It just so happened that i´m rewatching the Lost-series right now. Actually, i just began to do that, not even having finished the whole first episode. But it made me remember what I love so much about this series: Each week it puts you into this mysterious world, and each week it confronts the audience with a new, little secret while maintaining the progress for the main story. That´s what makes Lost that enjoyable. It gives you something new each time you watch it. The same, so I believe, could be achieved in the realms of videogames.
When I talked about my demand for video games to break the 4th wall, I already touched on this kind of concept. Basically, allowing the gamer to experience only so much on one day. Almost all games that are released nowadays can be finished within a few days. To further elaborate: There are people that, once they get a highly anticipated game, will not stop playing that game until they´re finished. That´s not because they want to get it over with, but because they enjoy it that much. Of course, that´s quite unfortunate, as even a longer game can only last a few days by using such a play-habit. I´m personally guilty of that, having finished Twilight Princess in 2,5 days after its release. I´m in no way rushing the game, i simply play the whole day. Where other players spend maybe two hours a day, and not every day of the week, and thus will have several weeks of fun with the same title, I´m finished after a few days by having played eight hours or more a day. There are only two concepts that break from that tradition: MMORPGs and Animal Crossing. The former, because no human being can finish a MMORPG in just a few days (at least so I think). The latter, because it uses real-time. That is what I want to talk about.
Let´s forget how horribly disappointing Animal Crossing: Let´s go to the City was for all veteran AC-fans. What´s great about the franchise, is, that every day contains new stuff. For the most part nothing big, but still a little bit exploration of something new, be it finding a new fossil, meeting new NPCs or simply enjoying the changed weather. Every day you enter the world of Animal Crossing, you´re bound to find something new. You could litterally play the game 365 days and you would most likely still experience new stuff. Of course, there´s a downside to all that: You´ll never play Animal Crossing for too long in one session, as it gets repetitive after having looked around everywhere. Then all you can do is go fishing or bug-hunting. Still, for at least 30 minutes, you´ll have fresh fun each and every day.
This has to be done for a more “mature” game. By “mature” I don´t mean Gears of War-“mature”, but simply…look at Animal Crossing. Just not like “that”, got it? The next step would be to apply a gigantic story to this game, that can be told in many little episodes. Start the game and you´re introduce to your apartment and some people. You´ll go out and somewhere in the far a shadow is running away. You can´t see who it was. That marks the end of that day´s adventure. But if you wanted you could further explore the world around you and do stuff.
That is, as far as I see it, the big challenge to that concept: Featuring a long-running, episodic story, but STILL managing to give the player enough freedom so he can play beyond the day´s story if he wants to.
It would be a drastic concept, forcing the player to keep on going day after day, but it would grant gamers like me longer-lasting fun AND give the game more suspense. Whoever followed the Lost-series knows how great it feels having just seen something great, then being given a steep cliffhanger, but knowing that it´ll be only a week to find out what will happen next. I´d love to see a game doing exactly that.