How long will my boyfriend be playing XCOM, Enemy Unknown?
July 8, 2014 5:26 PM   Subscribe

A week ago, my boyfriend has started playing Xcom Enemy Unknown. He has not stopped. He is, in a word, obsessed. He is often engaged in "missions." It's kind of cute. I am a video game virgin and am amused/bewildered by his devotion to this game. My question is: how, um, long does one play this? How long does it take to "complete" these "missions." And can you help me understand the psychology of XCOM ENEMY UNKNOWN?
posted by airguitar2 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like most people play it through in 20-40 hours.
posted by Andrhia at 5:29 PM on July 8, 2014

Although note that there's an expansion with about as much playtime as the base game.
posted by dorque at 5:32 PM on July 8, 2014

It's a cool game. Fully beating the game tends to take on the order of 25-30 hours, which sounds about right to me. The game consists of various missions, as you've noticed, and in between missions, you develop new weaponry and research.

If he's a good boyfriend and you're genuinely interested, I'm sure he'd be willing to show you the game and tell you why he likes it.

After completing the game, one can always play it again at a greater difficulty setting or play the multiplayer mode, so it's hard to say when he'll be "done" exactly beyond when he gets tired of it. If your question involves him spending too much time playing the game and not enough time doing other activities, that's a different matter all together.
posted by zachlipton at 5:32 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

The new XCOM is a pretty great game! And it definitely can push the obsession buttons for those of us inclined.

One thing you may want to try to get a sense for the psychology is to watch him play and have him narrate what he's doing. This is actually a genre of thing that gets viewers on youtube, colloquially known as a "let's play". Here's an example using XCOM. I haven't watched or vetted that so it might be terrible!

It's really tough to say how long his playtime might be. It could be relatively short, but if he's playing on a higher difficulty level with the "ironman" option turned on, it could be significantly longer. The "missions" you're talking about are turn-based, so the player takes a turn, then the computer takes one, then the player, etc. There're no time limits on the turns, so someone can spend many minutes agonizing over a single turn, since the death of one of your soldiers can send your game spiraling into the muck.

I would estimate that it took a couple months of real-world time for the game to let go of me, but it's extremely variable.

The psychology is a mixture of things. The game works hard to create a sense that you're under immense pressure to achieve an impossible victory against long odds. Along the way you're researching technologies, building new equipment, and shepherding your fragile soldiers through deadly firefights. As the game goes on, you also tend to have soldiers who get repeatedly lucky or unlucky, or survive disasters, or otherwise develop stories that you can tell about them. It's actually pretty easy to develop a feeling of attachment to particular soldiers, even though their personalities and narratives are all stuff we invent in our own heads based on what happens in the game.

Hope this helps!
posted by kavasa at 5:39 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

About five years ago, I devoted every second of my spare time to with never a complaint from my SO.

When I began to get bored, I started pumping money into the game, and eventually came out #1 on my planet, at which time I posted to the game forum that I was done and offered my password to whomever might like to take over. This post was almost immediately deleted, but not before someone grabbed my account, as intended.

Which is only to say, today's obsession can be tomorrow's distant memory.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just to warn you, I started out lo these many years ago (we're talking the PS2 version) watching my now-husband play X-COM. A little while later, we were playing as a team — I was quartermaster and in charge of managing research and the base; he did the field missions (with me looking on and saying "Hey, check that roof, I think there's—" ZZZZZZAPPPPP! Trooper down! "…like I was saying, I think there may be an alien sniper up there.").

Today? I'm smoking him on the iPad version. I was thisclose to finishing the final mission when I got held up and had my iPad stolen and I HADN'T SAVED THAT SESSION TO THE CLOUD SO HAD NO BACKUP ARGH.

Just so you know. The first mission's free…
posted by Lexica at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Is he on the PC?

Because once he finishes it (and the expansion), he can play the XCOM: Long War mod, which uh, makes the game much longer and harder!

Happy to help.
posted by Oktober at 6:20 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Steam tells me I'm on hour 338 of XCOM, between the original, the expansion, and the Long War mod. It's slightly less than that (from leaving it on while doing other things)...but yeah.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:37 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

223 hours here.

So the answer is that there is no way to know. He could be finished in a day or two. Or he could be hooked on it for weeks. Or he could finish up in a few days and later go back and play the expansion and be hooked for weeks then.

The individual missions can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours depending on the difficulty level and how careful you are.
posted by Justinian at 7:50 PM on July 8, 2014

My husband recently played XCOM. He got quite into it and would spend many evenings playing it, and actively prefer that to... say... watching TV, and stay up quite late for it, and often, unless we already had other activities planned, that would be his default. (Which is okay, since I did other things too.) And I would say it went on for a month or two...?

The game is really as long or as short as you want to make it, since you can play it over and over on different difficulty levels and with different strategies (from my secondhand understanding).

It looked fun, but those types of games are really not my thing. If you want to engage him, I would suggest making him know that it's important you spent time together. It's hard to not play a game when you're really into it, but it's part of being an adult and being in a relationship.
posted by ethidda at 8:14 PM on July 8, 2014

You can download it for free here, if you want to try it out.

