CINEMA VS. GAME DESIGN – Have Games Become Too Cinematic?

Narratives and Gameplay aren’t meshing as well as they should, and here’s why that’s a big problem.

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Irmão do Windows XP says:

I prefer the Gameplay/Mechanic driven game, and/or when the story actually ties with it… instead of Portal 2’s “Hey, are you liking this dialog about the world, character and everything else? Sorry but now you have to solve this one test chamber to continue”, or the other way around where you are trying to game but there are 1000 cutscenes for every step you go… i’d prefer be goofing around with NPCs or discovering about the world with secrets and extras(e.g. FarCry, GTA or Dark Souls) for more time than just watching a movie that in order to continue every 1 minute you have to press X/A/Click or a “game” where there is only one path(e.g. every Telltale game)… If i’m like to ‘do things my own way’ i’ll play a game, if i’m more to appreciate something i’ll watch an actual movie, or show… I like some visual novels for they’re NOT BEING GAMES, more just like interactive stories…

If you like more story driven games, K, but i think the excuse “Just because there is a good history i’ts the best, even if the gameplay is a broken mess with no actual fun to it” is not that good in a time every company is trying to make an excuse for making broken, uninteresting games just to get quick buck… What if now on every ‘game’ turned into actually just a pre-rendered movie where you’d need to push X/A/Click all the time ? Then i prefer to call then “Interactive Experiences” more than actual games games…

For me what made SotC being that good was the: 5% Exposition, 95% Exploration/Practical Experience…

Aminu Saleh says:

So let me get this straight to simplify games like Uncharted & Last of Us are more Cinematic & Story Driven while Devil May Cry & Dark Souls are more Skill Based with better replay value??? tell me if were on the same boat! as for my opinion i think it’s a matter of perspective do you like regurgitated games like Call of Duty, Assassins’s Creed or do you like Unique Games like The Last Guardian or Journey whatever! to come full circle i think the best balance for Gameplay and Narrative in a video game is The Metal Gear Solid Series, its the only series that has successfully set the benchmark for Complex Narrative and Free-flow Fun Gameplay, 2nd being probably The GTA Series, Zelda, SOTC e.t.c. it’s all about finding the right balance what do you think?

PabloFerroDesign says:

Cry me a river.

Bananut the Dualist says:

Is that the sweet Bloodborne DLC OST i hear in the background!?

DavidTheArtNinja says:

I want games to have more focus on gameplay and games that also have great stories and rely on gameplay as the main source for telling the story. cutscenes are only useful for facial expressions but gameplay can pretty much take care of the rest for telling the story. I would rather play a game with a good story then watch a movie or tv show because I feel more immersed in the game and it feels more emotional for me. they haven’t quite found the right balance but I feel like they will eventually.

Tasso Luz says:

This is why I love Nintendo and always buy their consoles, they care about fun and not cinematics, I’d rather play Mario Kart than Uncharted any day.

JWtheMighty says:

I cried like a little girl at the end of Journey. It’s such a good game.

firedrake110 says:

That fucking Krauser knife fight…

PsTwoKnight says:

Yes, because more often than not, I’m _watching_ a game instead of _playing_ it, which is inexcusable.

Video games are superior to television and film because I, the player, have an active say in what’s going on. But at some point, it was arbitrarily decided (mainly by people who don’t play video games very much, if at all) that the story is only part of a game that makes it “art”. As a result, what energy and resources that could have been used to refine gameplay goes to the narrative instead, killing the fun factor and re-playability.

And does no one believe in listening with your eyes anymore? Art direction, in-game items, level design, npc and enemy design, npc and enemy placement, animations be they sprites or 3d models, can all get the point across just fine with little or no dialogue at all.

If the gameplay was the least of your concern, I don’t know what you made, because it wasn’t a game.

Egotolegend2 says:

Excellent I’m glad to see someone else notice the problem in video games right now :D, like I always say games are meant to be “Fun” not a roller coaster ride where it only fun the first time

Zed says:

This topic is often in my consideration, so it was very insightful to get such a thoroughly explained new perspective. Thanks for making it. I can understand your distaste for story-focused games, and your worry of it overwhelming the medium. But I feel like your desire to see it disappear warrants criticism.

One idea that may ease your frustration is to consider that replayablity is not a necessity. Someone may see a stage-play and find that it was the most entertain story they’ve ever experience. But that exact performance only happened once – it doesn’t make the event any worse, it just makes it unique.

Another idea to consider is that the fault of these games is in labeling themselves as games rather than interactive stories. They aren’t dominating the medium – they’re simply defining a new medium. Certainly many developers have shifted their focus from arcade style games to story-driven games – and seeing the frequency of classic game styles can be disheartening to some. But it’s a developers prerogative to choose how they want to express themselves. And it’s incorrect for anyone to request they do it otherwise.

