For those who were around during the early days of video game cutscenes, they know it has always been a controversial topic.
You had the old-school gaming purists, who didn’t believe cutscenes (and in fact, narratives) even belonged in video games. Then you had the other group of naysayers, who said developers used the new advancement to limit play time. It was during the original PlayStation days when the phrase “playing a movie” really came into vogue.
Now, with bigger and more dynamic worlds, we’re seeing a change in how developers give us a storyline. For example, Kojima Productions has already confirmed that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will have fewer cutscenes than you might expect, and Snake won’t even talk too much. They’re going for a more “next-gen” style of storytelling.
So, this begs the question: Do we even need non-interactive cutscenes, anymore?
Pet Peeve: “Playing a movie” was always completely inaccurate
This phrase always bothered me. Being a JRPG fan, people would bemoan the long cutscenes in games like Xenosaga, for example. Several cutscenes in the latter title would run over 20 minutes in length and yeah, that’s excessive. But it was a 40-hour game at the bare minimum, so when you calculate the ratio of interactive gameplay vs. non-interactive cutscenes, it’s ridiculous to say you’re “watching more than playing.”
It was even ridiculous in the Metal Gear Solid games. Sure, they were a lot shorter than RPGs but even then, you couldn’t say that half the game was cutscenes. That wasn’t even remotely close to accurate. Therefore, just to get this out of the way: It was always stupid to say you’re just “playing a movie” because there were a few cutscenes that lasted a few minutes.
Better technology = less impressive cutscenes?
What I mean by this is that because gameplay graphics have so drastically improved, perhaps we’re a little less impressed with glorious cutscenes? I mean, back in the day, there was a huge difference between cutscene and actual gameplay videos. This went double when the cutscene first started to roll; the CD-ROM format of the PlayStation let developers jam more content on there (remember, Legend of Dragoon was four discs!). And yeah, those cutscenes took up a huge amount of space.
But these days, there are almost seamless transitions between cutscene and gameplay. Sure, cutscenes still look better but the gap is nowhere near as huge as it used to be. Therefore, developers don’t really need the spiffy cutscene to help them promote and sell a game.
Gamers may not want them anymore, plain and simple
These days, bigger and better is the name of the game (pun intended). Larger worlds and more freedom are the cornerstones of our current epic experiences, and there’s less and less room for linear, cohesive storylines. Therefore, there might not be much of a need for the non-interactive cutscene. I also have to say, after years of dwindling attention spans (a fact that seems painfully obvious to me), I’m not sure younger gamers could even sit through a particularly long cutscene. I mean, some complain about 20-second loading screens, for crying out loud.
Considering all these factors, it seems possible that the cutscene may soon die out. At least, the “cutscene” as we currently know it. For my part, I’ve always liked them because I’ve always liked stories, and I will always support linear narratives. I may be in the minority, though…