Press “X” To Read Article – Are Quick Time Events Really Necessary?

Quick time events are a staple of modern gaming. The premise of hitting a specific button to perform an action has been re-used and recycled multiple times over the years and, whether you like them or not, they form an integral part of contemporary gameplay. But is it possible that time quick time events have run their course?

During the 1980s, movies such as the Star Wars saga, Indiana Jones and Back To The Future pushed the realms of cinema. Narratives became more and more based upon fantasy – transporting audiences to locales such as the depths of space or the deepest jungles. The 80’s was truly the era of make-believe and, in response to this, games developers sought to encapsulate players in their own cinematic experiences. LaserDisc games were produced, which focused on using pre-recorded footage for the game. Due to the limitations of pre-recorded video, developers began to incorporate button presses to provide interactivity with the video. 1983’s Dragon’s Lair required players to hit a button with correct timing in order to swing the main protagonist’s sword or select a direction for him to travel in. 1985’s Road Blaster also required players to hit images with accuracy in order to control the car. Laser disc games were the first steps into blurring cinematic and gaming experiences, but sacrificed freedom when it came to control.


Yu Suzuki, commonly renowned as being the Shigeru Miyamoto of SEGA,  first coined the term “quick time event” during the release of 1999’s Shenmue: a game which focused on being as non-linear as possible. The game contained a variety of interactive elements such as the ability to go to arcades and convenience stores or buy drinks from vending machines. Another one of Shenmue’s main draws was the inclusion of quick time events (QTE), wherein an image would flash on the screen during a sequence requiring players to hit the corresponding button to trigger an action. These were most commonly found during chase sequences, where if the player did not hit the correct button the protagonist, Ryo, would face the consequences. Suzuki is credited with stating that QTEs provided a “fusion of gameplay and movie”.


Quick time events work to bridge the game between cinematic experience and gameplay, often being sprinkled into cutscenes to provide interactivity rather than allowing the player to sit back for minutes on end watching a pre-rendered video. If added correctly, QTEs can work to up the ante of a given situation. Take 2010’s Wii exclusive Red Steel 2: during one section of the game, the player is tasked with pursuing an enemy truck which is speeding away into the distance. In this situation, a QTE would be integrated nicely as the pressure the protagonist would be feeling trying to chase down the truck is reflected by the pin-point button presses the player must make on their controller, which works to immerse the player within the sequence.

Furthermore, narrative driven games such as Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed The Walking Dead series use QTEs heavily. The choice-centric gameplay is a comfortable fit for them, as the premise of making a choice is simple enough to be captured with a button press. For example, during The Walking Dead the player is faced with choices whether to save character A or character B. If the gameplay was not restricted to a QTE, the focus is completely on the player’s controller skills rather than their choice. If the gameplay is put into a QTE, the players mind is entirely devoted to the choice they have to make rather than the amount of jumping they have to do to get there.

Quick time events aid massively in providing Hollywood-style experiences for players to enjoy without the need to stress over their controller. Developers may want to create a pinnacle moment, a spectacular set piece that burns into the players’ minds, but by giving the player free movement it allows the choice that the player might miss it. Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 does this perfectly with the game’s final mission. As you recover from a helicopter crash, the lead antagonist stumbles towards you, saying one last goodbye as he prepares to execute you. Suddenly, your comrade begins to open fire, distracting the villain enough for you to grab hold of him and get your revenge. If the player had free movement, the scene would be far too clunky to be considered memorable. By limiting the beatdown of your nemesis to simple button presses, the game turns into a form of interactive movie. One where every punch hits hard and means something, where every grimace and shriek of your enemy is put into focus because you simply cannot just walk away. Quick time events force the player into situations they shouldn’t miss, and heightens the experience of a set-piece.


However, the inclusion of quick time events have left players divided during the modern era, with some viewing the incorporation of QTEs as a way to take the player out of the game.

Immersion is important within games. From GTA V’s sprawling world full of pedestrians, to The Last of Us’ derelict cityscape, it is important for a player to feel a part of the game. Quick time events can work to negate this as they almost push a player out of the loop rather than bring them in, which is what they aimed to do. To use an example, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare features a rather redundant QTE in which the player must pay respects to a fallen comrade. The use of the QTE here is unnecessary as the same situation could be explained perhaps more easily by using a cutscene – instead, the developers place the interaction during the middle of the cutscene before having the player wait another few minutes to actually get to the core gameplay of the mission. This is a clear example of a poorly executed QTE – the interaction may as well have been a cutscene rather than awkwardly shoving in a button press.


Quick time events, in my opinion, still hold a place in modern gaming. Yes, they can be outstandingly redundant, but they can work with the situation given to them to heighten emotions and pressure, place focus on a particular scene, or reflect the style of the game itself. I think we should all take our fingers off the “F” button, as it isn’t time to pay our respects to quick time events just yet.