The Many Cinematic Missteps Of Video Game Cutscenes

The video game cutscene has undergone a lot of transformations over the past couple of decades, and many games these days present elaborate, dazzling CGI sequences that are often billed as "Hollywood-caliber."

But the truth of the matter is that most cutscenes wouldn't rate a straight-to-DVD release. In fact, according to Wired's Jason Schreier, many cutscene directors can't even follow the most basic rules of filmmaking.

In a great collection of analyses, Schreier (whom readers might remember for having the funniest of all the East Coast Earthquake tweets), lays into a number of hackneyed cutscene indulgences.

Infinite Undiscovery, Mass Effect 2, and even Super Paper Mario aren't safe -- problems highlighted include "Enter Late; Leave Early" (A director should begin a scene as late as possible, and get out as soon as the scene is done without lingering) and "Avoid Endless Exposition." One guess as to which game director gets called out for that one.

5 Film-School Violations in video game Cut-Scenes [Wired]


Comments

    Many of these come down to the people making these cinematics having no concept of pacing whatsoever.

    I really think that is the biggest issue in videogame storytelling. If someone is trying to tell a decent story, they take too long to tell it or they don't know how to work it in around the gameplay.

    Regardless of quality they need to always be skippable. Its really riduculous that still today some games cutscenes cannot be skipped

      I liked Homefront's approach to this. Drop in a cutscene between chapters, shortly after it starts up just put a big message in the middle of the screen "Press X to skip".

      Really shows how proud of those cutscenes they were.

      Always skippable and always able to be paused.

        With something to clearly indicate which button pauses and which one skips.

        Nothing more fun than going into a cutscene, trying to pause and then skipping it.

          that's why I like games where you have to double-tap or hold the key/button to skip - far too often I've had a cutscene start on the tail-end of doing something and my 'shoot at that last bad guy' turns into 'you just missed three minutes of useful exposition... now why am I suddenly in a completely different environment?!'

          Tomb Raider Legend did that really well. You could press start and the cutscene would pause. A pause menu would appear allowing you to continue or skip the cutscene.

          Currently playing Assassins Creed 2 at the moment - doesn't seem to have skippable cutscenes, which is annoying as I can't be arsed following it's story.

    Most of these are principles that apply to all storytelling, not just games and movies.

    Haha - FFXIII. Talk about awkward lingering cut scenes.

    I don't think game cutscenes should follow the same rules that films do. Why? Because games don't have to capture your attention for 90-120mins to keep you in a cinema seat. Cutscenes are only a part of the game, not the whole shebang. Games can command whole DAYS of your life (not in one session peeps) and the actual playing of the game will be far longer than any/all the cutscenes.

    Novels don't conform to film style storytelling either. Storytelling should fit the medium.

    I still think all cutscenes should have a 'skip' button. But hell, I like watching them the first time :-)

      Regardless of the fact that cutscenes don't go for hours at a time (unless you're playing one of the latest Final Fantasy titles), they are a non interactive medium, that seeks to convey a message through moving visuals.

      Now, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it's a duck.

      Cutscenes, due to their nature, should be treated like individual scenes from a film. There is little point taking the player out of the game for 5 minutes, to ramble on needlessly, while employing over 9000 confusing camera angles, when 30 seconds and 2 camera angles can have the same effect.

      Saying that novels don't conform to film conventions, so videogames shouldn't either is a weak arguement. Novels are not a medium that employ cameras. At all. Novels do not use paid actors. At all. You don't watch a novel. Do you see where I'm going with this?

      Novels, as a medium for conveying ideas, have little in common with film aside from the fact they both have writers. Video games on the other hand, specifically cutscenes, are almost exactly like films. Hence, the appropriate techniques should be taken into account, so that the use of the cutscene is efficient as possible.

    Cutscenes have to be awkward and strange, Because Japan.

      "Because..Japan" is a valid punchline to any story..nothing more needs to be said.

    Some games are more akin to books when it comes to 'pacing', and many of the 'rules' of filmmaking don't apply when writing a novel.

    A lot of these 'rules of filmmaking' are what lead to shitty theatrical releases of movies that get butchered before release so they can squeeze under a 2 hour running time.

      Though I do suppose that some games that he specifically mentions are purposefully mimicking the film medium so things like breaking the horizontal plane is a really dumb mistake to make.

      Though I would say that critiqueing a game like 'Paper Mario' for being verbose is kind of missing the point :-P

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