Why I'd Never Pay for Activision's Video Game Cutscenes

By  |  Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Activision-Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick has a novel idea, which he shared at a recent entertainment industry conference: Scrape up the cinematic interludes from video games, string them together, and sell them back to video game fans as standalone movies.

Kotick believes his company could charge $20 or $30 for the entirety of a game’s non-interactive content, according to Gamasutra. This isn’t something he expects to happen in the near future, but with improvements in computer animation, cutscenes-as-movies could become a reality within five years, Kotick said.

What a terrible idea.

Let’s start with a basic problem shared by most video game cutscenes: In terms of quality alone, they’re not on par with Hollywood movies. I mean no disrespect to voice actors; this tends to be a result of poorly-written dialog and the grind of producing so many lines, including screams, grunts and other generic speech without context.

The bigger issue is that cutscenes are not the best way to tell a video game’s story. Think of how Bioshock left scraps of personal voice diaries for the player to discover amidst the chaos, or how Half-Life relied on overheard dialog and other subtle signs. Limbo, a game with one of the most touching plots in recent memory, has neither speech nor a progressing story.

Games with lengthy cutscenes, on the other hand, tend to fail at telling intricate stories. That’s because when you’re blasting aliens in, say, Halo: Reach, you disengage from the plot. Cutscenes creates a jarring dissonance, where one moment you were only fixated on survival, and the next you’re expected to not only catch up on everything that just happened, but also to soak in your next objective in the greater context of the story.

Fortunately, a video game can be enjoyed without fully understanding or caring about its plot. The same can’t be said for a movie.



2 Comments For This Post

  1. Ryan Says:

    Seriously – I don't even want to pay $20-30 for an actual Hollywood movie (I usually rely on rentals or the movie channel up here in Canada). Why in the world would I pay $20-30 to watch what is most likely a poorly written, poorly voice-acted set of animated scenes? Don't get me wrong, some games do it VERY well. But a lot of them… Don't.

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