What's more, this is only for the RRP of games, never mind the abundant ways it's possible to get a fantastic bargain on games nowadays. Steam sales, Humble Bundles, launch discounts, free games offered through services like PS Plus, these constant offers make gaming absurdly cheap compared to how it was even a decade ago. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that it's the frequency of discounts like this which have made £40-50 seem so astonishingly expensive by comparison.
Another factor which contributes to this warped notion of how much games cost is the number of games being released. Back in 1996, it was much easier to keep up with all the newest games because there were fewer titles around. Now, however, there are multiple releases every single day, and major launches every week or two. If you want to keep up with all of these games, then that is going to get expensive. But this doesn't mean gaming itself more expensive. If anything, that increased competition is likely to continue driving the overall price down.
Hence it's fair to say that this prevailing notion of gaming being a particularly expensive hobby is flat-out wrong. But there's a more important point to be made here, which is the community's perception of what constitutes value in a game is actually damaging to the industry as a whole. Both of the arguments I tackled at the beginning of this article share something in common - they are fixated on the quantitive aspects of gaming - how many people made this game? How many hours will I get out of it? How much content is in there?
The hours issue is particularly noisome, as it contributes to the problem of many big-budget games becoming baggy, repetitive skinner boxes which fill their gigantic open-world maps with as much "content" as possible in order to increase the perceived value of the game. Ubisoft are the main culprits here, although there are several others. Games like Watch_Dogs and the more recent Assassin's Creed games have been bogged down with an overabundance of copy-pasted activities which only serve to dilute the quality of the experience. Even Far Cry 4, a game which thrived on emergent open-world action, felt burdened by the sheer amount of stuff crammed into the game. But when one of the most common complaints of the gaming audience is that any game under ten hours is "too short", it's no great surprise when developers respond by deliberately bulking out their games.
I'm not suggesting that that long games are bad. My favourite game of last year was the Witcher 3, a truly massive RPG that ate around 80 hours of my life. Yet what made it so brilliant had nothing to do with the length of the game, but the quality of the experience over that period. Every single quest had something interesting to it that made me want to explore further. Even the rigidly structured Witcher Contracts were filled with twists and turns and surprises.
It's reasonable to want value for the money you spend, but basing that value entirely on sweeping quantities like size and length is not only short-sighted, but results in the cheapening of the overall quality of games. There's so much more to what games great, from the stories they tell to the ingenuity of their systems. If you absolutely must simplify your choice of game purchase into a single quantity, then instead of asking whether a game is worth your money, try asking whether it is worth your time. After all, it's always possible to make a little more cash, but when it comes to time, you only get what you're given.