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"Watch 'Em Ups"; Sucking The Meaning Out Of Action Games
by Ben Ruiz on 08/29/12 10:49:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Watch 'em ups are a newly emerged genre of game that appear to bear the key properties of beat 'em ups, but are actually far less interactive. Their existence is entirely due to the popularization of Quick Time Events. A watch 'em up looks like the type of experience arcade born gamers love and cherish, but they are actually hollow and unsatisfying experiences in comparison. The reason they feel like this is because they are comprised primarily of what I call "low interaction mechanics".

What Are Low Interaction Mechanics?

They're a type of game mechanic where the game engine takes a very small amount of input and spits out a spectacular amount of visual and audio output. Their origins are in the Quick Time Events that were born in Shenmue, popularized in God Of War, and have been mutating ever since. If you are not familiar with QTE's,  God Of War's brutal fatalities are the iconic example; whenever it's time to kill a big dumb enemy you approach them, push a specific button, and it triggers this complex animated sequence: your character will sling their chains around the enemy, use them to leap onto its head, rip its eyeball out, jam the blade into its chest, tear its still-beating heart out, and so on and so forth until the enemy is dead. While it's amazing to watch, all the player is doing is waiting for simple on-screen cues to hit certain buttons. In all fairness, there is some risk involved being is that the player can fuck up these button presses, but they're still doing very little work yet still watching an avatar perform sensational actions on screen. And again, while QTE's are the backbone of low interaction mechanics, there are many more forms.

The Problem With Low Interaction Mechanics

They're not honest! Game are using these well-produced moments to trick the player into thinking they're awesome. In the pre-low interaction mechanic world, all of the distinct actions in these violent QTE sequences would have been their own legitimate mechanics that required a fair amount of skill to individually perform. While some designers would argue that you can't make traditional game play look that phenomenal because of its inherent playability restrictions, I say that you absolutely can. And while play at those levels is incredible to watch it's also incredibly difficult to perform, and therein lies the problem! Some people can't and/or don't want to operate at that high level of play and low interaction mechanics are the bone the game industry has thrown them. Unfortunately, what's happening now is that modern action game developers/publishers are now trying to capitalize on the people who enjoy these shallow and meaningless interactions by consciously and intentionally creating these kind of games from the ground up.

Watch 'Em Ups Are Now A Genre And That's Dangerous

As of 2012, there are now two official entries: Asura's Wrath (Cyber Connect/Capcom) and Ninja Gaiden 3 (Team Ninja/Tecmo Koei). Both are AAA titles by major developers/publishers that were green lit for the same reason anything is green lit;  because the people upstairs believed it will be profitable. Since action game developers/publishers have this awful habit of assuming that if they do something that God Of War did it means it will share its success, the decision to produce these games DOES make sense. It's asinine, but I understand it. However, my main problem is not that they exist in the first place, but it's that they look like beat 'em ups and are being sold to me as if they were beat 'em ups. It's gross and deceptive and disappointing and it's actually hurting beat 'em ups! They're ruining beat 'em up's reputation with its own diehard fans and any new fans Watch 'Em Ups bring in are going to be a completely different type of player. And this isn't irrational, especially since Ninja Gaiden 3 was co-opted by these players, which was a HUGE betrayal of the series' long standing fans.

And just to be super duper clear, I do NOT consider God Of War a watch 'em up. Like I've said before, I adore the God Of War games and I find them plenty interactive. I simply used the game to describe its very iconic QTE's and that's it.

At the end of the day, I'm an arcade gamer and I play beat 'em ups because I'm given a complex system of tools with which to express myself in a high risk environment and this makes me feel alive. But I need to know that the amazing things happening on my screen are a direct result of my own fiery will pushing against real opposing forces and that I'm actually succeeding. Art is at its most meaningful when you make it yourself and the philosophy with most action games is to give the player paints, a brush, and a beautiful clear canvas with which express yourself. Ninja Gaiden 3 and Asura's Wrath just gave you a cheap paint-by-numbers that someone else drew and a set of crappy watercolors in little plastic pill caps. These games have no faith in your skill and ability.

Interestingly enough, both of these games were financial failures. Hopefully what's happened here is that these publishers have overestimated the size of the Watch 'Em Up audience and that they're not substantially extant.

Read more articles on action game combat design at:! 

