The Problem with Mandatory Cutscenes in Games

Unskippable sequences that you can't interact with: praised for making you feel immersed but not for getting in the way of player autonomy

The Problem with Mandatory Cutscenes in Games
Half-Life 2's cutscenes are seamless, but unskippable. Frustrating after multiple playthroughs.

Cutscenes should always be skippable.

There, I said it. I don't think it's a particularly controversial topic, right?

Everyone should be able to jump back into gameplay fast if they’re short on time. And for those who dig the cutscenes, they can choose to watch them.

Win-win, right? Well, you'd think so. But games continue to insist on forcing players through unskippable cutscenes.

Touted as a leap forward in narrative immersion, cutscenes have garnered acclaim for their ability to draw players deeper into the game’s world. They put the cinema in cinematic, after all.

Pokemon Sun and Moon Review - IGN
Pokemon Sun and Moon had people tearing their hair out with intrusive, unskippable cutscenes. Fantastic game otherwise. Source: Nintendo

Beyond just being a nuisance, the objection to unskippable cutscenes is that they interfere with the game’s pace and restrict the gamer’s liberty, even though they are known for their impressive narrative techniques.

Somehow, this practice, often championed by the titans of the industry, has gradually become equated with high-caliber game design. From an artistic perspective, I get it. Artists are the sole creators of their work, and it’s not for others to prescribe how they should produce their art.

However. Gaming is a unique beast, and game designers need to consider a whole range of people's needs.

Fundamentally unskippable cutscenes fail to account for individual player tastes. For some, what’s deemed immersive can be a hindrance, especially for those who value gameplay mechanics above all.

Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Remaster - Review - YouTube
Final Fantasy X is a beautiful experience, but sadly, there's no option available to skip lengthy cutscenes.

The level of interactivity within these sequences often doesn’t translate to genuine involvement, and some would suggest they shouldn't, they're cutscenes after all, but doesn't that detract from what makes gaming that unique beast mentioned earlier?

Let's also not forget that games are often played more than once, and it's unusual for players to want to sit through another batch of cutscenes when they've seen them before.

Yet for whatever reason, some games still don't let you skip cutscenes. We're past that stage now, surely? No one should be forced to sit through something that might frustrate them and ruin an otherwise enjoyable game.

The conversation about unskippable cutscenes in games deserves thoughtful attention. Advocates may celebrate these moments as groundbreaking storytelling tools, but critics argue they encroach on player control and disrupt the gaming experience.

Acknowledging the spectrum of opinions is crucial for a well-rounded understanding of game design. While some stand behind the push for narrative depth, others champion the cause of player choice and autonomy.

And that's what it comes down to really. Choice.