So my answer to your question is: No – games have not become too cinematic. Games have remained as they always were. And different kinds of interactive mediums are being discovered.

Emperor Dalek says:

Fantastic video. The fact that Uncharted 4 won game of the year shows how bad most games have become. UC4 is fine to play through once… but because there are so many long, boring story based moments, it’s an absolute chore to replay. It’s the first Uncharted I couldn’t be bothered beating again, as the story moments were overdone this time around.

Meanwhile Dark Souls 3 has far better gameplay and flow through the story. And while many are still ignorant about its story, anyone that has researched the lore and story will see that Dark Souls 3 actually also has a better story than Uncharted 4, even though it doesn’t get in the way of gameplay. Hell figuring out the story is part of the gameplay.

Dark Souls 3 should have beat out Uncharted 4 for game of the year. But of course… many would rather watch a movie, than play a game.

TheDutch Baristo says:

When you realize every sentence is inflected the same way it becomes really hard to pay attention haha. Like the ramble starting at 17:00

Adam Malkovich says:

It really comes down to the ambition of the developers. If they are going to make a game without cinematics, then it will be as straight forward and understandable as classic arcade games or simulator. However, if you make a story based game, then just make sure every aspect of the cinematic experience actually ties into what the player is going to be doing in the game. It’s really that simple.

Cinematics in games only become ridiculous when the gameplay is far too simplistic or lacks the potential to have a story but the developers force a deep story into it, or the story is too deep for the game’s own good when it should be more simple.

Don Albert Quiatchon says:

I’m okay with huge stories on video games, I am also okay with long cutscenes as long as I’m able to skip them…

What I don’t like, which is very existent on a lot of games (mostly PS exclusives), are the ones where you follow an NPC to a destination and listen to them tell you plot details while walking…

ShadowEnder888 says:

I am currently in college for Game Design and I can honestly say that this video has provided the best design advice I have received yet.

Super Gamer61499 says:

I think this problem between telling a great narrative and having great gameplay mechanics/gameplay is a pretty complicated issue. I personally don’t mind if a game just wants to tell a story (TLOU and Uncharted have done it fine.) but the thing is, it’s still a game at it’s fundamental levels. You can’t tell me that a game that puts the game mechanics at the back seat is a game. It’s not!

And i’ll tell you guys why imo I don’t consider them good games from a gameplay standpoint if they only focus on story. Because at it’s core most games will focus on the gameplay and not the story. Sure, TLOU and Uncharted have done mixing story with gameplay fine and I respect them for what they achieved but then you have games like Heavy Rain and Bioshock Infinite where at least to me, I stopped playing them because I wasn’t having a fun time with them. (That, and Bioshock Infinite’s case I don’t like the story all too much and in fact, I find it extremely overrated at least from the way I see it.)

I know that’s not the point of these kind of games but you have to realize guys that Video Games are nothing like movies in terms of how they tell their story. Sure, a few like MGS and TLOU take inspiration from movies of course but obviously, the way they tell those stories as oppose to movies are different.

And games like Journey,Shadow Of the Colossus, Ico and so on have perfected telling their stories through gameplay without sacrificing the “game” part of those games. And for every TLOU and Uncharted there’s a bunch that terribly did the “just being a story” kind of “game”.

And I personally don’t like this trend simply because I don’t want games to be movies. At their core a game should still be about the goddamn gameplay and if you don’t do that i’m sorry, but you failed at making a game. Why do you guys think Pacman,Atari Breakout and so on are still talked about in spite of being old? I can tell you it wasn’t the story for sure. It was because they were still games. Hell, how many of you guys are still talking about games like Heavy Rain? Not many I assume.

As someone who wants to be a game developer in the future, I just want games to balance story by telling it through gameplay mechanics. Hell, if both Shadow of The Colossus and Ico (two of the most influential games of all time) can do this well why are many game developers still struggling with this balance?

 I guess at the end of the day what i’m trying to say is, we should be more critical about this. I think while a game that has great gameplay can still hold up even with a less than stellar story the same cannot be said for a story driven experience that I think in time will diminish in enjoyment when we go back to those games and look at them from the gameplay mechanics.

Daniel Trindade says:

Yes, I disagree. There are games and there are games. Not every game is meant to be played 10 times over. There will always be games heavily carried by its story, and games carried by its gameplay, and each one offers different experiences.
I disagree there is a “trend”. What I notice, though, and I will grant that, is the profusion of story-driven games. But it does make sense, since they are not meant to “last” (their goal is to be memorable), a constant stream has to be provided.
Personally, I hate QTEs, FPSs and point-n-clicks. Still there seems to be an endless offer of this kind of games. You’ll always think there should be more of the kind of game you like.
It doesn’t mean the game industry is going “bad”.

