I know this might seem like a bit of a cop out; blogging about the pro’s and con’s of the notorious Quick Time Event (I know what you’re thinking…..pro’s? Doubleyoo-tee-eff??? What pro’s?!), but after a recent experience – the latest in a lifetime’s worth of smashing the shit out of my controller/keyboard – I felt I could let it slide no longer without yelling my virtual face-off. So this is me yelling.
I say it’s a cop out because it’s an age old debate, one which has raged on for as long as there have been these god forsaken things crowbared into games, and I can appreciate readers might think this is somehow a ‘blog filler’, like doing a ‘Consoles vs PC special’! But it’s not, I promise. This is a genuine rant from the very deepest, darkest corners of my rancid, fetid bowels. I must share this with the world lest I go to my grave in whimpering silence.
To be honest I’m not sure that saying “…a debate that has raged on since blah blah…” is actually that accurate. There’s no debate, Quick Time Events are shit, and I think most would agree. As debates go it’s fairly one sided. It’s a bit like ‘debating’ that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was a bad thing…(slavery’s bad, right?). But none the less, on I will soldier.
So, already I’m sure you have accurately gauged my own particular opinion on these in-game abominations. If you’re not 100% sure which way I’m leaning, here’s a hint; I fucking hate them. So much so that the previously-planned blog installment which I had lined up has had to be shunted back a week (Lo Wang will not be happy). After the latest QTE shenanigans I have experienced, it just had to happen.
Before I begin my full frontal assault on the Quick Time Event, let us first look into its origins. To defeat ones enemy, one must first know ones enemy. So spaketh someone a lot more fighty than me once.
Yu Suzuki, the creative Director behind the hugely influential ‘Shenmue’ which Sega developed for their Dreamcast back in ’99, is attributed – or blamed – for coining the phrase. As it happens, despite my previous sentence, you can’t blame him; he may have coined the phrase ‘Quick Time Event’ for the button-flashy segments of the game where normal controller action just wouldn’t cut the mustard for one reason or another, but their use in Shenmue was actually pretty revolutionary and hugely influential despite their mixed reception (OK we’re back to blaming again).
But Suzuki didn’t invent the in-game mechanics behind the QTE. These can be traced waaay back to the early/mid 80’s to games like Dragon’s Lair in 1983 developed by Cinematronics (yes I had to look that up…). At this time games were blocky or line-drawing-y but Dragons Lair was basically a cartoon which you ‘played’ by pressing the right button or joystick movement at the right time as per the screen prompt and on your cartoon would play. These weren’t limited to specific segments of the game, these were the entire game. By the time I was old enough to start remembering games, probably a few years after Dragon’s Lair and it’s contemporaries were released, it was still revolutionary. But even then, as a youngling, I couldn’t help but think it was all a bit rubbish.
I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not really ‘gaming’ is it. You’re hardly ‘playing a game’. There is zero skill involved short of memorising a set combination of buttons or keys. My Mum could learn how to do that given enough time. My Mum! Mum would never win a round of COD:MWII multiplayer, she’d never rack up a ‘Godlike’ kill streak with a flak cannon in Unreal Tournament, she’ll never Level Up in Borderlands. Ever. Not if God Himself came down from his cloudy throne and stopped time enough for my Mother to clock up 100,000 hours of gameplay. Nope, not my Mum. But she could master a cut scene in Resident Evil 5 in an afternoon and still have time to catch Channel Dave’s rerun of Agather Christie’s Poirot.
I remember watching an episode of Gamesmaster waaaaay back when I was a lad, and they rolled out some chump who was going to Guinness-book the world’s fastest time on Dragon’s Lair in front of us all. So, as was customary, Dominik Diamond called out this chubby little oik as the Patrick Moor-shaped overlord surveyed proceedings. And sure enough the tubby, friendless virgin mashed and wiggled and tossed off the poor, simpering joystick on the Dragon’s Lair arcade machine until he probably did whatever it was he was there to do, I don’t remember the end. What I do remember though was thinking ‘this is shit. This isn’t gaming really, not compared to the guy before you who was twatting seven shades of shit out of a conveyor belt of feckless schoolboys in Street Fighter II’. And you know what else? I think EVERYONE knew it, not just me.
