If You Skip Video Game Cutscenes, Why Even Bother Playing Games? (2024)

I have a bone to pick with a lot of gamers. Some of these are my friends, whom I love dearly, but I simply cannot bear to watch them play games. If I see one more loved one telling me they skipped every cutscene in a video game, I might cry.

A few months ago, when I first got my Xbox Series X, my friends had come over for a movie night and we were all sitting in my room, arguing about what we were going to watch. The arguing period tends to take about two hours, so I tossed my friends some controllers and let them play Halo Infinite on co-op multiplayer while we yelled lovingly at each other. “That movie looks like sh*t,” one of us would say, and someone else would say, “You’ve completely misjudged the vibe of the room, pick another genre”. I usually let them tire themselves out before making a suggestion, just to spare myself the exhaustion of outrage.

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This evening, though, I was outraged anyway. As my friends chatted, I found myself watching them skip the opening scenes of the game. I want to make this clear: I have no large affection for the Halo series, and I didn’t play Halo Infinite so I have no opinion on the game’s story. Yet, I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming. You have to watch the cutscenes, I burst out indignantly, to some emphatic eye rolls. It’s Halo, I was reminded. They don’t want to watch the cutscenes, they want to shoot some grunts and splatter some blue blood. We’re not here for the story.

If You Skip Video Game Cutscenes, Why Even Bother Playing Games? (1)

I think about this all the time. When a friend told me he had no idea what was going on in Diablo 4 because he’d skipped all the cutscenes to get straight to the action, I buried my face in my hands. I get it – some people value gameplay over narrative. But holy sh*t, how do you play games like this? It’s the gaming equivalent of watching an entire show while playing Candy Crush on your phone and then saying you don’t get why people like it.

I already know I’m probably going to get emails and angry tweets about rage-baiting gamers, but I’m trying to hit on something at the core of gamer culture. So many times I and other critics have written about the value of video games as an artistic medium, talked about how stories fit into current societal norms and how subversive narratives matter, especially when they challenge politically conservative perceptions of what a narrative should be and say.

When gamers get angry about the visibility of women and queer characters in their games, or even metaphors for systemic inequality, a common argument is that games should be fun, and inserting “wokeism” into games makes them less fun because they have to actually wrestle with a narrative that defies theirs.

But games aren’t just for fun. The majority of games have some kind of narrative, and every narrative tries to say something. In my experience, the more complex and interesting that narrative is and the more controversial its themes are, the more a game cements itself as a classic. Rejecting those narratives completely by refusing to engage with cutscenes or story at all seems completely ridiculous because you’re not engaging with the artistic medium.

Not every gamer is consciously doing this – some people, like my friends, innocently skip cutscenes because they really do just want to get to the spectacle of it all. But it’s a sh*tty way to play games, and I stand by that. Gameplay is as important to a game as plot, but they have to go hand in hand. If you’re skipping cutscenes, you’re not playing the game as it was meant to be played, and if that’s the case, are you really playing the game at all? Or are you just extracting the parts of it that don’t challenge you, creating a facsimile of the intended experience that requires as little thinking as possible? I think developers deserve better than misguided criticism of their games from players who don’t engage with the medium as it’s meant to be engaged with. I’m just waiting for gamers to come around too.

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  • Triple-A Games
  • Diablo 4
  • Halo Infinite

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If You Skip Video Game Cutscenes, Why Even Bother Playing Games? (2024)
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