Do We Even Need the Cutscene Anymore?

As the industry and technology progresses, will we soon see the death of the cut-scene?

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...

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published Apr. 8th 2014
  • [[Deleted]]
    Contributor
    I vaguely remember watching the Xenosega Ep1 "movie" that game with Ep2, which was essentially all the cut scenes from the first game back to back on a dvd. So people could get caught up with the story in a mere short 4ish hours :P.

    I also remember that game was originally supposed to be 6 games long but was shortened to 3 due to lackluster sales. I for one could have used alot more KOS-MOS, but that's just me.

    I think cut-scenes are an essential part of the story involvement process, however companies like square-enix have been abusing them to make the game more flashy (Here's looking at you bike riding cloud), and in some cases like Gears of war, the cut-scenes do more harm than good... sort of, In the first gears of war the ending cut-scene is a lower resolution than the game its self and gets fairly pixalated in a multitude of frames, it would have been better for them to just have the game render it out live >.> but it still accomplishes its story telling objective so its not that bad.

    That being said, I think games like Mass-Effect do it best where the majority of cut-scenes have input dialogue giving the user more interactivity, by choosing options they get to influence the direction of the conversation making it feel less like a cut-scene and more like an actual conversation.
  • End_Gamer
    Contributor
    I think that the current technology is a great way for developers to get rid of the necessary evil that is the "cut-scene". If developers can still tell the story without turning their players into spectators, it will be an improvement.
  • Xavier's
    Featured Correspondent
    Interesting, I remember the days of Dino Crisis 2 where the opening cut scenes where a cinematic adventure, making the actual game look so mediocre in comparison.

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