Why video game cutscenes should be eliminated

Don Reisinger is sick and tired of cutscenes that reduce his immersion in the title. Of course, he's in the minority. Or is he?

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
3 min read

I don't know about you, but after playing through countless hours of video games saving the world in more worlds than I can count, I've grown tired of the same old thing. I can live with sword fights and looting, but more than anything else, I'm sick and tired of cutscenes that break up the action.

Can anyone give me one good reason for why cutscenes are really that necessary? Sure, they help move the story along and I can appreciate that, but I don't need fancy renderings of my pixelated heroes talking to each other when all I really want to do is slay some more beasts.

Bioshock does it right. CNET Networks

As far as I can tell, this idea of cutscenes, which was made brutally unbearable by Hideo Kojima in the Metal Gear series is nothing more than an attempt by game developers to display their graphical prowess and make a video game feel more like a movie.

I don't want a movie. I want a video game.

More than likely, some of those who enjoy cutscenes in games will say that I don't appreciate the art that goes into gaming, but it's actually quite the opposite. In fact, I consider video games a unique art where the viewer can actually participate in creating it. But because I feel that way, I think I should be interacting with the title in order for it to be considered a full-fledged piece of art.

And although I feel this way, it's quite apparent that I'm in the minority. As I see it, more and more games are utilizing cutscenes that tear you away from the action in order to push the story forward.

I think it's a mistake.

Part of my love for video games resides in my desire to be immersed in the world I'm interacting with. Unlike a movie where I'm nothing more than a spectator looking at a screen, video games provide me with the opportunity to be the hero (or villain) and become the star of an on-screen performance. In essence, I value immersion more than anything else.

But when a cutscene drags me away from that world and forces me to watch, well, me, interacting with others, fighting in ways that I'm incapable of or doing things that my own controls won't allow, I'm taken out of that experience and made a spectator. And while it's nice to see that the characters look great, I couldn't care less -- I want to be put back into that environment.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "But there are a bunch of games that play cutscenes in-game." Surely some of you would say Halo does that to some extent and others would argue that Call of Duty 4 has some of that as well. And while that's true, there's really only one title -- Bioshock -- that has done it enough for me to justify saying that that title has what I'm looking for.

If you haven't played Bioshock, you owe it to yourself to do so. But if you have, you probably realize that throughout much of the game, you're able to walk around, look around and do almost anything you want during cutscenes. And although the story is being moved forward during this time, it's allowing you to stay in character and play as if you're being spoken to or directed.

But alas, Bioshock is by no means the norm and unfortunately, most games still force you to play for a while and then stop before action resumes.

No one is sure what the future of video games will look like, but rest assured that until cutscenes that take me out of the action are eliminated, I will not be happy.

And neither should you.