Cinematic feel. This word has been used more and more, recently. Two instances of which were particularly bad. One came from Ubisoft, and the second from Ready at Dawn. Both to explain why their games run on 30fps. On Ubisoft’s part it was just an excuse. They still haven’t managed to crack all the potential of the PS4 so, to keep the console graphics high, they had to cut on framerate. It’s a simple technical limit on their part that they didn’t want to admit.
The other, more recent and in my opinion more important case, is with The Order 1886. This game, by developer Ready at Dawn, has a number of problems. Like having developers without a good PR manager to tell them to stop shoving foot in mouth. They have defended their usage of 30fps saying that it gave the game a more ‘cinematic feel’. Just like Ubisoft. But unlike Ubisoft? I have a nagging suspicion that these guys believe what they’re saying. And that’s bad.
That’s bad because now that Videogames have become a mainstream medium, now that people are starting to wonder if they’re a form of art of their own, now that they’re more profitable than Hollywood and Music? Now’s when critics are starting to put it down. Again. You’ve heard people deny that Videogames are art. Some prominent ones, like Roger Erbert. Or you’ve certainly heard people talk about Videogames as an inferior form of art compared to say, movies or books.
What most of these idiots don’t understand is: you can’t measure videogames using the same meters as movies or books. They’re three different things, they work in different ways and they need to be looked at with different tools. There are some areas where they can overlap? Absolutely. But Videogames are a very unique form of art, with a very unique characteristic: Videogames are the only truly interactive form of entertainment existing.
Movies, books, music, theater. There are deviations of those that try to interact with the user, but their very nature limits their possibilities. Videogames, instead, are built around the concept that the outcome is in the player’s hands. No matter the game or the era, the fact is: there’s no single gaming session that is identical to the other. Even if it’s done by the same person, and the goal is the same, the way to princess Peach or Doctor Wily is different every time. Because of the player.
We didn’t need to get to the time of the good Bioware RPGs. Even something as simple as PacMan is a different experience every time someone plays it. The strength and the very core of gaming is: player interaction changing the narrative. That’s what makes them games and not movies. And that’s what makes me ask: why are people trying to turn games into movies? Your medium’s strength is interactivity. That’s the appeal of videogames. The player is responsible for what happens on the screen.
When something like the Order 1886 comes out, with a very short railroaded single player campaign where half of the gametime is cutscenes, I have to ask myself: why are these people in the game making business to begin with? Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the thing is: the more people realize that yeah, videogames can be used to tell incredibly emotional tales, the more they try to tell those tales like it was a movie or a book. Instead of trying to play with the tools and strengths of a videogame.
Take games like This war of mine. That’s a great game that tells a story through and thanks to its game mechanics. They’re finely crafted to recreate life as war refugees. With hunger, and disease, and my favourite: the sneaking around. The system gives you enough information to know that there’s someone with a gun behind the door, but not enough to identify that person as another refugee who, like you, is just trying to survive. Until you bash her brains in thinking her a bandit.
Or let’s take my favourite JRPG ever, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. A game for the Nintendo DS, this has almost complete immersion. The developers fused together the gameplay and game lore almost perfectly. There’s no meta. You have a menu because your high tech suit has a menu. You don’t level up, your suit levels up and gets stronger adapting to its surroundings. And you can talk and store demons because you have a computer software that allows you to.
Or if we want to go AAA, let’s go The Last of Us. If Naughty Dog’s Masterpiece had been just another set of cutscenes, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. They use gameplay to make you bond with the characters. The unexpected event at the start of the game is so powerful because, even if for a short time, you have bonded with that character. You helped her give her dad a present. And you were there as she looked around outside the car as her world crashed around her.
Videogames are all about making the player do things. Give them freedom and options to make every single playthrough different. So, why do people think it’s a good idea to cut on gameplay for graphics and cutscenes? Why make giant levels and then limit the player’s ability to explore it with punishments that don’t make sense? And most importantly, why are you surprised or offended if people naturally have a problem with the way you do and price things?
Stop trying to be Hollywood! And speaking of which, dear god, let’s hope using a game as a prologue to a franchise instead of making it its own story doesn’t become a trend. And for the love of god, devs, if the only way you know how to react to criticism is to call your critics ‘bullies’, ‘unreasonable’ and ‘haters’? Either hire someone to speak for you or shut up. And speaking of critics, let me know what you thought of this, guys.
Do you agree that videogames shouldn’t be treated as movies? What games do you think are the worst offenders in that matter? Leave me a comment, or hit me up on my social media accounts. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe, and maybe check out my Youtube channels. Ja ne!