This image is one of the most iconic moments in Metal Gear Solid history, coming from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It is a 1:47 block of time spent climbing (and only climbing) a ladder.
What makes this so iconic is the fact that it is such a long sequence. Generally speaking, you would think that a nearly two-minute sequence of just ladder climbing would be an unforgivable offense. At first, that was my opinion too.
But after a discussion with a close friend of mine (who is a complete Metal Gear fanboy) I was ultimately swayed to see the necessity of this sequence. It provides the player with a cooldown period, a small and welcome reprieve.
This reprieve is made necessary because the sequence immediately prior to the ladder sequence is one of the most tense, drawn-out boss fights of any game. It's a long, intense sniper duel with The End, the guy pictured above.
The action of that sequence involves you stalking and being stalked in kind by your target, and the player has to be keenly aware of his entire environment. This can fry the player's nerves, the stress of the prolonged situation weighing heavily.
The entirety of Metal Gear Solid 3 is silent save for the ambient noise or when you have been detected. This not only builds a more immersive experience, but also draws contrasts between successfully hiding and sneaking, and the alarm of being caught.
So the ladder sequence is made that much more iconic because it is the only time in the game where there is music. During the ladder climb, the game's theme plays in full and it serves as a catharsis for the player, giving them time to reflect on the things they have so far accomplished.
Gamer fatigue is a hard phrase to pin down to a single definition. When you google it, a handful of different definitions pop up. Some people say it's the listlessness that comes from prolonged periods of gaming. Others say it is when the industry is too bogged down in commercial appeal and the financiers of games are pushing for material that will pad their wallets more than excite the consumer.
I think both of these definitions are accurate, but not exactly the kind of fatigue I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fatigue that comes from relentless action and a lack of pacing. This fatigue brings you out of the game and lessens the impact of the action sequences.
That's why sequences like the ladder in MGS3 is so important. It is like a palate cleanser between courses. It allows the action sequences to really resonate that much more when they are played, because it is not relentless.
This video here perfectly describes the notion that I'm driving at. He talks about the importance of these slower, quieter moments in games, so that the player has time to think about the narrative and relax a little bit, so they don't get burned out.
It's important for a developer to keep these pacing tools in mind when crafting a game, as it is these kinds of sequences that make it possible to continue playing for hours without becoming bored or disenfranchised.