Press “B” to Skip: A Brief History of the Cutscene

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We’re at a weird moment with regard to the status of the cutscene. Players–at least the ones I talk to–have an uneasy truce with the ubiquitous mini-movies in today’s games. They know they’re going to be there and even when they’re really well-done, most gamers take them as annoyances that pull you out of gameplay. Developers view them as a necessary evil, because cutscenes let you tell story in a way that, say, a game engine built to generate cover-based shooting action does not.

But, also, you have games that are trying to do away with cutscenes altogether. This trend arguably started with the Valve classic Half-Life and most of that publisher’s games adhere to that principle. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, you have games like this year’s Heavy Rain, whose interactive cinematic ambitions arguably make it one long cutscene. That’s neither good or bad; clearly developers Quantic Dream took a different path. So, whether you think cutscenes represent opportunity or distraction, they’re not going anywhere. Let’s see if a guided tour of cutscenes of the past can shed any light on how exactly we got here.

View the gallery on your mobile device here.