“The true test of a game’s narrative is whether I’m willing to go grab a new beer while a cut scene is going on.”—me, on Twitter, being snarky.
I’m joking—mostly. I’ve just finished Crytek’s Crysis 2, a game supposedly taking narrative seriously enough to hire a screenwriter. I have little knowledge of Crysis beyond aliens and a magical suit, myself a Mac-bound computer user. Plus, with Crysis 2 debuting on consoles, I expected a decent summary.
Er, nope. Still, I’ve heard Crysis’ story was hardly water cooler worthy, but as someone who will play or watch anything with an alien (Independence Day is, no joke, one of my favorite movies—everever), Crysis didn’t have to do much to keep my attention; it only had to, at least, explain itself a tiny bit.
I knew something was afoot when a seemingly critical cut-scene (non-spoiler: meeting Gould) appeared, which propmpted me to lay the controller down and have a sip of beer. “Drats, ” I said. “Empty.” Instead of waiting for the cut-scene to finish out, I moved up from my seat and headed to the fridge for another beer. And then it stuck me: I’ve stopped giving a shit about what’s happening, huh.
Crysis 2 explicitly told me I should stop caring when it slapped “press A to enter game” seconds after starting the campaign. And the prompt never disappears. Homefront was similarly offensive, yet I’m supposed to believe these games are taking their storytelling seriously? And that’s without laughing at the concept of cut-scenes to begin with.
I’ll forgive Crysis 2 on some level, as the “cut-scenes” are basically maps with voice overs, allowing the game to load in the background. That’s not clear at the start of the game, however. “Press A to enter game” rather bluntly suggests the part of the experience I should care about does not exist there.
And even though this has nothing to do with the “beer test,” I’m going to groan anyway: please stop putting important story elements in collectables. I don’t give a shit about achievements or trophies or gamer points, but I do care about understanding the world around me. There’s an important layer of plot to Crysis 2 (is that where the screenwriter’s work went?) that I wasn’t aware of until after the game was over. They were hidden in collectible emails, things I found a handful of times by accident. Man.
(You know what I’m talking about, Resistance 2.)
What’s worse, the “beer test” is easy to pass, especially since most cut-cenes are pauseable now. The more dramatic application is the “pee test,” in which a game/movie/book grips you enough to put off doing the most essential of bodily tasks, seeking just a few more moments in the narrative’s world.
That’s a whole ‘nother story, though.