You stand your game character suddenly still. You can sense something big is about to happen, some culmination of the efforts that have gotten you this far. You know the way it works. You know there’s a boss fight just around the corner. Maybe it’s intuition. Maybe it’s experience. Maybe it’s that viscera-strewn room you’re about to enter. You can’t be sure how you know, but somehow you do know.

A moment of delicious exposition occurs on meeting your nemesis. You enjoy it whilst you mentally prepare yourself for battle. The scene runs its course all the way to its satisfying end.

You fight. You die. You reload.

Now, the last thing the player is going to want at this point is a repeated sitting of the scene they watched not five minutes ago before being able to reengage battle. It doesn’t matter how sweet the preceding exposition was, how beautifully it was delivered, or how graphically-perfect it appeared, the player is only going to look upon it as an annoying barrier to the rest of the game. This is particularly true with challenging boss fights; I have sat through the same cutscene more than 15 times over in the past. It’s a persistent and horribly deflating issue for gamers. It’s a total deal breaker.

This practice is such unbelievably poor form on the part of the designer that people flat-out refuse to believe that they’ve fallen victim to it, much like when you repeatedly search the fruit bowl for your car keys in the hope that you missed looking behind one of the mouldy grapes occupying it. During these cutscenes, people find themselves engaged in this ludicrous finger-straining controller-fingering exercise in a bid to discover a ‘skip scene’ button combo that simply doesn’t exist. Frustration eventually overcomes motivation. The towel is thrown in, the controller is thrown at the standard appliance of choice and, ultimately, Guitar Hero is thrown on.


Anyone who plays third-person action games will have experienced this at one time or another. For me, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a killer. Who would have thought that a game so centred on random and pointless button-mashing would forgo the practice in areas that might actually benefit from it?

Unskippable scenes of dialogue count, too, something that Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Boss Fight Introduction demonstrates perfectly. The fantastically engaging Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is yet another offender, proving that this issue cannot simply be attributed to sloppy game design.

Moving forward, I hear Mass Effect features the unskippable. Tomb Raider: Underworld did, also. Unfortunately, BioShock, a game that attempts to overcome the issues associated with using cutscenes as a form of narrative delivery, places itself in this category to some degree. Because significant story events are integrated into the gameplay, there’s no grounds to skip the action. I found this was a bit of a problem with BioShock 2, although not a great one.

Anyone know why there are still occurrences of this practice in modern games? Anyone want to stage their rage?*

*Note: The author would like it known that her next blog will be upbeat, pleasant, even jovial and will encourage only a minimal amount of rage-staging.







8 responses to “Unskippable”

  1. Kat avatar

    Argh! Yes! This can drive me mad!

    Even scenes that you can skip annoy me, just put me back in the action >.<

  2. Andy T avatar
    Andy T

    Mass effect 2 seems to have things covered…It helpfully informed me during a loading screen last night that if I was repeating something I could press one button to skip cut scenes and another the skip lines of dialogue.

    Sadly the TV I was playing on is tiny and I couldn’t make out the tiny symbols…so I’m just having to avoid dying like the plague.

    Personally I find the un-pausable almost as horrifying. My family and friends seem to always generate an unstoppable urge to have my full attention the very moment that a big plot twist revealing (un-pausable but ironically often accidentally skippable when you try to pause) cut-scene begins…frustrations arising from these situations led to the famous “Look this game wont repeat itself…but you will so just shut up for two minutes please!!” affair in my household a few years back…bad times

  3. Mike avatar

    I emphasise all too much with you on this point, Cel, unskippable cutscenes are one of the biggest problems when it comes to game design. They can actually ruin a title for me.
    Army of Two: The 40th Day is a major offender. They, along with the random sever crashes, were the reason the off button on the Xbox was pushed rather than starting all over again.
    Like I said in my review of it, unskippable cutscenes are a sin in this day and age.

  4. Mike avatar

    The second one in my last comment should be sympathise. X)

  5. Celeste avatar

    Nope. Too late Mike. You will forever more be known as ‘The Empathiser’. 😉

  6. noozles avatar

    I like the GTA concept of changing the dialogue for a previosuly played (failed) mission… Something that Red Dead Redemption seems to be doing as well…

  7. James avatar

    Yeah, they’ve confirmed that noozles.

  8. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    If I’ve seen the scene once, I would like the option of skipping if so I don’t have to view it numerous other times. As long as I can’t accidently skip a scene by pressing a button on the controller I did not mean to press.

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