Bad Chart Thursday (Friday Edition)

In my defense, I had a pretty shit day yesterday. The kind of day that was so shit, it could not be made happier by writing a new Bad Chart Thursday, which has quickly become one of my favorite features on Skepchick. No, it was the kind of day that could only be made better by playing hours and hours of FTL. Yes, I know I’ve already beaten it on the hardest setting (the innocent-sounding “Normal”), but I have yet to unlock the Crystal Ship, the final ship that has yet to be unlocked. So, I must continue playing it until I get it, real life be damned.

When I woke up with an FTL hangover today, I realized first that I had missed Bad Chart Thursday and second that I had spent the bulk of my Thursday on a game that cost me $5, while two games that cost me $40 have been virtually untouched for a month despite the fact that I believe I am moments from beating them (Borderlands 2 and Dishonored). This convinced me that there must be an inverse relationship between the amount of money I pay for a game and how long I spend playing it. Of course, as a skeptic I couldn’t be sure until I made a chart. I didn’t have the time or energy to log what hours I’ve put in to my PS3 games, so I decided to restrict it to PC, since Steam very helpfully keeps track of that for me. After I spent 15 minutes trying to get Steam to kick into “online” mode, which I didn’t realize hasn’t been on apparently, I finally plotted the games. The horizontal axis is amount spent on the game and the vertical axis is hours spent on the game:

video game chart

Here are the games from left to right:

Humble Indie Bundle
Torchlight II
Assassin’s Creed Revolutions
Mass Effect Series
Borderlands 2

Had I had the ability to include Minesweeper, the entire chart would have been unreadable as the hours played would increase the overall scale to an absurd degree. As you can see, even Skyrim (which you should note I got for free for my birthday) threw it off by enough that 1 or 2 hours played looks like 0. Here it is with Skyrim removed:

video games 2

So, it looks like I was sort of right: the more I pay for a game, the less time I seem to spend playing it. However, more data points are needed to really understand how drastic this effect is.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. You inspired me to start my own chart. Then I tore the pages to pieces and gave up on the project. The problem? Fallout…. Fallout 3 = 1123 hours. New Vegas = 1200 hours. That is scary – totally scary. I have spent the equivalent of 100 24 hour days on just TWO games…. I am going to go play some Borderlands 2 to recover…. Only 230 there…..

  2. Did you really name your ship Moops? if so… nice!
    Mine’s called Scuttlebutt and it’s the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.

  3. I’m not going to do this graph, for my own sanity’s sake.
    Partly because, like yours, mine would be greatly thrown off by a few outliers, but mostly because I’m in pleasant denial of how much time and money I’ve put into various Steam games.
    Also, I don’t know how I would mark the costs of some of the games I’ve gotten. For games from a Humble Bundle (or bundles in general), would I split the cost evenly across all games? Or just across the games I wanted in the bundle?
    (And finally, I don’t want to know how many games I have that I haven’t touched.)
    I’d say my biggest price-to-time outlier is Binding Of Isaac, at 195 hours.

  4. I just discovered Star Control 2! The superior 3DO version has been ported and released for free under the name of The Ur-Quan Masters.

    I loved the Mass Effect series. Playing this game is like finding out that your favorite author was just writing crappy fanfiction based on the works of another, much better author! Yay!

  5. I’d really like someone (not me, of course) to calculate the odds of getting the Crystal Ship. So many things have to go perfectly right.

  6. “Had I had the ability to include Minesweeper, the entire chart would have been unreadable as the hours played would increase the overall scale to an absurd degree.”

    You can remedy that with the use of a logarithmic scale.

  7. I can’t really make a reliable chart with that even with Steam games because I do things like forget to close a game when I go to bed, so that can add 16+ hours before I’m even looking at it again. Not to forget that often I’m spending some time on a game and then flipping away to other things also. Just because Steam says I was logged in for 6 hours some evening doesn’t mean I was actually playing that time.
    But that’s just one problem of several. And while I’m at it, I agree this is an amusing feature.

  8. Had I had the ability to include Minesweeper, the entire chart would have been unreadable as the hours played would increase the overall scale to an absurd degree.

    log scales ftw.

  9. “However, more data points are needed to really understand how drastic this effect is.” — Yes…more data…Steam sales here we come!

  10. Odds of the Crystal Ship: on the FTL forums I’ve seen an estimate that only about 10% of maps are set up so that it’s even possible. You have to be able to get the pod (usually from a Rock-controlled sector), unlock it in a Zoltan sector, and then get to the Rock Homeworlds. They’re not usually arranged so that you can visit them in that order.

    Then it is quite possible to pass through an entire Rock or Zoltan sector without getting the encounter you need.

    I made an all-out effort to get the Crystal Ship, playing Rock all the time and abandoning early any game which seemed to have the wrong sort of map. I got the Ship after about 50 hours of play.

    Now I can play using the Crystal Ship I’m running successive games trying to upgrade it and to explore the hidden sector (possible maybe one game in three) which contains several unique encounters.

  11. That chart made my head hurt. You have the title as y vs x when typical convention is x vs y. I was wondering how you got Skyrim for free at first. But, as you say in the comments, it is a bad chart.

  12. Clearly the biggest problem with your gaming habits is the few hours you have spent playing Torchlight 2, which is amazing.

    This happens to me, too, though. The game I’ve played the most? Dungeons of Dredmor (which if you like Roguelikes, is amazing). I have spent, maybe, $4 on it and its 3 expansions and I’ve sunk 300 hours into it.

  13. Well the last time we had a consistent measure of it my husband had over a year played on world of warcraft. I’m still under a year but yea, when played time is measured in full days it quickly becomes sad to look at the number.

  14. Oh dear. If I made a chart like that, there would be a large group of dots down in the lower left corner, and one dot up somewhere in the top right, aka Rock Band. And another somewhere in the middle called Guitar Hero.
    (Let’s do the numbers: 4 games at $50 each. One complete Beatles set ($250). One Squier guitar ($250). 600 pieces of DLC at $1 each. One replacement guitar $75. Cymbal pack $50. replacement bass kick $30. Time played: 3.5 years playing 2h/week (at least – that’s not more than 20-25 songs) = 500+h

  15. Disclaimer: Giant graph nerd.

    OK, what happens if you scale the cost by dividing it by something to normalize for how good the game is? something like cost/(online ranking of the game/best ranking of games played)? So, the worse the game is percieved to be, the more you increase the “cost”. This should smooth out the curve…. or maybe not, maybe you love a game that everyone else hates…

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