What Do You Know, All This Time And We've Got 'QTE' Wrong

The quicktime event, commonly just called a "QTE", is a long-derided trend in video games where players are forced to quickly match button presses to on-screen cues, usually during otherwise non-interactive cutscenes. QTEs are sort of a shortcut to shoehorn crappy interaction into cutscenes, and they rarely feel very substantive or enjoyable.

Little did I know that the phrase "quicktime event" has a more complicated backstory than I thought. Kotaku reader Kevin B. wrote in to point out:

For some reason, there's a common misconception that QTE stands for "Quick Time Event" or "Quicktime Event" when - in reality - it stands for "Quick Timer Event" (as is stated in the manual for Shenmue, the game for which the term was coined, I believe). Could you please correct this in your article? I realise that the vast majority of people use the incorrect term, but it'd be nice if you could at least point out the error in order to make people realise it.

We went back to this Gamestop review of Shenmue from the year 2000, and lo and behold, there it is:

As you gather clues to Lan Di's whereabouts, random interruptions in gameplay called Quick Timer Events will erupt from time to time. These QTEs, which are similar to the quick-response games found in Beatmania and Dragon's Lair, require split-second controller responses to hazardous stimuli. If an opponent attacks from the left, you'll be tapping right, but if you need to punch, you'll be hitting A, and so on. These random interruptions are neat, but they're far too underutilized to reach their full potential. As such, they're more of an aggravation than anything else, especially since they tend to lead into long FMV sequences. The first disc is thankfully light on QTEs, but you'd better get used to them - by disc three you'll be experiencing at least one per Shenmue day.

So, there you have it — the common phrase "Quicktime Event" is an unnatural mutation, and the original term was all about fast-moving timers. I'm not sure if we'll start using the original term (or go back and correct the countless times we've used the colloquial term here at Kotaku), but it's good to know where these things come from.

Actually, here's a thought: Maybe developers can just stop using QTEs entirely, and the whole question will be moot!

OK, OK, here's that Spider-Man video one more time because it is too amazing not to post again.


    There's something about the online medium that brings out the pedant in people. God forbid someone might be wrong on the internet, or that terminology might evolve over time.

      I don't understand what's wrong with wanting to ensure people are not spreading incorrect information or in this case terminology. It's like people calling everything the LHC does is about the God particle instead of higgs boson particle.

      Why would you be satisfied with being wrong?

    Wow - I thought it had links to the old games run through Apple Quick Time - which confused the hell out of me because they were usually slow and cumbersome while QTEs in games are this quick reactionary processes.

    Shows now matter how smart I think I am there's always something new to learn.

      Oh and Wiki even calls it a Quick Time Event (Though not to be confused with Apple Quick Time like I did). Someone needs to go and fix that up - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quick_time_event

      Last edited 09/11/12 8:49 am

    They were still awesome in RE4.

      This isn't a cut scene! Press A! PRESS A!!!!

    If an opponent attacks from the left, you’ll be tapping right, but if you need to punch, you’ll be hitting A, and so on"

    But here's the thing, this has never been true, in even in Shenmue. If QTE actually corresponded to in game controls that would be something... but in my experience there hasn't been a single game that employed them in this fashion. Most of the time they're random.

    I've used all manner of techniques to get around them: like getting a friend to man some of the buttons... and in RE5 you can press ALL the buttons and it still counts!

      It was true for God of War QTEs, Circle for grabs/opening things, square for small attacks, triangle for bigger attacks, x for jumping, joystick for movement, they did a pretty good job of mapping them in those games.

      Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was pretty good like that. X was lightsabre, Y was lightning, and B was push (or something like that) during gameplay, and they roughly corresponded to the same in QTE's.

    I must be alone in this, but I enjoyed the QTE in Shenmue I and II.

    open to discussion or debate; debatable; doubtful: a moot point.

      of little or no practical value or meaning; purely academic.

    Since we're being pedantic here, it should probably also be pointed out that despite Shenmue being the game that coined the term 'Quick Timer Event', it was not the first game to use them - Die Hard Arcade (aka Dynamite Deka), another Sega game, had them several years earlier.

    Surely it was the Wolf Team games on Mega CD that used QTE's for the first time properly. Cobra Command and Road Avenger were entirely QTE based games, there were no other controls.

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