes to process what I’d seen. Sure, there is a rush from getting through something you’re enjoying – it can exhilarating knowing that you are just a click away from another episode or main mission but I’d recommend giving slower paced gaming a shot. It’s definitely a different experience and one, for me personally, that means I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of open world games.


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GregHorrorShow TV Awards 2010

I spent months at the back end of last year and early this year moaning that there is nothing good on TV anymore.

Well that changed (thankfully) as 2010 went on and I spent the year with loads of great shows to watch.

There were a few disappointments (Ghost Whisperer didn’t get going until the last two or three episodes) but on the whole it’s been a great year for me on TV stuff.



WINNER: The Walking Dead

There were plenty of contenders for this one but the show that blew me away was The Walking Dead. A zombie show that’s not immediately about finding a cure but about finding your loved ones. Strong acting and a sense of tension throughout make this a must watch. In the wrong hands this could’ve been a flashy ‘McG-style’ affair but it’s under played and subtle – which makes it a lot more powerful.



The Middle




WINNER: The Middle

The Middle came out of nowhere for me as I’d heard nothing about it but it’s become a real favourite over the last few months. The madcap tales of the Heck family are in the same vein as Malcolm In The Middle and the characterisation is superb. Each with their own little traits as a group there is a great chemistry. If it wasn’t for this show I wouldn’t spend so much time whispering Brick-style down to my chest. *whispers* To my chest. 😆



Raising Hope

The Trip



WINNER: An Idiot Abroad

How much of it was staged we’ll never know but regardless Karl Pilkington’s trips to the seven wonders of the World were priceless. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant really did send him to the lesser seen side of the wonders. Apart from the comedy genius that gave us it was really interesting to actually see that type of thing. The stuff they don’t show you usually. Like him being at the Taj Mahal and saying ‘look it’s beautiful but just over there they are burning dead bodies.’ A nice insight into the areas surrounding the seven wonders.


E Edible Adventure

Hairy Bikers Cook Off

The Football League Show





Whether you love it or hate it, Glee has brought some innovative music uses onto our screens and has given Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ a new lease of life with a younger generation. Some of the mash ups on the show work really well and obviously the guys & girls are talented singers so Glee gets this years soundtrack award.



The Middle

Raising Hope


Actor Of The Year

WINNER: Philip Glenister – ‘DCI Gene Hunt’ (Ashes To Ashes)

Philip Glenister takes Actor of The Year for a second successive year and if you want to know why watch the finale of the last series of Ashes To Ashes. The moment *that* truth is revealed his acting is second to none. Any of the runners up could’ve won this on a different year but Glenister set the bar very high indeed.


Andrew Lincoln – ‘Rick Grimes’ (Walking Dead)

Nathan Fillion – ‘Richard Castle’ (Castle)

Stephen Moyer – ‘Bill Compton’ (True Blood)


Actress Of The Year

WINNER: Jane Lynch – ‘Sue Sylvester’ (Glee)


The runners up for this award are all amazing actresses who do a great job week in week out. But Jane Lynch almost single-handedly carries Glee every episode. Her vitriolic outbursts as Sue Sylvester are television gold. Sylvester is a poisonous, horrible character but Lynch gives her the smallest of chinks in her armour and that is enough to give her some likeability.


Joanna Kelly – ‘Myka Bering’ (Warehouse 13)

Stana Katic – ‘Kate Beckett’ (Castle)

Maggie Q – ‘Nikita’ (Nikita)



WINNER: Warehouse 13

This was a two way fight between Castle and Warehouse 13, with the latter just about taking it. Warehouse 13’s kooky kind of comedy/drama is a refreshing change to the serious dramas around and the dynamic of the characters relationship took on the look of a family which really helped develop things. A few stand out epsiodes (‘Around The Bend’ and ‘Reset’ in particular) made sure I stayed hooked and by the end of the season I was left wanted more.



Walking Dead



Hopefully 2011 will be just as good. With a guilty pleasure of mine, Primeval, returning and with new seasons of Warehouse 13, Castle and The Middle guaranteed I’m pretty optimistic.

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