The link to the free demo is on the right hand side of the page. ("Download PC Demo")
posted by empath at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2014

Also, is your question how long will he play X-com or how long will he play video games, because the kind of guy who will play xcom for 40 hours is fairly sure to move right on to another game when he's done.
posted by empath at 9:21 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't tell him about the new Xenonauts, which is an remake of the original 1993ish game, rather than the new (and differently awesome) licensed remake.

XCOMs, past and present, are great games because of the deep but simple 3-prong strategy elements: base management (build base elements like labs, barracks, hangars, new bases), personnel management (with RPG elements, but you don't play a single player, or rather you play them all, as well as hire, train, and sometimes fire them (and get a lot of them killed)), and turn-based combat. Turn-based squad combat is the sort that rewards careful consideration and preparation, and also offers a good bit of suspense, and a whole lot of highs and lows as your troops get kills, or get killed. Then there's the fantasy of operating a semi-covert military organization that protects the planet by developing exotic technologies, playing one country against another, etc.

One often finds oneself seeing peril coming without having the power to stop it. It's not about adrenaline rush or spirited defense like real-time strategy; it's about plotting...and watching your plots unravel upon encountering the enemy.

Speaking for myself, the original XCOM was the first turn-based game I ever liked. It didn't turn me on to turn-based in general, but doing a whole squad's-worth of turns at once kept the momentum high. Computer games are designed to locate your pleasure button, and then hit it rapidly without burning you out on the experience, and XCOM does this with aplomb.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:46 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

And can you help me understand the psychology of XCOM ENEMY UNKNOWN?

How old is your boyfriend? XCOM is the latest installment in a long series of hit-or-miss remakes of a 1994 title that is widely considered to be one of the best games of all time. The concept has remained largely the same, with some tinkering and simplification to bring it more in line with current gaming trends, which surprisingly works in favor of good gameplay instead of dumbing it down as is usually the case. The developers really hit this one out of the park - there are very few sour notes, and yet they have not just remade the same game. Add in the modern graphics and sound, and you can understand why this would be gaming crack to the right age cohort (myself included).

the kind of guy who will play xcom for 40 hours is fairly sure to move right on to another game when he's done

Counterexample of one here: I'm sacrificing much needed sleep to defend the earth from the alien threat (somebody has to do it), but I couldn't tell you what this years' hot new game titles are, and don't have a system that could play most of them anyway.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:46 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Presuming your video game virgin status: turn-based strategy is a genre in which one player makes all their moves, then another player makes all their moves, and so on. In the case of XCOM, the "other player" is the game itself. This is differentiated from real-time strategy, in which two or more players are acting simultaneously.

I make this point because turn-based strategy games are absolutely notorious for the "one more turn" phenomenon. Because a player's actions are circumscribed within the turn (this character can only move so far this round, that character can only shoot once and not twice, etc.), yet the turns resolve pretty fast, it's easy to say to yourself the equivalent of one of my favorite movie lines: "Just one hit, then I gotta go." Having all the time in the world to execute a small set of actions, but to plot a cascading sequence of actions, is extremely fun / absorbing. Simply put, having done everything you're allowed to do, you want to see what happens as a result, and then you want to react to those things by doing more things. Do that often enough, and you'll find the sun coming up more times than is possibly preferable.

For a type of mind that prefers chess to paintball, turn-based strategy games offers more complexity and nearly instant gratification. It's probably not hard to figure out how addicting that is.

For this specific game, it'll probably be another week or so, unless he's the type to replay games constantly. I will, however, warn you now: if he ever discovers a game called Civilization, you should make sure there are strict rules in place for when and how long his playing is acceptable; because whatever those rules are, he will try to break then. That game is fantastic, but put your foot down, because he will not want to.
posted by Errant at 12:45 AM on July 9, 2014

And can you help me understand the psychology of XCOM ENEMY UNKNOWN?

I refuse to buy it for PS3, because I will fail my next certification unit. I will not be able to stop playing it, because I will need to avenge Sanchez.


(Seriously, there's a lot of random positive reinforcement in the game, just like a slot machine, or Bejeweled (lucky headshot! new toys!). Throw in human attachment to your digital charges, pulse-thudding tension, crushing lows and euphoric highs, and it's pretty much crack.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:09 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

XCOM is fantastic. Most individual mission are pretty brief, maybe 20 minutes. But sometimes it's tough to stop playing because of the game outside the missions.

XCOM's upgrade systems (constructing buildings, researching science, ordering new weapons & armor) all take a certain amount of time. Say 10 days for a new factory. Now, you'll almost always have multiple projects going at the same time. So you'll get your new gun, and then see there's only 2 days left on your research project. "Oh, I want to unlock that and start some new research before I quit," you'll say. But then that's unlocked, and you're only another 2 days away from training a psychic soldier. Rinse and repeat.

Great game, tough to step away from when you're on a roll!
posted by mean cheez at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2014

When I got XCOM: Enemy Unknown I played it pretty much non-stop - other than work, eating, and a few hours of sleep, it's all I did. Yep, I was obsessed. But the later stages are incredibly hard, and you lose funding from countries if you don't have meticulous strategies for coping with the many threats around the globe. I got to the point where I simply couldn't progress in a satisfactory way, so I started over. Then it happened again, and I put the game down for good.

So if your BF is anything like me - give it a few weeks to run its course, and see what happens. It was WAY addicting, until suddenly it wasn't.

I might have to return to it because of this thread though :)
posted by naju at 4:06 PM on July 9, 2014

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