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Rob Lockhart
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Great post, man. I wonder what the exact sweet spot is between a completely faithful level of interaction (next-gen Kinect?) and the lowest level of interaction (QTEs). I'll answer my own question and say it depends on the game.

Jean Auguste
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Hi Ben, hi everyone,

I'm adding your blog to my favorites as it seems to be a great read.

I have a question though. There's a combat system you never seem to talk about : the FreeFlow combat system designed by RockSteady Studios.

I've played the game Batman : Arkham City for over 20 hours now and I'm far from being an expert in this particular domain but it looks to me like the best inbetween considering what you describe : the low interaction mechanics (undetermined moves/impressive actions/more casual) work almost at the same level of efficiency as the high interaction mechanics (determined moves/less impressive actions/more hardcore).

I'm eager to read your answer.

Ben Ruiz
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I actually agree with you completely and intend to write a combat analysis on the Batman games because I think they are fascinating. Expect to see that soon, and I'm glad you like the devblog!

Jean Auguste
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Thanks Ben. I'll be one faithful reader of your past and next articles.

Ben Schlessman
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"While it's amazing to watch, all the player is doing is waiting for simple on-screen cues to hit certain buttons."

This is exactly what a video game is. The player is presented information on screen (cues, if you will), and based on that stimulus, they hit certain buttons in response. This is the core definition of a what a video game is. Stimulus, followed by response. Repeat until the player wins or loses.

When you compare the gameplay of GoW's standard combat system to the gameplay of the QTE fatality system, there are really only two differences. One, you are limited to only four buttons for input, and in return you have two possible outcomes. You either succeed or fail, depending on the button you press. The other difference is that the outcomes in the QTE system are designed to be very visually stimulating and "over the top" if you will. You're exchanging freedom of choice for a more fullfilling entertainment.

"Games are using these well-produced moments to trick the player into thinking they're awesome."

It's pretty ballsy to say that players aren't actually feeling what they think they are. That those feelings aren't legitimate because the methods to produce them weren't exactly the methods you'd choose, should you make your own game. The reason players think that they're "awesome" is because they are, in a sense, special moments. 95% of the combat will be like the combat in the YouTube videos you linked to (which is like the combat of most beat 'em ups): typical, pretty cool at first, but repetitive.

QTE events are special because they break that repetitive flow of combat and *make it memorable*. Instead of an overhead-axe swing to the face of an enemy for the 2834th time, now you've got a very memorable, unique experience that the player is continuing to drive with his responses to the on-screen stimulus. It's memorable because it's different, and usually over the top. And this is what makes it fun for those players.

I can't think of a single game that could be called a "Watch 'em Up", unless that game was composed of 95% QTE events.

Now, your opinion that QTE events are lame is a completely valid opinion that I understand. But to claim that players' joy they receive from the game isn't actually "joy" at all but some other adjective is, in my opinion, silly and without merit.

Ben Ruiz
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You can distill all videogame experiences down to stimulus, response, stimulus, response. But that's not the point I'm making.

I don't understand how you can state that there are "only two differences" between GoW's standard combat and its QTE's, when one of those differences is exchanging a tremendous amount of freedom for some fireworks. A difference in freedom is a PROFOUND difference and THAT'S the point I'm trying to make.

And I didn't tell anyone what they're feeling. I declared the use of a trick and its intended purpose. The intent here is to inject a sensation of accomplishment into your brain, which is all good. But surely you understand the vast difference between feeling awesome as a player because you succeeded at something with a lot of responsibility on your shoulders (standard combat experiences) versus succeeding at something with very little responsibility on your shoulders (low interaction experiences). This is the core reason I find these games comparatively hollow and unsatisfying to traditional action games.

As far as QTE's being special or fun or memorable or blah blah blah we're just going to have to disagree because I personally find QTE's boring as shit. Haha! But I get why people like them, which is why I have never at any point said low interaction mechanics shouldn't exist. I just said they're sucking the meaning out of action games. Kind of like the way fast food sucks the meaning out of eating and heroin sucks the meaning out of life.

Okay that last sentence was just me being incendiary. ;)

Matt Robb
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Say you put your kid in a karate class. He learns to stand on one foot long enough to kick, and the sensei gives the kid a black belt. Kid feels awesome.

Does the kid in fact have the same level of awesome that an actual black belt would have? Or does the poor child have the illusion of awesome because if he actually joined the rest of the community (say at a tournament), he'd realize he's a beginner and be let down by the false sense of awesome he previously had?

