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Hear me out: All these things? Make them longer! (Image Design: Archi Banal)
Hear me out: All these things? Make them longer! (Image Design: Archi Banal)

OPINIONPop CultureOctober 8, 2022

Hear me out: Make all entertainment longer

Hear me out: All these things? Make them longer! (Image Design: Archi Banal)
Hear me out: All these things? Make them longer! (Image Design: Archi Banal)

Among all the complaints that films, TV and games these days are far too long, one man is brave enough to argue the opposite. That man is Sam Brooks.

The Guardian asks, “Are today’s TV shows too long?” Variety queries “Are movies too long now?” Kotaku says that games are “too big (long) to fail”. 

I say: make them ever longer!

When I read complaints like the ones above, I find myself shaking my head. Things aren’t too long these days; actually, they should be even longer. Now, I love a short burst of joy. I love it when I click on a reel or TikTok a mate sends me, I have one sharp laugh, I forward it onto three other friends, and never think about it again.

But when it comes to great TV, novels, games and cinema – to art? Slow and steady wins the race in my book.

Emma Thompson as the Angel in HBO’s Angels in America. (Photo: HBO)

Don’t get me wrong: there are downsides to time intensive pieces of art. Most obviously, they take up a lot of your time. Time is a non-renewable resource, and if you happen to have, say, a job, dependents or other hobbies, you simply might not have the time or the desire to watch a show with a million seasons, read that thousand page book, or play that 60 hour game.

The upside? Long art can be extremely rewarding. Ten seasons of a show means 10 seasons of watching characters grow together, and explore the nuances of those relationships. Eight hundred pages of a fantasy novel means 800 pages spent in a world that has been carefully built, lore-piece by lore-piece, to be worth spending weeks, if not months, inside. A 70 minute album is 70 minutes spent blissing/rocking (choose as applicable) out. Basically: if you invest in the right thing, you get that investment back. 

Similarly, if you invest in the wrong thing, you get that investment right back. If you watch 70 hours of Hoarders, you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up with a dimmer view of humanity and what it’s capable of. People spent a decade of their lives invested in Game of Thrones, only to see that investment thrown back in their face in the last few disappointing hours. An investment in a piece of art that requires serious time from you is by definition a risky one. But it’s one that I love.

I’m aware this sets me up to be a huge goddamned nerd. One of my favourite works of art, of all time, is the play Angels in America. The whole thing takes seven hours, and I’ve sat and watched it twice, and watched the equally long miniseries about five times. I’ve watched all 10 seasons of Friends all the way through multiple times. Every year I schedule a reread of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a 14th century novel about a war in 3rd century China which runs to 120 chapters of varying length, depending on the translation I read.

Looks cartoony? This game takes 50 hours to complete, you guys.

Perhaps the most intense recipient of my obsession with art that requires a massive time investment is a video game series called The Legend of Heroes. Since 2004, this Japanese roleplaying series has released 13 games. They are all set in the same world, with an extremely dense history and swathes of text to play through. The narratives are full of wild twists that require knowledge of previous games to fully comprehend. Each game adds about five or so playable characters, to the point where the latest, Trails of Reverie (yet to be released here), has 50 of them, plus dozens of non-playable characters you meet in every game, many of which carry over. Each game takes about 50 hours to complete, and that’s if you’re not doing every piece of side content, talking to every person you possibly can. Though why wouldn’t you? What else do you have to do?

I have spent, no joke, at least 1000 hours of my life on this game series. I don’t regret a single one of them. The most recent entry in this series, Legend from Heroes: Trails from Zero, has a scene that represents what I love most about it, and about long art in general. At one point, I ventured far off the beaten path, knowing that this series intends you to do so, and ended up watching Estelle and Joshua, two of the protagonists from Trails of Sky (a game released nearly two decades ago) visiting a blind girl and encouraging her to learn braille. Because of all that had come before, it was profoundly moving.

It’s the kind of moment that doesn’t really hit unless you’ve put the time in – hours and hours of it. A scene like the one above is a warm tickle of acknowledgement from the makers: if this means something to you, it’s because you cared enough to stay with us.

That’s why I love long things. They reward you for putting the time and putting the effort in, for making a sacrifice. Short and sharp entertainment is a tequila shot; fun, furious, fast, and quickly forgotten. But art that gives you back as much as you put into it? That’s a glass of really good wine, to be savoured and remembered.

Keep going!