Quick time events: are they a useful gaming mechanic or unnecessary pain?
Nothing Says “Cop-Out” Like A Quick Time Event
Just like anyone, I have my own list of pet peeves when it comes to gaming. In-game save points, lack of autosave feature, poor voice acting, clumsy controls…I really could go on and on. But the one thing that gets me time and time again is the unnecessary use of quick time events.
Now, put down the pitchforks and relax yourselves a second while I explain my reasoning. I don’t dislike quick time events in all games. In fact, in some of them, they work rather well. One game that I actually enjoy using quick time events in is Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. In The Walking Dead, timed button presses and actions actually help increase the game’s already strong tension and add to the experience. Or even in Heavy Rain, where the game is more interactive experience than a traditional style action game.
No, the quick time events I hate are the ones shoehorned into action games. Oh, you just spend upwards of ten minutes defeating this boss, wearing it down to its final moments? Here, enjoy a small movie featuring your character slaughtering said boss while you kick back and hit “A” (or “X” for our PS3 friends) when the game prompts it.
The reason I can’t stand quick time events here is simple; it removes any and all skill and immersion from me, instead focusing on having a big, impressive cinematic moment that I’m supposed to be wowed by. I suddenly go from feeling like a bad ass on the winning end of a battle to a viewer along for the ride. And correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that kind of go contrary to what a video game is supposed to be?
In my experience, the games I find myself completely in love with were games that challenged me with seeing a task completely through and using my own logic to solve problems. In Half Life 2, I had to not only worry about fighting hordes of zombies and Combine, I also had to find ways to get through the environment using only the items around me and solving puzzles. I’ll never forget how strangely awesome I felt after realizing I had to connect the gate to three car batteries before I could continue my escape, forcing me to scavenge the area and find batteries in cars and lying around the wreckage.
I’ll never forget the end of the first Portal, where I had to take GLaDOS’ various cores and destroy them one by one after redirecting a rocket at her (I know, I just referenced two Valve games here). Add to that the fact that I had a time limit before the gas in the room killed me, and it made for a hell of a satisfying ending to finally finish her off.
And you never forget the first dragon you take down in Skyrim. I climbed to the top of the tower and fired puny, worthless arrows at it before finally brandishing a sword and hacking at it while dodging the torrent of flame beating down on me. Seeing that thing collapse and absorbing its soul is one of the coolest moments I’ve ever experienced.
Now, imagine if that gate had opened with the use of an action button and a highlighted, obvious switch. Imagine if I’d be able to watch a cutscene of Chell collecting cores and opening the incinerator, all while hitting timed button presses at the right moment. And imagine if I’d fought a dragon with a series of super cool, flashy moves carried out only when I timed the prompt right.
It doesn’t just make it simplified; it takes all the fun and satisfaction out of the moment, reducing me to a player rather than immersing me and forcing me to take on the hero’s role and use my own wits to get out of a sticky situation. Now, could Valve and Bethesda have made their boss fights and challenges easier and more flashy by adding in fancy cutscenes and quick time events? Absolutely. But it wouldn’t have been as memorable and innovative.
And to me, that’s just the problem; in these games, it’s the accomplishment of defeating these bosses and solving puzzles that really makes the gameplay stand out. It was unique, it was intuitive, and it was innovative, making the experience as a whole a heck of a lot more memorable than a series of brutal scenes you dictate the speed of. At the end of the day, quick time events in these situations come off to be as being unecessary and feeling strangely of a cop out.
Because when it all comes down to it, I don’t want to be wowed. I want to wow myself, thank you very much.