Ben Schlessman
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I like that post a lot better and I can see your point now, which now that I look at your article again, is a bit more obvious to me. QTE's in action games slow down the overall pace, and are thus not providing a pure action experience. Fair enough, I think that's simply the technical truth of QTE's.


I'm not sure if Ben agrees with you, but I think our main difference here is simply determining "when a player *should* feel awesome". You seem to think that there should be certain criteria that, only when met, would allow the player to feel awesome or accomplished.

My opinion is that I don't care when or how the player feels awesome. It's not up to me to decide those arbitrary rules. I think the problem lies in the fact that game developers get too cought up with providing the player with too many ways to feel awesome, thus distilling the overall gameplay experience into simple "button press == fanfare" type of stuff. Point taken on that as well.

Matt Robb
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All I really meant was that feeling awesome because you overcame a challenge or even just gave it a good try tends to be deep and meaningful and can stick with you. Seeing awesome happen just because you showed up can be fun, but it's also fleeting when it happens in interactive entertainment. It's fine in audience entertainment, or even in portions of games that aren't meant to be interactive, such as cutscenes.

Ben Ruiz
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Matt, I just don't subscribe to the idea that feeling good is feeling good and that's that. Succeeding in a fight is going to have completely different effects on you as a sentient than just showing up/pushing a button and subsequently experiencing fanfare because of it. The kid in question has developed a trivial skill that won't apply functionally to anything else, and furthermore, they've been conditioned into thinking that what they did is non-trivial with excessive positive reinforcement. I believe the sensei (or game) is doing the kid (or player) an injustice.

But again, I don't think these kind of experiences shouldn't exist, and I certainly want people to feel good. But I also want them to develop as humans, and they won't if outside forces reward them for comparatively* meaningless accomplishments.

*Comparatively is the key word here; just showing up can be a very real skill, but no one can argue that it's much lower on the "accomplishment totem pole" than learning a complex skill by persistently training, repeatedly failing, obsessively studying, and iteratively improving until success can be consistently achieved.

Matthew Downey
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Finally found the blog I wanted to supply (it is reminiscent of this article):

Usually games are made to teach us something about ourselves (or just teach us).

Puzzle games have that feeling of success after the epiphany; compare this to many beat-em-ups where gratuitous sounds and visuals reward the player for so-so performance.

FPSs and RTSs reward the player for reflexes or actions-per-minute.

Turn-based games (Civilization or some Final Fantasy's) reward the player for Strategy.

Meaning is the backbone of a game, without it replayablility is doomed to be shallow.

Freer gameplay is definitely a good start. Any game where button mashing can get you through most of the game isn't very meaningful, in my opinion. For instance, some arcade fighting games boil down to button mashing in casual play because neither player takes the time to learn how to play the game.

I'm a humanist because I think games should be for self-betterment as often as possible.

Ben Ruiz
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Matthew, I know what you mean about betterment of people. Personally, I'm not as passionate about the betterment of people as I am about the sustaining of people; the problem I'm having with these games is that they shouldn't be without any exercise. Sure, exercise can be for the betterment if its hard enough, but exercise can also simply keep one on their toes physically and mitigate their deterioration. I equate a game of Aliens Vs Predator or Battle Circuit with a nice run around the block and a game of Devil May Cry 3 an atrophy inducing power revitalization. I consider NG3 or Asura's Wrath as curling a 2 1/2 pound weight a couple times while you eat a snickers.

For what it's worth, I'm trying to create something that sustains these parts of your mind. I'm less concerned about improving people with my games. But to be perfectly honest, I also want to create a thrilling dopamine festival, to reference that fantastic article you linked. ;)

Robert Boyd
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Complaining about QTEs in Asura's Wrath is missing the point; the game is meant to be taken as a parody.

Ben Ruiz
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Missing what point? It appears to be a game about combat; at no point did the game give me the impression it was a parody of something and that I wasn't supposed to take the gameplay at face value.

Eric Schwarz
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As much as I agree with this article, at this point all I really have to say is "what do you expect?" Games cost tens of millions of dollars and take years and years to make just so that we can have shiny graphics and all those cutscenes and celebrity voice acting. If you are making a game with high production values and a high budget, and have it aimed at mainstream audiences, it makes sense to cater to the lowest common denominator.

