Forums - Gaming Discussion - The Cinematic Experience in Games

I made this thread in response to generation long comments about reviewers preferring cinematic experiences over actual gameplay, or the idea that games are 'too' cinematic nowadays. I know I'm generalizing but these sort of comments exist and its weird. I'm surprised such a narrative gained traction, since there are very few games that actually are 'cinematic experiences,' like Until Dawn, as well as making it seem like games that have great stories/ production values don't have good/ great gameplay too. Its quite far fetched. But is that really the case, do people believe this? Or is it just a poor excuse to downplay PS4 dominance across the board? I think it is the latter. Definitively. 

There are two cinematic experiences (I don't count indies, because they are gauged differently than retail games, as well as price which is an x-factor when it comes to reviews, and obviously VR games, as that is a whole other acid trip lol) I have played on PS4. Until Dawn with a 79 Metascore & The Order with a 63 Metascore. In fact, no cinematic games have reached a 90 Metascore on any platform, so I wonder why this is an excuse for PS4 games that get reviewed well. Now, I can't think of any other cinematic experiences out or to be released. I have bought over 10 retail games this gen & none of them are cinematic experiences. The only other game I've played in my life that fits the bill would be Heavy Rain, which really undersells the game if you think of it like that. So despite the lack of evidence of cinematic experiences garnering favorable scores, and the lack of truly cinematic games for consoles in general, it is funny this is cinematic excuse is used for PS4 exclusives. Hm, must be something about PS4/ Sony...... 

Then games like Uncharted 4 + TLoU with great stories, solid gameplay, are labelled as cinematic experiences. This might be because the gameplay is not "innovative enough," which is a poor critique IMO, since the majority of major AAA games for every console, every genre, follow the same formula in terms of gameplay. Then there are people who feel that the story is the strongest point, which makes it a product they're not interested in, which is fair.  But labelling the game as a cinematic experience, because its strongest point is the story, is underselling the whole package. The fact that a game can get people immersed through the story/ characters/ setting is a great thing. Like being immersed into a movie, show, or book, caring for the characters makes it better, more memorable, more sentimental for the person. But it doesn't mean developers sacrifice gameplay for story, it shows they are talented developers. 

Games like God of War, Halo, Final Fantasy, MGS, have great stories to them as well as great gameplay. People who spin games with a great story and file it as a "cinematic experience" are doing a disservice to the developers. The Uncharted franchise, for instance, has some of the greatest set pieces in gaming history, with the verticality, variety and verocity, that make it exciting to play through, and obviously this might not be as exciting to others as it is to some, but to label it a cinematic experience because it doesn't appeal to you? No matter how great a story in the game is, games thrive on gameplay, it generates excitement through gameplay.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to disagree, or agree, comment below!



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Cinematic games are fine, but the gameplay usually takes the back seat on them. Sure its exciting to see Drake and his brother drive fast on a bike while shooting at a car that chases them, but what are YOU the player really doing in these instances? Its cool to see Drake climbing up ledges while stuff comes crashing down towards him and the ledges keep breaking to almost make him fall, but again what are YOU doing?

I think The Last Of Us did a great job of balancing the cinematics and the gameplay.

3D animators who think they can act.

Stories that make Sharknado look oscar-worthy.

Uncanny valley.

Millions of dollars down the drain.

What's not to like?

KLXVER said:
Cinematic games are fine, but the gameplay usually takes the back seat on them. Sure its exciting to see Drake and his brother drive fast on a bike while shooting at a car that chases them, but what are YOU the player really doing in these instances? Its cool to see Drake climbing up ledges while stuff comes crashing down towards him and the ledges keep breaking to almost make him fall, but again what are YOU doing?

I think The Last Of Us did a great job of balancing the cinematics and the gameplay.

I didn't really think TLoU balanced gameplay and cinematics particularly well either, and it is the primary reason why I question if "filmic" storytelling can ever be effectively utilized in gaming. I thought the gameplay segments messed up the pacing of the story, and the cinematic segments screwed with the immersion of the gameplay. Things didn't really start to click for me until Fall, and by then the game was almost over.



Trunkin said:
KLXVER said:
Cinematic games are fine, but the gameplay usually takes the back seat on them. Sure its exciting to see Drake and his brother drive fast on a bike while shooting at a car that chases them, but what are YOU the player really doing in these instances? Its cool to see Drake climbing up ledges while stuff comes crashing down towards him and the ledges keep breaking to almost make him fall, but again what are YOU doing?

I think The Last Of Us did a great job of balancing the cinematics and the gameplay.

I didn't really think TLoU balanced gameplay and cinematics particularly well either, and it is the primary reason why I question if "filmic" storytelling can ever be effectively utilized in gaming. I thought the gameplay segments messed up the pacing of the story, and the cinematic segments screwed with the immersion of the gameplay. Things didn't really start to click for me until Fall, and by then the game was almost over.

There will always be a bit of an awkward transistion between the two I think, but I just thought TLOU did a better job than most with it.



No, I don't think it has to do with people trying to conjure an excuse to downplay the success of PS4. It's just that a lot of people, myself included, don't think cinematic pretensions add much value to games. In many instances, they actually detract from the experience.

Movies and video game just don't mesh well. A few short cut-scenes to bridge the action is one thing, but the adoption of the storytelling mechanics of movies is another altogether.

The point of a game is interactivity. It's about how a player interacts with a set of rules and mechanics. The will of the player and the plan of the developer come together and create gameplay. Movies, conversely, have no interactivity. The player, or viewer in this case, is a passive onlooker. The movie is always the same. Nothing the viewer does changes what's onscreen.

If you adopt the storytelling demands of movies, your game will suffer as a result. Why? Because you're chipping away at player agency, the thing that makes the video game medium special.

I understand and respect the folks who prefer cinematic, story-driven games. I'm glad the industry provides for them. Personally, though, I think the two media should stay away from each other.

My thoughts are summed up by Jim Sterling. It's a buzzword of something that doesn't really exist and just used as an excuse for bad game design.



I have nothing against cinematic games. My beef is more with the way they are reviewed than with the games themselves. I feel like it's much easier for a reviewer to "forgive" the shortcomings of a cinematic game if the story is good enough, and I just don't think that's fair to the games that choose not to focus on story.

Something like a puzzle game will never score as well as something like a Final Fantasy game, even if it's perfect. I feel like a balance has been lost. Everyone deserves the chance to be number one. Every genre deserves the chance of winning "Game of the Year," not just cinematic games.

I feel like a good story can make a bad game tolerable or better, but a bad story doesn't ruin a good game.


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I don't understand why people get so upset about "cinematic games". I've grown tired of hearing the complaints.

Just don't play the kind you don't like.

Problem solved.

I also will never understand the need to set up a strict definition for what makes up a "game". For me, as long as people are enjoying the experience, I don't give a cat's rear-end if it's more game than movie or movie than game. The important part is that a lot of people like it.