Games I’ve played for 500+ hours

The other day Wilhelm had a post up about games he has played for at least as long as the developers of Dying Light II claim it takes to play their game to 100% completion. It’s a good read, and thinking about it I realized that it might be interesting to have a look at my own gaming history from this angle too.

The difficulty here is that I’ve never actively tracked how much time I’ve spent with any particular game, so if I haven’t launched it through Steam and the game itself doesn’t have a /played function either I can basically only guess. Hence I will sort them into categories of differing certainty, like Wilhelm did.

So let’s see…

Definitely have played for 500+ hours

    • Everquest II

This one is a no-brainer. EQII is easily my most played game of all time. I was the most active between 2006 and 2008, when it was pretty much the only game I touched, and I tended to play very, very long hours more often than not. Additionally, even before and after that particular time period I’ve spent a lot of time with this game over the years, and I can prove it: EQ2U says I have clocked 1,959 hours on my Warlock alone, so…yeah.

    • EVE Online

I created my first account and main character in December 2005, and while I’ve taken numerous breaks over the years only one of those was actually long enough to say “I’m not playing that game anymore” – and even then I eventually returned to have my longest and most active streak yet. Consequently, even without having any hard evidence, I’m absolutely certain that I’ve played a lot more than 500 hours of EVE.

Most likely have played for 500+ hours

    • Diablo II

As I’ve said numerous times Diablo II is one of my all time favourite games period. I actually wasn’t quite as hooked and therefore didn’t play as extensively as I’d expected right at launch, but by the time I’d burned out on Ultima Online towards the end of 2001 the Lord of Destruction expansion had come out and improved the game in every respect. This time there was no stopping me. It then became and remained one of my most-played games up until about 2010 – in fact it’s one of the very few non-MMORPGs I’ve played at all during that time period. The recent release of Diablo II Resurrected added at least another 30-40 hours to the tally, so yeah, it’s highly likely that I’ve crossed the threshold here.

    • Ultima Online

Speaking of UO, hoo boy, was that game a revelation. My gateway drug into MMORPGs, if you will. Starting in June 2001 I was late to the party, but I more than made up for that by playing every waking moment (literally, except when I was at work) for the next six months or so. Unfortunately I was so into it that I couldn’t stop myself from trying to level up dozens of skills on multiple characters each and every day, so I burned out and bounced off of it pretty hard. I returned after a thorough break and played on and off until a little game called Star Wars Galaxies came out, and that was that. Regardless, in total I should be over 500 hours of playing time, though maybe not by much.

    • Star Wars: The Old Republic

Weirldy enough I almost forgot to include this, although I’ve assuredly played it for more than 500 hours. The thing about this game is, my itinial enthusiasm waned pretty quickly, and I most likely would have quit much sooner had it not been for the great guild we were in. Except for some really well designed and fun raids all good memories I have about the game have almost nothing to do with the game itself and everything with this group of people. Anyway, it makes the list easily.

Probably have played for 500+ hours

    • Star Wars Galaxies

Like UO this is another game I really loved but still didn’t play for as long as I initially thought I would. As much as I like sandbox MMOs, turns out activities like gathering, crafting, housing or (light) roleplaying alone can only entertain me for so long, and unfortunately SWG didn’t have much else to offer at the time (at least to me). Again, just like with UO I played very extensively during the first few months though, so I assume it just about makes the cut.

    • ArcheAge & ArcheAge Unchained

I’m lumping these together because, well, they’re basically the same game with different business models. I’ve played each iteration quite a lot for the better part of a year, so I’m actually pretty certain that it’s been well over 500 hours in total. However, in this case I have next to no “feel” for how long I’ve really played for some reason, and no way to verify it either, hence its appearance in this category.

    • The Secret World

One of the truly great and unique MMORPGs, unfortunately underappreciated by many players and mishandled by Funcom, it never had a chance to reach its full potential. I loved it exactly like it was however, and consequently played it an awful lot.

    • Genshin Impact

My most played game from fall 2020 to summer 2021 by a wide margin, so yeah, pretty sure it’s been over 500 hours.

And there you have it. Which games did you ever play for 500+ hours?

A (real) sense of pride and accomplishment

You probably remember how Electronic Arts tried to talk themselves out of the Star Wars Battlefront II disaster back in ’17 by claiming the game’s lootbox-centric design was actually beneficial to its players. Yeah, that went down as well as expected.