From then, until now, QTE’s have been a head-hanging source of frustration in pretty much every game that I have played which includes them, I genuinely cannot think of an exception. The only thing that can possibly make them bearable in any conceivable way is if they are over with quickly. If I get jumped by a wild dog or an undead cannibal and it asks me to ‘press X’ to shake him off, then OK, I can live with that (you may well argue this doesn’t even count as a QTE) but what fucks me off the most is these long, dragged out sub-stages that games like the more recent additions to the Resident Evil franchise seem so intent on forcing me to endure.
I’m sorry to have to throw that franchise under the bus, but Capcom, you deserve it. Resident Evil games were, without a second thought, one of the all time great games. They have a special place in my heart, genuinely. I could write 10,000 words on the influence, the impact, the memories, my unbridled, passionate love for those early installments. For a long time they were reason alone to own a console; the niche that PC couldn’t quite get right. Survival horror, as perfectly sublime as you will ever get and which for me has not been bettered to this day. But now? No. Resident Evil 5 was fun. But it lives amongst your Dead Space’s and the like. Really good fun. That’s all. But Resident Evil 6 has gone too far.
Resident Evil 6 then. Let’s get some context here. I’m aware it’s not a new game, it’s been out in console form since October 2012, and on the PC since March this year, but I’m only getting round to playing it now. OK, so it displays excruciatingly bad dialogue, an atrocious story and laughable characters (in this day and age Capcom really need to modernise; the nostalgic ‘old-skool’ cheesy novelty of these aspects of this franchise and others has worn off, I expect better from modern games), but despite that I had some great fun on it, as I did with Resident Evil’s 4 and 5. There’s been some good action, some genuinely creepy moments, and if you accept they are completely different from the earlier survival horrors that shaped a genre, you can get on reasonably well with them, especially in co-op. But it took just one-too-many Quick Time Events to undo all that hard work on numero 6.
These fucking things, I mean seriously. Guaranteed to be a rewardless kick in the balls to whatever game they are dumped in. The soul crushing repetitiveness of them, over and over and over having to master the correct keys in the correct sequence and at the correct time, all the while losing more and more interest and becoming less and less engaged. Quick Time Events have ruined the Resident Evil Franchise. There, I said it. What a sad end. Just let me get back to gaming, pplllleeeaaassseee. I don’t want to press SPACE any more, please don’t make me. I can’t take it, my keyboard can’t take it, and the franchise DEFINITELY can’t take it.
Somewhere in this blog I had intended to offer the counter argument “OK, I suppose they serve a purpose” or something similar, but as I’ve written this I’m failing to actually identify what they are. I think the argument is that they help the player stay engaged in the story during cut scenes (usually the story-heavy bit of a game) which they otherwise may skip. But I don’t really buy that argument.
For gamers like me, the ones that will almost always sit through all the cut scenes and take in the story as it was intended, QTE’s are actually a hindrance. I don’t mind a cut scene, even a long one if it looks pretty or is engaging. I don’t mind the distinction either of the ‘story bit’, and the ‘gaming bit’ of a game, but the QTE is like some pseudo gamy-cut-scene hybrid which is shit at being both.
Then you have your gamers who couldn’t give a fuck about story and just want to get back to the blood thirsty joy of the slaughter or whatever. For them, a QTE could well be all you need to turn your gamer away for good.
So the question is, how many gamers are really going to have an enhanced gaming experience because a Quick Time Event forced them to listen to the story where usually they wouldn’t? I would argue not very many.
My final blabbing on the matter is this. This is such a well known argument; the Quick Time Event has been bitched about for as long as it has existed. So why, in the name of the sweet virgin, do we the gamers NOT GET A FUCKING OPTION TO TURN THEM OFF I WE DON’T WANT THEM!!!
Press X to not die? Pffft, I’d rather have the option thanks.