Unedited Rambling about Cinematic Games

What I’m saying in the above audio file is that there’s a fundamental issue with cinematic games. It’s disingenuous and insulting to both cinema and games. I guarantee you that if a game were to actually use cinematic techniques to create an experience that feels cinematic, it wouldn’t get billed as a cinematic game. It’d just be fucking good. The games that proclaim to be ‘cinematic’ most frequently don’t create a cinematic experience, they just replicate the experience of sitting at the cinema watching the worst parts of a movie. The parts where two characters are sitting around exchanging dialogue in bad shot/reverse shot doing nothing.
No, the ‘cinematic games’ excuse just doesn’t fly. It’s possible to use cinematic techniques in interesting ways to communicate something in the scene without it being dialogue. If these cinematic games took advantage of framing and visual metaphors, absorbed the lessons of when to edit and did so when players wouldn’t expect it, the experience would actually be cinematic instead of needing to insist that it is. As it is though, current ‘cinematic’ games are lazy because they don’t use these techniques. They emulate the basic structure and presentation of this year’s by-the-book blockbuster movie and think that current cinema is good cinema. These cinematic games don’t look to weird experimental indie films or to the classic masterpieces of film for inspiration. No, they instead look to the bland, forgettable films of today. They look at the worst cinema has to offer and say “yeah let’s borrow those parts.” and this is my issue with cinematic games.
Cinematic games could be borrowing from the very best of visual storytelling and using the medium of film as a springboard to enhance and further immerse the player in the game to create an experience reminiscent of the best parts of film. Instead, the people who create these cinematic games have decided to create the experience of sitting in a theater in the boring part of a film. Games could be borrowing editing techniques to create a sense of urgency and pacing. But no. We’ve decided, apparently, that the best way to use visuals is as an afterthought. Cinematics and gameplay are in separate theaters, never to interact, even though we could gain so much if we blended them together.
Imagine playing a game that flows as seamlessly and genuinely nonlinearly as a Satoshi Kon film. It’d be disorienting, but it’d also be an incredible experience.
But as it stands, cinematic games aren’t cinematic. They’re a disgrace to cinema and a disgrace to games, and we shouldn’t put up with this shit anymore.


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