Video games are interesting. They're moving into the territory of cinema lately - with hyper-realistic graphics and longer winded cutscenes that tell their story. These types of games started taking off during the days of the XBOX 360 and the Playstation 3, and seem to be increasingly common in games lately. Lately though, games seem to have stopped focusing on the gameplay element, relying on their same tried and true formulas, staying safe, in order to create this cinematic experience. Games like Ninja Gaiden III were plagued by this, featuring cutscenes that required minimal input in order to encapsulate the experience as a series of events. Final Fantasy XIII was plagued by these cutscenes, and it got chided as being excessively linear for the sake of experiencing the story. Heck, when games ask you to select a difficulty, sometimes they do not even hide the fact that the easy difficulty is for those who "want to experience the story." And then the game becomes mind-numbingly easy with extremely simplistic AI that don't quite seem to know what they are doing. So why is the video gaming industry moving towards this cinematic model, and what exactly are some of the hypothetical factors that are causing this?
Does this come down to an innovation issue? Could gaming immersion be going too far to get the player hooked with eye candy graphics? Does gaming in general seem to be going simpler, following their tried formula to make their money based on their fanbase, or is this the new direction that gaming seems to be going in? Gaming in general has seen huge advances, such as virtual reality technology, that creates a more immersive experience. Does virtual reality have a chance to bring another paradigm shift back to focusing on gameplay rather than these visually pleasing cinematic sequences? On top of that, these cinematic sequences take up absurd amounts of space that could have been spent on gameplay elements. And with game updates, patches, or full-blown downloads reaching the dozens of gigabytes lately, it's raising a high bar standard for my expectations as to what I want to see in the game, but instead it's too cinematic focused and doesn't do anything to distinguish itself from the crowds with innovative gameplay elements, instead dumbing their level of complexity down quite a bit. As such, it was generally observed that games like The Order: 1866 got derided by the gaming community for sacrificing their gameplay and opting for the cinematic experience. They've opted to make a game fancy and try and sell using famous people in order to show that the visuals and cinematics are more important - for instance, look at Kevin Spacey's role in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Video games have lost a lot of complexity lately with these cinema sequences, so it's definitely a nice refresher when something like Dark Souls comes out that puts the mind to work, invoking many feelings of frustration. A lot of our Nintendo related reviews have criticized the games for being too simple, and having a bit too much in the eye candy department, favoring colorful visuals. Games lately also seem to have a get out of jail free card for when the situation gets tough, to help the player further experience the story. Ninja Gaiden III did away with exciting gameplay elements and instead opted for "quick time sequences," cutscenes that the player was forced to interact with, to continue the gameplay. I still miss the days when Ninja Gaiden was an insanely hard play through back on the days of the NES.
But then, are there other factors at work here? Are these cinematic experiences designed to open up the game to a more accepting audience? Are gamers nowadays too impatient and spoiled by instant gratification to want to sit down and have an engaging play through? Game play times have been incredibly low nowadays - a game like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker only took about eight hours to complete 100%, when compared to the old days where an average game took dozens of hours to complete. Games back then, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time took up to fifty hours, often more. Are games trying to compete and get an edge over the mobile gaming industry?
Mobile games are also something that need to be kept in mind. With many people moving to the more advanced smart phone, games can be downloaded and played instantly. Games played mobile are often played in quick spurts and then lock the player to a pay wall that prevents proceeding. A lot of these games are addicting, and are easy enough for anyone to pick up most of the time. Is it safe to say that mobile gaming has had an impact on the quality of the console front video games?
Now, a lot of this stuff is just theory that I was thinking about, and I would love to find some correlations that tie the cinematic experience to some of the factors I noted above. What are your thoughts on this? Do you see cinematic gaming as the new shift in video gaming? Where is the cutoff for a game that has just the right amount of cinema and good gameplay? Does mobile have enough of a fingerprint as to why the games industry is moving in such a direction? (If you find any kind of concrete proof, do tell me!) Have at it in the comments.