Things I’ve Done: Watched Every Cut-Scene (”Heavenly Sword,” “Simpsons” Edition)

People hate video game cut-scenes. I see their point.

People skip video game cut-scenes. I can’t do that. In fact, I’ve never done that. Surely I can’t be the only one?

Years ago — before it was in vogue to hate health bars and boss battles — it was cool to complain about cut-scenes. The flashy, melodramatic movies that appeared betweenc chapters of gameplay undermined games by interrupting interactivity. They misrepresented the graphics in the games they were in. They told bad stories. They needed to be skipped, and, wouldn’t you know that the worst kind of cut-scene was one that an A or X button couldn’t eradicate in one tap.

People who made games knew gamers felt this way. They still do. Konami employees, for example, tell me about avid “Metal Gear Solid” fans who ignore every cut-scene. And a few weeks ago, at E3, “Simpsons” TV show and video game writer Matt Selman made his case to me for the cut-scenes in this fall’s “Simpsons” EA game by acknowledging their universal notoriety:

“Everyone always skips cut-scenes and thinks cut-scenes are lame and can’t get through them. But if ever there were cut-scenes not to skip these would be them because they’re written by writers of the show and they’re just as funny as the show. If you’re a fan of the show I don’t know why you want to watch more free ’Simpsons’ episodes. Well, kind of free. It’s $60. Is that free?”

Selman made a great case. I wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to worry about me. I wouldn’t skip them even if they were awful.

But imagine the stress of a game developer or cut-scene writer who is convinced that all gamers stew while watching cut-scenes. Many of us have watched cut-scenes with the impatience we watched TV commercials in the days of no DVRs and dead batteries in the remote control, barely tolerating the occasional few minutes of wasted time before getting back to the good stuff.

But for all that hate, I have never skipped one — not intentionally. Why? Three reasons:

  1. I’m afraid I might miss something. When I have inadvertently pressed a button that skipped one I’ve wound up confused as to what to do next. If I’m stymied by a puzzle or locked door or something, I am convinced that the solution lie in the cut-scene I missed. So I go back and watch the cut-scene. I just don’t think I can afford to not see them.
  2. Some of the best moments in gaming were in cut-scenes. The un-masking in “Knights of the Old Republic“? Cut-scene. The bit with the big jump near the end of “Shadow of the Colossus“? Cut-scene. Those “Zelda“-ending parties? Cut-scenes. All of these are emotionally powerful and all are rendered in the most maligned format games have. How can I skip them when they might provide a game-capping great moment like those did?
  3. I’ve played “Heavenly Sword.” The “problem” with cut-scenes might be that they don’t offer the fun provided by the interactive parts of games. You’re playing a game, twitching with your hands, getting pleasurable feedback as puzzles are solved and as your car takes the lead and as stuff blows up — and then you have to stop and watch something you have no control over. Not fun, right? I thought that would be always be a problem, but it turns out that if a cut-scene is well-orchestrated enough, if the actors who are motion-captured for it really try to entertain the audience, if they make you laugh, then cut-scenes can actually be… fun. “Heavenly Sword” qualifies here splendidly. To some extent, its cut-scene spiritual successor, the equally hammy “God Hand” seems to as well.

So defenders of cut-scenes speak up! And those of you who, like me, may not love them but can’t bring yourselves to skip them, let the world know your conflicted feelings.

For too long only one opinion about cut-scenes has been heard.

(Recent Thing I’ve Also Done: Been On The Wrong Side Of The Law — ”Phoenix Wright” 2)