TM studios says:

I think the game should definetly be built around an idea, that can either be a story (Metal Gear) or mehanics or even just the setting (Dark Souls). I know someone will say “But Dark Souls would suck without its gameplay” and I agree, but it would suck without the world, unique bosses and lore too. Without the story the Metal Gear series would be just another stealth game and without the world Dark Souls would just be a shitty fighting game. Storys make games different and make you want to keep playing. Sure, CoD might have good multiplayer, but without a good setting and story, its simply a shitty game.

Chillton says:

This video just reassured me why I’m not so much into games.

MisterChief53 says:


Cyborg HotDog says:

Nah man… take StarCraft as an example; all mechanics, no *good* story. They limited themselves to comic book story lines(yeah they sad that like it’s a bad thing) to focus on the game play. Yet, I can think of a hundred ways to follow the lore and use it as a way to enhance the mechanics of the game. Would require more budget but… hell, it’s Activison/Blizzard we’re talking about, here! They’ve got enough money to do almost whatever they want!

ectional says:

I think that Modern Warfare 2 was the turning point for it. Until that CoD was about being a soldier in a war, MW2 you were in a freaking Michael Bay movie. Explosions, high-speed chases, impossible shit, only thing missing was Megan Fox. And since it was such a success on sales, developers took notice.

Asderuki says:

Yes, yes, yes! Exactly what I was thinking about! I had such thought after playing Witcher 3… no even rpg, but slasher with narration and “open” world. Such pain for playing. I really hope Bethesda won’t try to create next witcher 3 with their next TES. That would be veeeeery sad.

Browntable says:

I play games for the story and gameplay that goes along with it. Im not really a multiplayer guy, that’s why I prefer Mass Effect and Uncharted and I love the Last Of Us. Never cared for Mario or older games sinilar to that, though I have them.

Gerard Dizon says:

I really like that you make these videos , today’s games are really more of a movie than a game to me.

Eirikur says:

>p-people cant e-enjoy narrative driven g-games
Why not?
>b-because I s-say so!-!

Moek ツ says:

Good points.
That’s why im hyped for Breath of the WIld and not Horizon Zero Dawn.

Cody Phillips says:

Usually story driven games only ask and expect 1 play through from their players anyway so using the argument that it’s not fun the 2nd time around doesnt really make sense

sinshenlong says:

this video explains why i am not excited for gow 4 perfectly

Igo Dreamer says:

I get what you’re saying and I must to agreed. Story always was important to me, but I never say its the most important thing, like Silent Hill 4: The Room, the story is very interesting but the gameplay is broken and I do not feel many reasons to play a second time.

ChillPahngwen says:

I love this video cause it challenges a lot of what I love and it does it with a great argument. that being said it takes two to tango so here’s my reply.

Replay ability is just one factor of a good game and sometimes it’s not really that great of a quality. As an adult, once I beat a game I don’t usually play it again so im fine with having that one epic experience. Funny enough the games I enjoy revisiting the most are Uncharted games. it’s like watching a movie again.

I do agree that there is some laziness to recent “Story Games” to just add a walking character and moveable camera and call it narrative gameplay. but those simple walking moments can be used effectively in games to drive immersion. same thing with cutscenes and scripted events. It’s catered to an audience. to say it’s inferior and shoddy work just kinda reveals how complex the word “Video Game” is in 2017.

I like Journey and Shadow of the Collusus, but I don’t want every game to be like that, or even mimic it. I recently played Abzu and all I could think about was how much more I liked Journey. Those games are special in of that they are unique but that sparkle wears off real quick when they are copied.

Maya Gameworks says:

I totally agree with you dude and my only wish is that there were more gamers like you, the 40 000 view count on this video proclaims the verdict: We are fucked.

Maxx Golbraykh says:

This video does a fantastic job of explaining the current state of gaming and the reasons it’s kind of going downhill, even while most people are clammoring for better stories. When I first played Fallout (PC circa late 90s), I was completely sure that this was the turning point for video games that I had been waiting for all my life.

Sadly, now almost 20 years later, most games are more homogenized and formulaic than ever. A new feature or gimmick will pop up here or there, but a whole lot of what’s popular is simply based on hyping up stories that rarely end up being concise or entertaining.

When coming up with a name for my own game studio, I tried very hard to capture the idea that you’re talking about in just a few words that would describe our studio. I settled on “Replayable Games” because those are exactly the kinds of games I intended to make.

Anyway, I’m going a little long on this comment. Mostly just wanted to say, great job!

Alexis Fernandes says:

Play Final Fantasy and you’ll find the answer.

Purple_Ghost says:

There are three things I look for in games:

Daniel Heidenreich says:

16:15-16:50 i’d recommend looking up Nintendo- putting play first as to answer that question as to why games are so “afraid” of letting the player explore their environment.

but for arguments sake lets say it isn’t about fear more than it is about fun, seeing how they either know that the player/play tester got bored at those points and kept them in for stories sake or, if I is fear, not wanting the player to do anything they shouldn’t and discover glitches that break the game.

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