Game Paused: The Trend of Time-Gating Content

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Is there a new trend that involves making players wait for content that I’ve missed? I am currently waiting for Hate Plus to decide that I have spent enough time baking a cake before I can continue with the game. With *Hyun-ae, the female AI who I decided to romance (although after I did, I found out that she’s technically underage, which is more than a little icky), I promised that I would make her a cake. I thought it would be simple. I say yes, I want to make a cake with her, and then I get on with the story.

It’s not so easy, unfortunately. I also said that I didn’t have the ingredients to make the cake, hoping that *Hyun-ae would just give me a pass. Well, she’s a very stubborn AI, and now I’m waiting for the next hour or so before I can say that I finished the cake. The game is actually expecting me to bake one, but since I am deadly in the kitchen, I’ve decided a little white lie won’t hurt.

Hate Plus is the sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story, and while it takes place in the same universe, there are a lot of differences in the way that it’s presented and the way that the mechanics work. Both are visual novels, which sold me on the genre. The stories are interesting and well told, leaving you feeling like you’re slowly peeling away layers to find the mystery within. For the most part, the characters are compelling and the romances (if not the romance options) are diverse. Without spoiling much, there are bisexual, gay, and lesbian characters within the two stories, and while most stories would make a token mention of them before moving on, A:AHS and Hate Plus bring these romances center stage. I appreciate that a lot as a non-heteronormative gamer and it’s because I appreciate it that I’m waiting for *Hyun-ae to let me decide that I’ve spent long enough making a cake for her.

Hate Plus has another time mechanic, though, and that’s where you can only pull a certain amount of data and logs before your ship runs out of power for the day. Once your ship runs out of power, there’s nothing to do but power down and then come back the next day. The game is forcing you to play in segments, and while you could just be sneaky and set your computer clock to the next day, you’ll miss out on an achievement when doing so.

This is a feature that was also present in another game I recently finished, Sword & Sworcery. In that game, I had to wait for the right phase of the moon, which meant that I would check back the next day to see if the moon phase had changed. Eventually, I found an in-game way to change the moon phase, but I was still put off by the mechanic. I’ve never liked it when games force me to come back later. It is one of the big problems that I have with mobile games because when I’m playing a game, I want to be able to play it for as long as I want to. When the content is locked from me and I’m unable to proceed because I have to wait for a certain amount of time to pass, I get frustrated. The story has me gripped and I want to know the ending.

Sword & Sworcery

In Hate Plus, the strong feeling I get is that they’re trying to make it more immersive, but in the end it does the opposite for me. I forget that I’m supposed to play the next day and then won’t touch the game for a while, breaking the flow when *Hyun-ae claims that only one day has passed.

I can’t say that I’m sold on the mechanics that make us wait before we can continue with a game. They work well with mobile games (which Sword & Sworcery admittedly was originally) where you only want to play for a couple minutes at a time. When I’m sitting in front of my computer to play a game, though, I’m expecting to put some more time in and to have some more control over my gameplay. Since this isn’t The Stanley Parable and I’m going to assume that Hate Plus isn’t trying to screw with my head, the mechanic seems out of place to me.

Maybe this is where more video games are going to head now that episodic gaming is becoming more popular, but what made episodic gaming great when it comes to The Walking Dead or Life Is Strange is that the episodes are long enough that I generally won’t finish them in one sitting. I don’t feel like I’m being forcibly stopped from doing something that I want to do.

There are some merits to the system, I guess. In the time when I should have been baking *Hyun-ae a cake, I ended up writing this article instead, but I still wish that I had more control over the game. Even as I write these words I find myself wondering if enough time has passed for me to continue with the game …

Nope. Damn it. Why is love so hard?

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5 Comments on “Game Paused: The Trend of Time-Gating Content

  1. I actually really liked that mechanic in Hate Plus because I’d have been tempted to binge the entire thing otherwise. Since my attention tends to waver after extended periods of time, I wouldn’t have focused nearly as much on the story as much. Also, I love that Hyun-ae calls you out on the cake thing. I mean, that’s one way to stop a relationship from coming off too gamey. Plays into the whole theme of respect (or lack thereof) even if it does massively break the fourth wall.
    Different strokes? The Sword and Sorcery moon-wait does sound annoying, though.

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    • I thought it was clever and now that I’m not playing the game any more, I kind of enjoy it. At the time though, I was desperate to know what happened next. Hyun-ae won’t let herself be tricked at all. She was too clever for me. :p

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  2. I loved playing through Hate Plus across three real-time days – the first run, anyway, because the time mechanic doesn’t hold up half as well on subsequent playthroughs without that initial feeling of exploration. I’d also argue that the cake sequence is a product of *Hyun-ae’s route not being half as meaty as *Mute’s; where *Mute’s path is full of genuine character moments because her past self is intimately involved with the events you’re reading about, *Hyun-ae is at one remove, and so it feels like it’s been padded out to make the routes equivalent in length. This may just be my bias showing, since I think *Mute’s easily the most interesting character by dint of having such an unusual and outdated worldview, but I do genuinely think her path is the game at its best.

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    • I think that you’re right. I really liked playing with *Hyun-ae for the first game because this had to do with her past very intimately, but for the second game, I liked playing with *Mute better. I hadn’t thought that maybe it was stretching out the time for Hyun-ae simply because of how good *Mute’s playthrough is. Now you make me want to go play *Mute’s route again, haha.

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  3. Pingback: Sunday Loot: Top Tweets From This Week | FemHype

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