How can you tell the difference between a desk of a gamer and a non gamer at a glance? Assume that the computer is hidden somewhere so you can’t really tell whether it is a gaming rig or just a plain mundane box. Also assume there are no gaming posters, CD’s and/or other related paraphernalia anywhere in sight.
A gamer will more likely than not have a clock positioned in an easily accessible point so that they can glance at the time while sitting at the computer. Usually on top of the monitor, or next to it. A non-gamer on the other hand will probably have a wall clock or alarm clock somewhere in the room positioned in such a way that it is easy to see it while not sitting at the computer. That’s because a non-gamer can always glance down (or up) and check the time on their task bar. Gamers are ofter running full screen games which hide the real time clock.
You know what though? There is no reason for that! Most games have fairly complex HUD displays with healht/mana bars, ammo counters, mini maps, skill buttons and etc. How come a system clock can’t be one of the HUD elements? It’s not like it would take away much screen space anyway. For example, in WoW the clock is simply a tiny bump on the mini-map. It is four characters wide, and you can easily miss it if you are not looking for it:
But you know what? It helps! It really does. I love this feature!
Of course, one could argue that a real time clock would take away from the immersion. That is true. For example if you are playing a game that does not have any visible HUD elements, you wouldn’t want to add a clock, even though it would be convenient. It would absolutely spoil the effect and the immersion. But I’m not talking about these games – I’m talking about games that have large and complex HUD displays. I submit that a stylized clock made to look just like the rest of the on-screen widgets wouldn’t hurt most games. In fact, it would be a welcome addition. Hell, make it optional feature that is off by default and let players enable it at will.
It’s funny but most MMO’s I have played do offer this feature and I think I know why. They are actually better off reminding you what time it is in real world than not. If you lose yourself in the game and play for 12 hours straight, that’s 12 hours of bandwidth they have to pay for. If you constantly do this, then the costs of keeping you online start cutting into the profit margin they get from your monthly fee. So if they constantly remind you what time it is, chances are you will log out more often maximizing their profits.
On the other hand, single player games do not have such incentive. Conversely they don’t have a reason not to include a clock either. They don’t care how often or how long do you play their game -as long as you pay for it up-front they are in the green. So I suspect the lack of real time clocks in most games is simply a convention – or lack of thereof. In other words, most game developers don’t actually consider it as something you would add to a single player title. They should though.
What do you think? Would you like to see real time clocks in more games? Are there non MMO games out there that have them? Are there reasons other than the immersion argument that would make a in-game clock a bad idea? Let me know in the comments.