However, greedy nonsense like that aside, video games obviously can make players feel proud of themselves for accomplishing certain goals or overcoming hard challenges. During the past few months I was reminded of how that actually feels like.

Arknights is, at its heart, a tower defense game. It’s a gacha game too, with everything that that entails, good and bad (which is a topic for a post of its own though, I’ll get to that soon™).

I actually didn’t anticipate to like it as much as I do because the few tower defense games I’ve played over the years got boring pretty fast – and they all weren’t very engaging to begin with.

This is a completely different beast however. First of all, the game has tons and tons of story and lore. You get to actually know the world and the characters, which gives the gameplay quite a different feel from just placing some generic units in whatever stages.

The gameplay itself is where Arknights really shines though. Holy crap, has this a lot of complexity and depth to it! Most of the time you can freely choose up to twelve of your characters (called operators) to make up the squad for the mission at hand, and there’s quite a selection. After only a couple of weeks I already had about 80 units to choose from, and right now, after three months, I’m at 107. Why do we need so many? Because there’s a plethora of different roles to fill and tasks to perform.

Here’s a look at the eight main archetypes:

Doesn’t look overly complex, does it? Defenders tank, Casters deal magic damage (called arts damage here) from range, Medics heal, and so on. Right?

Well, yeah, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as you’ll find lots of differences and specializations even within the same archetype. Take Guards for example, the game’s melee DPS units: there are Dualist Guards, which can only block and attack one enemy unit at a time, but usually deal a lot of damage and are quite sturdy; by contrast, AoE Guards can block two or even three units and attack just as many; then there’s Ranged Guards, which can attack from a distance and also deal damage to airborne units; Arts Guards deal magic instead of physical damage; and quite a few more.

It gets really crazy when you look at the Supporters and Specialists. There are operators that can pull enemies towards them, others push the baddies away. Some can slow or stun, others buff their allies or debuff opponents. Summoners are also a thing…the list goes on. In other words, the possibilities are nearly endless.

It’s no surprise, then, that choosing the best operators for a stage and utilizing them to their strenghts is the key to victory. Which isn’t to say that there’s only one “correct” way to do it. Quite the contrary, in fact. As the developers don’t know which operators each player does or doesn’t own they obviously can’t design any stage to only be winnable with a certain combination of units, therefore it’s always up to each player to figure out a way that suits their roster and playstyle.

And boy, this is so much fun! Actually it’s even more than that. I can’t describe how satisfying it is to beat a tricky stage by going in with my allround-squad first, failing, and then gradually figuring out the solution by substituting operators, placing them elsewhere or in a different order, until I finally get it right and am like “Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”.

Wait, you know what? I actually can describe that feeling: it’s one of pride and accomplishment, that’s what it is. Turns out that succeeding at well designed, challenging and fun gameplay can satisfy in a way that grinding mindlessly or swiping your credit card never could. Who knew?

It’s been quite a while since a game gave me this kind of experience, and frankly, right now I’m quite addicted to it. And I’m not even very good at playing strategy games. When I started out in Arknights I kind of assumed that it wouldn’t take long for me to quit out of frustration or impatience.

It’s so bloody motivating though, and fortunately there are various means of support when I can’t for the life of me figure a stage out. Due to the game’s RPG mechanics I can always try and level up my operators some more to brute-force it. If that also fails – which it usually does if the chosen approach is just bollocks – there are some very good content creators on YouTube providing walkthrough videos that usually help me “get it”, enabling me to beat the stage even if I don’t own all of the operators that were used in the guide.

So yeah, I’m having a blast, and I haven’t even talked about the game’s great soundtrack, its nifty base-building system (including a little bit of actual housing!) or how generous and rewarding everything feels.

These four rooms are my operators’ dormitories. Once built they can be furnished by the player, which I have already done here. In the game you can zoom farther in of course.

To my knowledge there isn’t a native PC version, so should you want to give it a try you’ll have to either play it on mobile, or install it via an Android emulator like BlueStacks, which is what I use.

Now, I do realize the irony of taking EA’s stupid claim I talked about in the beginning and applying it unironically to a gacha game. But, believe it or not, in my opinion gacha games – at least the ones I know – are actually a lot less unethical than what many western publishers try to get away with these days. I’d prefer Arknights’ or Genshin Impact’s monetization schemes over FIFA Ultimate Team, SW BFII’s “progression” or legacy ArcheAge’s P2W cash shop any day.

That, however, is a discussion for another day.