We looked, the other day (Why Action Games Suck…), at how action situations are becoming more prevalent in non-action titles. It seems that there is great pressure towards swiftness, a “need for speed”, that is permeating the game industry.

Part of that, I think, is a reflection of modern life. The pace has picked up considerably with the Internet, the laptop, the cell phone and instant communications generally. Everything is fast, fast, fast.

So it’s no wonder that many games are tuned to that quickstep. Shooters, by their nature, are expected to be a rapid trip, full of tension and hair-trigger-reflex action.

When this sort of thing turns up elsewhere – in an adventure game, for example – is it only that reflection of modern life? Or do the designers feel a game without action would be too dull?

Are they trying to broaden the appeal of their products by including action segments or “real time”, to make them more attractive to that “prime” 18-34 demographic?

And then there’s the burgeoning casual market. These games may not necessarily be action-oriented, but they’re fast in another way: they’re shorter, making for quick play.

Even text adventures – yes, they are still with us – seem to be in thrall to the “need for speed”. The International Fiction Competition (IF Comp for short) holds a yearly contest for best adventure games. The expected playing time for entries is two hours.

Two hours for an adventure game? Shucks, the one time I went through a game that quickly was with Witness (not that infocom was expecting or wanting anyone to do that ;). I can tell you, it wasn’t much fun finishing so fast.

The modern world has its advantages, but patience and free time aren’t part of them, at least not any more. For younger gamers, nothing happens fast enough. For older gamers, the games aren’t short enough.

Where is all this heading? I’m not sure. The trend is definitely towards speed on the one hand and shorter on the other. At a guess, in time the two will merge, and games generally will be both fast and short, though maybe not too fast in the casual area.

This also brings up the auxiliary question: if games become shorter, will they also be cheaper? Would gamers be willing to pay $40-$60 dollars for a new title, with less playing time?

Or will downloadable, episodic content take over? For example, there’s Sam And Max. The full game is segmented into six, self-contained smaller adventures, with an overall storyline. Each episode can be downloaded for $9, or $54 for the whole series.

Telltale Games will also be selling the “complete season” (as they call it) on disc later. The trick here is, you buy the complete season for $34.95, and download all the games, then “just for shipping”, get the whole thing on disc, if you want.

In this case, the “full season” option is a decent deal, as the price for the whole game is reasonable. Of course, there is that shipping charge (no, I don’t know how much that will be).

And this is just the PC we’re looking at here. The console market is already heavily into downloadable content, and that will only continue. Digital distribution is not only here to stay, it’s growing fast.

Is all this a good thing? Sometimes, I have my doubts. The “need for speed”…how much speed do we really need? Are we letting speed rule our lives? Getting sucked up into the maelstrom of “faster, faster”, but not really going anywhere, like the Red Queen? Sometimes, it sure seems that way to me.