Things We Hate About Gaming: Unskippable Cutscenes
This TWHAG is so obvious I’m tempted to just post up the title and a picture and hit the publish button, but methinks the editors would not be too pleased. Besides, I’ve got so much anger boiling inside me towards this all-too-familiar failure of design that it’ll do me some good anger-management wise. Now, without further ado, here are some reasons that unskippable cutscenes are worse than rai-i-ai-i-ain on your wedding day (Alanis Morissette reference for the win!).
They stop you from playing the goddamn game
Pretty obvious, but it really does bear mentioning. When you pop in a game your goal is more than likely to play said game. I can appreciate that some games have epic stories about an evil corporation, a rag-tag band of resistance fighters and a spiky haired antagonist, but you know what? Sometimes I just don’t give a shit about any of that and I just want to sit down and actually play my game immediately without long winded bouts of exposition. This has actually stopped me from even starting many games because I know that I’ll have to sit down and watch/read 20 minutes of exposition before I even get to move my character.
They can make dying infinitely more frustrating
(The following is a dramatic re-enactment of an actual event. All names have been altered to protect the guilty)
All right, time to play me some Blinja Gaiblen 2. Holy shit! A bad-ass boss threatening Byu’s father! Uh oh, there’s a cutscene before I get to fight him. But that’s all right, it may be a little long, but it’s got some cool action, and it’s helping to drive the (awful) story. I guess I can dig it.
Ah crap, I died. Good thing there was a save point just outside the boss room.
/reload and walk into the boss room again
I’ll be ready for ‘˜em this time! Hm, that cutscene is playing again. Better skip it… AW FUCK!
/10 minutes of cutscene and another death, repeated ad nauseam
GOD DAMNIT, I JUST WANT TO FIGHT THAT FUCKER AGAIN YOU CUNT ASS PIECE OF BLOOD SOAKED TAMPON! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWRRRR!!!!
/controller goes out the window, disc broken is in half, console gets slashed in two with a sword
They show that the developer doesn’t give a shit about what else might be going on in your life
It may sound crazy with me being a gaming nerd and all, but I do have other things to do than watch some developers overblown directorial debut. Some unskippable cutscenes are at least pausable, which definitely helps with this problem, but most of them are not. If I get a phone call, pizza delivery, drunken invite to a bar or booty call (I can dream, can’t I?) in the middle of one of those unskippable, unpausable sons of bitches, then I’m liable to walk away out of spite. Hell, I may do that even if it’s a cutscene that I actually want to see (especially if it’s that imaginary booty call).
But even walking off can be an issue. If the cutscene ends and you’re not there, then, depending on the game, your character could very well be killed while you’re away. And if you mosey off somewhere else for an extended period someone else may just turn off the console and you might lose your progress. Both of these things have happened to me in the past and both of them made me a super sad/annoyed panda.
They allow for more quicktime events per minute
I understand why quicktime events are used. I kind of like them in certain situations as they allow you to do a cool pre-scripted roll, duck or whatever that you normally can’t do. And when they are sprinkled tastefully within the regular gameplay, they can make things feel a bit more chaotic and unpredictable. However, when they’re used in a cutscene that means that the cutscene will be…
A) Unskippable (a mortal sin in of itself)
B) Mostly unwatchable anyways
Unless you have seen the cutscene a few times and have memorized exactly where the button presses come up, the quicktime events keep you from focusing on much else for any length of time. All you can do is sit there with your mouth hanging slightly open, your gaze fixed on the center of the screen and your fingers shaking slightly as they lightly rest atop every button simultaneously. You become a quivering, anxious blob of flesh and bone, poised to strike at a moments notice. BOO!
Why put all that effort into making something which is cool visually (cutscenes associated with quicktime events are usually action-packed) only to keep me from watching it?
They may very well be responsible for 9/11 and the Iraq war
I don’t have any evidence of this, but I’m just sayin’ that they could very well be the source of all of that anger that led to those events.
They led to both this article and the following conclusion
There is never a good enough reason to have unskippable cutscenes in a game. All they do is annoy and frustrate. I mean, can anyone come up with a good reason that cutscenes should ever be unskippable? Because the only one I can think of is if it’s a really pretentious art game and the fact that the cutscene is unskippable is supposed to convey a very particular message to the player. And no, I don’t think that frustration and annoyance counts.
Also, don’t get me wrong: I like a good cutscene as much as the next guy. In fact I probably like them more than the next guy since I play quite a few cutscene heavy games. But goddamn, there’s a limit to the amount that I can watch and I really don’t think that it’s too much to ask to give me access to my start button.
Alright, rant over. I’m going to go back to playing Ninja Gaiden 2 whilst watching 30 Rock every time it decides to shit out another ridiculous and unskippable cutscene.