Can you take a risk and create a more complicated and arguably better game? Sure, but it's much easier to complain about games when it's not your own job/career/family/etc. on the line, and the holier-than-thou "my games are better" attitude is something that breaks down very quickly when you need to start creating games that meet a specific set of expectations, especially ones that might be contrary to your own personal tastes.

Ben Ruiz
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I'm not sure what the cost of games has to do with any of this. These large companies are perfectly capable of creating games that aren't built on low interaction mechanics; they've been doing it for decades, and at all levels of complexity. They're producing watch 'em ups because they've (perhaps erroneously; fingers crossed) identified a market.

And I'm definitely not sure where you're going with that second paragraph. Can you elaborate?

Eric Schwarz
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I'm saying that creating mechanics that appeal to the most casual of players (button = awesome) is necessary when your goal is to sell X million copies and raise Y million dollars in revenue (plus DLCs). Do QTEs generally suck as a game mechanic? Yes, pretty much. But it's clear that many players also like them and they are an easy and effective way to create scenes that resonate with an intended audience.

I don't think it's a surprise that the vast majority of games accused of being rich with QTEs, or of being "interactive movies", are also the ones with the best graphics, the biggest budgets, and the largest possible audiences, and I think to call developers out on their use of those mechanics shows a sort of naivety. Of course they know that QTEs are non-interactive and not especially good as mechanics - but that's not the reason they're in the games in the first place. Developers who use them are doing their jobs - creating games for an intended audience, and making money in the process.

To be honest, I think bringing up Ninja Gaiden and Asura's Wrath is a bit of a cheap shot, as well. Ninja Gaiden 3 failed because the franchise was built entirely on appealing to a very specific hardcore demographic who were infatuated with the game's challenge and depth, and the developer chose to abandon their audience in the hopes of attracting a new one for whom the Ninja Gaiden brand was completely meaningless. Asura's Wrath is an obscure Japanese game which has no aspirations of appealing to a wide audience, and I don't think it was ever intended to appeal to mainstream beat-em-up fans; rather the gameplay itself is almost incidental to the story, which is the real focus of the game.

To sum up, if it helps: I agree that action games have been spoiled by their race to the bottom when it comes to mechanics, along with many, many other games. I guess I also just feel that it's pretty well known that mainstream-oriented games with big budgets and big sales expectations also tend to remove depth and challenge, regardless of genre.

Ben Ruiz
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Long before there were watch 'em ups or even the first low interaction mechanics there were countless games that were built on good 'ol normal mechanics, and many of them sold x million units for a long time. And they still do.

Declaring watch 'em ups as the games with the best graphics is inappropriately subjective so I'm not responding to that, but saying they have the biggest budgets and largest audiences is weird to me. Even if this is true for the games you're referring to, I still don't understand what this has to do with anything. Low interaction mechanics could easily not exist (and again, not saying they shouldn't) but good action games would continue to make a lot of money, and (depending on the management) could continue to do so on time and within budget. And I'm only saying that because it sounds like you're implying that producing these types of games has some sort of efficiency advantage.

Bringing up NG3 and AW was not any kind of a shot. They are the first games I know of to be built almost entirely on low interaction mechanics, and therefore fit my declared definition of "watch 'em up". I hate to keep bringing this up because I stated it in the article, but the only reason I care enough about these two games is because they resemble a completely different type of experience that is very near and dear to me. They are impostors. This doesn't mean they're evil or shouldn't exist, it just means "hey watch out, this thing is walking around looking just like this other thing, but it isn't". I don't care why they are made, or who made them, or who they were made for, or how much they cost; I care that they look just like beat 'em ups.

And just because it's "pretty well known" that "mainstream oriented games" tend to remove depth and challenge doesn't mean it's not worth it being very worried about it. :/

Eric Schwarz
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As I said, developers do not earnestly include QTEs because they think they are good mechanics - they include them because God of War, Resident Evil, etc. used them in visually stimulating ways, and because those games were a success, decide to include QTEs in their own games to elicit the same emotional response from players.

I never once said QTEs are necessary for sales or that they are a legitimate and sufficient replacement for good gameplay (they're not). What I did say is that there are good reasons *why* developers do what they do, even if they are not reasons you agree with.

Let me use an analogue: the DPS trend in RPGs. Converting all damage to DPS in typical MMO fashion drains the uniqueness of damage types and armor types from RPGs, significantly reducing tactical depth and removing the smaller distinctions between weapons that normally would be meaningful. Do developers necessarily do this because they think it makes for better, deeper, more enjoyable gameplay? No - they do it because it's in World of Warcraft and they think that borring mechanics from a popular game will help to borrow that fanbase and sell more units. If your job is to sell games to a specific demographic, then that decision is a good decision - even if it makes for a worse game in the eyes of a particular sect of hardcore players.

