The other day, +Mark Donkers asked if I was interested in playing in a lunchtime game, running at hours that I guess most folks have lunch. For me, this was about the time that I normally get to work and get the store ready for business and open, so it was going to be tough for me to do it, but I needed to come in early to do some work (which didn't end up needing to be done), so I signed up. We were scheduled to run for one hour but got a late start due to one guy showing up 15 minutes late (we were able to do some prep stuff during that time, so it didn't feel like a loss) and we finished at a natural break point, which came about 5 minutes before the final bell, so all in all we got about 40 minutes of gaming in. It might not have been a lot, but 40 minutes at the beginning of my day was pretty freaking awesome.
I realized that I could make games like that work awful frequently, particularly on days that I work out of the store that I normally work out of (it would be hard to get the correct amount of privacy at the other store). Short, one-hour game nuggets like this make a lot of sense: let's get straight to the game since we don't have enough time to sit around and bullshit about all of the non-game stuff we normally bullshit about.
Further, a shorter form of game would make more obvious the points where games break down. How long did we take wrestling with that rule? Why did we argue about X thing? How does fiddly process Y work again? By gaming through these things in a smaller format, we have less time to get hung up on minutiae and less time for the experience of getting hung up on them to get lost amidst all the other experiences. The lunchtime game is a sort of game in microcosm; in order to get everything in, the game needs to move fast and places where it doesn't will become more readily apparent and therefore can be dealt with faster.
Even further, forty minutes of playtime is just enough to give me a taste for gaming, but not enough to actually whet my appetite. I'm not going to get to the "oh geez, let's just get this over" part of a session (those don't always happen, but they do happen) because it doesn't have time to occur. By the same token, it would seem like the session ends just as things are starting to get interesting, which should make you anticipate the next session even more!
The more I think about it, the more I think that a lunchtime game should become a regular feature of my gaming future...