Hating on cut scenes

David Rodriguez has a good piece up about infuriating game cut-scenes (hat tip: Kotaku). He’s not talking about The Warriors, but one of the reasons I thought that game was lame was a cut scene every three minutes or so. Rodriguez’s piece fits into the discussion about video games as art, the limits of story in games, appreciating video games as games. Unlike some other defensive arguments for video games as art, he makes a convincing case why the control games give players is important on its own terms — not in comparison to other forms of narrative art.

On the other hand, from their earliest incarnation, video games have given each player a unique experience. … We have at our disposal a tool that can not only give each player a unique experience, but it can allow each person to CREATE their own unique story. How freaking crazy is that? The fancy word for this is “emergent gameplay”. …

There are several games that have shown that, not only is this kind of gameplay possible, it is successful. The Sims (maybe you’ve heard of it), Pirates!, Grand Theft Auto (without all the damn cut scenes), and any sports title you’ve ever played. See, most of these games don’t have “stories,” instead they have reasons. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t NEED a story any more than you need a jump button. All you need is a reason to do what you are doing, (or a goal if you will) and a reward for achieving that goal. That is all. When you put a story with a beginning and ending into your game, you are in fact putting an artificial lifespan on your game. Once the story is done, the likelihood of someone playing the game again is low. Very few games have such exceptional stories that you just GOTTA sit through it again. I’m really having trouble thinking of one, but I’m sure there’s one somewhere. But non-linear, non-narrative games can be enjoyed over and over again without the overdone storyline and intrusive cinematics.

Rodriguez isn’t saying these player-created stories and experiences are qualitatively equal or better than a movie. He’s saying they’re different, and great on their own terms. That’s the attitude we need.
— January 24, 2006

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