January 28, 2005

Do You Like Cutscenes?

by Nick Montfort · , 2:44 am

If so, turn to page (Clive Thompson), just published in Slate.

If not, turn to page (Rune Klevjer), older, but quite good.

(Unless you just like validating your existing opinions…)

9 Responses to “Do You Like Cutscenes?”


  1. scott Says:

    Interesting. When I played Grand Theft Auto: San Adreas, my first reaction to the cut-scene was “great — this makes the experience of playing the game a bit more compelling.” When you get to a cut-scene after completing a mission, it has an aspect of reward. The fundamental error on the part of the developers however is that you then need to review the cut-scene, or have it load and then skip it, each time that you fail a mission. The function of the cut-scene shifts from reward to time-wasting punishment.

  2. Erik Says:

    Was it just my browsers or was Rune Klevjer’s page almost impossible to read (unless you highlight it)?

    The slate article is discussed here.

  3. nick Says:

    It wasn’t just your browser, unfortunately. I ended up highlighting the text to read it, too. Thanks for the link to the discussion of Clive’s article.

  4. andrew Says:

    Ron Gilbert calls cutscenes cancer, and diagnoses the state of interactive stories in the game industry. The post and comments discussion echoes some past debates we’ve had here, and new ones we look forward to having.

  5. Rune Says:

    Enjoy lurking on this blog – thanks for mentioning my paper although not sure what to make of it anymore..Clive Thompsons position in the Slate article seems rather extreme and judging from the comments he manages to fire up a lot of story-game lovers (in particular the role-playing crowd). On the other hand in this comment he seems to admit that his categorical defence of one legitimate ‘game-logic’ may be a bit narrow. In my opinion cut-scenes are rarely done well, often because they put in way too much and too explicit information about the plot. Halo2 is a good case in point – a complete mess. A good first start for designers would be to aknowledge the simple fact that players usually do not finish a story-game in one sitting. So please we need a plot there is a chance to remember between sessions. More generally however I do think (- otherwise agreeing with Ron Gilbert on most of his points) that the hybrid format of cutscene-based linear storygames has produced some exciting things and will continue to do so. More games should take the clue from the relative minimalism and vagueness of the cutscenes in Ico (which also suggests I think that the G-man scenes during Half-Life would actually function quite well also as cut-scenes). Cut-scenes done well contribute to the general atmoshphere, sense-of-place and imaginative ‘breadth’ of the fictional world. Elaborate plotlines tend to get in the way. Finally a sidenote: it seems to me that appreciation of cut-scenes comes more naturally to younger players (?)

  6. andrew Says:

    Brandon Rickman makes an interesting connection between uninterrupted narrative and literacy in computer games; makes me wonder how this might relate to how cutscenes arguably interrupt the flow of playing, and therefore relate to procedural literacy.

  7. Clive Says:

    Great links here! I’ll add one more — after reading the replies to my column, I wound up writing my own clarification of “what the heck I was on about”. I realized that in my original piece, I focussed too much on beating up on cutscenes, which I actually agree can be terrific is used (i.e. as a way to give emotional heft to a quest/goal, and to very-efficiently spell out the rule-set of the upcoming quest/goal). My problem was more with gamers’ — and game-designers’ — using narrative and storytelling as a way of explaining the pleasure of a game. I think that misunderstands how play works, and, maybe even more importantly, how stories work. Mind you, I’m kind of pointy-headed about defining “narrative” and “stories” clearly because I studied literature in college, and thus have a fairly defined sense of what a story is and how it works, heh.

    Rune, that’s an excellent point about how cutscenes seem to be appreciated more by younger gamers! A couple of people on Slate’s Fray pointed that out too … interesting.

  8. Clive Says:

    Typo in the last posting:

    “I realized that in my original piece, I focussed too much on beating up on cutscenes, which I actually agree can be terrific IF used CORRECTLY.”

    Too much coffee. Twitchy.

  9. Rune Says:

    Clive thanks for your clarification, although it is really much more than that – a very interesting and highly recommended read, adressing what seems to be some very important key issues in thinking about the role of fiction in games. Indeed the central starting point for academic theorists and designers alike should be that fiction in games is about roleplaying (in a wide sense), not storytelling. What is too often overlooked is that this basic rule also applies to pre-written and cinematic narration in linear game formats.

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