Lately I've been hearing a lot of gamers whine about cutscenes and so called "cinematic" games. Sure, in some cases they have justifiable reasons to complain... bad writing is bad writing. Nobody wants to sit through 20 minutes of Otacon crying in Metal Gear. Sure, we know it's there when we buy the game... but somehow Snake makes those minutes worth it. Or the fact that we can get up to get a beer, go to the bathroom, or walk our dog while Hal is busy shedding his tears before Snake can get to the next part of the mission makes it all a wash. But this kind of exaggerated exposition, in my personal opinion... is the rarity, not the norm.
Thinking back on my play of other "cinematic" games I can't think of a time where I tossed my controller in frustration at a new cutscene between Nathan Drake and Sully, or Captain Shepard and Illusive Man. It just doesn't happen. I find myself gripped to the screen to see what is going to motivate my character's next move and how things will change. Cutscenes have provided some of the most memorable moments in gaming history. Aeris dies? Cutscene. Psychomantis? Cutscene. Link receiving the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time? Yeah, another cutscene. Hell, even Andrew Ryan unraveling the plot to Bioshock is essentially a cutscene because it takes complete control away from the player. So why the seething hatred for these moments where you're not pressing buttons?
This isn't to say that there aren't memorable moments in games where you're completely in control of your characters actions. There are plenty. But when I look at a good amount of my favorite games with well written narratives, they oftentimes have scenes to establish motivation, provide emotional impact, or simply provide needed twists to the storylines. A well written and produced cutscene can bring you closer to the characters in the game. Granted, not all games have story worthy of such scenes... but universal moaning against them is unwarranted. Cut scenes give your character narrative weight. Is a character like Nathan Drake any less appealing than a character who doesn't speak, who you inhabit completely? You know who Nathan is through his interactions with supporting characters and through dialogue you have no input in. Does it make him more interesting because he has those interactions while a player character with no speech options only has actions to support the story? Why not have room for both?
While some people will bitch and moan about games striving to achieve better narrative through character interaction instead of providing them a constant barrage of enemies or puzzles, I'll sit back for a few seconds and soak it in to see where the game is taking me. This is becoming a larger medium than we realize, and cinematic cutscenes have their place in the bright future to come. Not to mention, these days cutscenes are nearly universally skip-able should you choose to do so. So quiet down, some of us are eager to see what happens next.
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