How does one balance playing Grand Theft Auto 4 with other games and other consoles? Square Enix’s “The World Ends With You” on the DS makes it pretty easy actually, by rewarding you with ability points relative to the time you’ve spent not playing the game. It’s an ability you earn pretty early in the game, called Shutdown, and using the system’s internal clock, it calculates the numbers of hours you’ve been away (up to 7 days), and gives you PP when you come back, which can be used to powerup your weapons. The in-game description of this feature reads: “Work, school, or life getting in the way of gaming? Shutdown’s got your back!”
It’s a smart feature that ensures people who don’t get to play too much still enjoy the game at a level that more dedicated players do. I think acknowledging that your audience have lives outside of your games, and providing a peace-of-mind incentive like this, is a great step. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is a game that does the exact opposite. Leave the game alone for a week, and when you come back to it, the world is overgrown with weeds that you have to remove – a tedious process. It’s a heavy-handed approach that essentially slaps a paying customer on the wrist for having the audacity to neglect a game they should be free to enjoy however they wish.
The game also uses a real-time clock in other ways, such as limiting the amount of food you can consume in one day (pretty logical, really). Eating food allows your powers to grow, but only after time has passed and the ramen/burgers/etc have been digested. What it’s all about will take a little more time to get into, but the short summary is that it’s an ultra-modern RPG set in a parallel universe version of Tokyo’s Shibuya district, where wearing the latest fashions gives you an advantage in battle, and powers are bestowed by wearing lapel pins. I’ve never seen another game like it, and if the idea of fighting spirits called “Noise” in Shibuya while eating Japanese street food to hip-hop beats appeals to you, then give it a go.