I do not think that calling developers out over decisions made, whose motives have nothing to do with gameplay itself, is productive. You'd might as well criticize Zynga for making glorified slot machines - it might be true, but Zynga sure don't care and they sure aren't out to make anything more than slot machines. What's more, I don't think saying "well arcade/SNES/etc. games had good mechanics, why don't modern ones?" is productive either - different market conditions, different customer bases, different trends, different gameplay. It's naive to think that gamers want exactly what they got, mechanically, 20 years ago - especially because many of today's gamers have little to no experience with these "better" titles of yours.

I guess I just don't get your point, here. Watch-em-ups are bad games? Yeah, they generally are. But nobody is making them because they think they're good games, they're making them because (the devs think) they make money. Things don't need to be that way, it's true, but there are far more considerations for developers than "hey, wait, I can make good games as well? why didn't I do that in the first place?!"

Darren Tomlyn
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(All my posts are based upon the contents of my blog - (though I'm re-writing the first two posts):
s_NEW.php ).

The problem we have here has nothing to do with the amount of interactivity etc., except in one specific way:

That we're calling such a product a game, instead of a puzzle - (which it is). That puzzles can concentrate more on the story being told, than any interaction necessary - (so long as it exists) - is actually nothing new. Some of the 'choose-your-own-adventure' books can have very little choice about the particular story to be told - (I'm sure I remember one where all it did was alter the beginning and the end, slightly) - so doing a similar thing for film, (instead of literature), should be no surprise.

Of course, the nature of the interactivity and the story told are different, but that doesn't matter for its definition as a puzzle - (interaction with creative story being told, or interacting with a story being told, (though power of choice or discovery), to try and solve a (difficult?) problem).

So, as I said - the only problem is that we're calling it a game, and not a puzzle.

David Navarro
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QTEs are the worst thing that has ever happened to game design.

Jamus Thayn
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I think saying they're the worst thing to ever happen to game design is a bit disingenuous. I like a lot of points raised so far in the discussion but let me play a little devils advocate here.

First, assuming anyone knows what the experience said developers are trying to get across without discussing it with them is kind of futile. That being said you can't be sure these games were designed as beat-em-ups. Asuras wrath was very clearly full of QTE's and in fact marketed predominantly using them in my experience. Perhaps their intent was to create more of an interactive story or supplement their gameplay with 'cinematic events'. It kind of goes back to Dragons Lair to be old school.. how much of a game was that game? Is it somehow less of a game than other games because of its decisions? What about Heavy Rain? Or the Uncharted series? Perhaps the issue is more of a gamers expectations of the experience they are going to encounter and less of a failure per se. Though in that case maybe its a failure of us as devs to not properly frame your experience so you know what youre getting into.

Secondly, I dont think you can put these experiences into a simple category like 'Puzzle'. A puzzle is a series of actions that you must somehow discover and interpret in order to solve the obstacle. This isnt the case in most of these presentations, this is much more a gameplay mechanic in my opinion. What I mean by that is its a twitch based test of your hand eye coordination in order to progress the gameplay and story. There is no thought process of discovery as in puzzles, nor is there multiple ways to approach this problem. The screen says hit x.. now HIT IT.. or if youre too slow you fail. A good parallel can be drawn to music based games such as guitar hero or rock band. Are they not games? They require the same sort of input reaction stimulus which grants you a momentary reward of a note, when all of those notes are put together you tell your story in the form of a song.

What Im drawing from your article Ben is that you dislike the growing fad of QTE, or cinematic moments in what you want to be beat em up games. I cant fault you for that, indeed no one can dispute that they require less skill than most input based action games. In fact Im not sold on them myself, but if youre a game designer looking to present a cinematic moment - that being an instance where you can guarantee a set type of action and camera angles, quick jump cuts or other cinematic tricks.. without completely disorienting your player or frustrating his control scheme - there are few better ways to achieve this than a QTE. I also think pure beat-em-ups have their place in gaming and I enjoy them as well, but as our industry grows the products hopefully grow as well. It should be okay to say youve got some comedy mixed in my drama, or some action in my romance.. etc. Does it have to have those elements? No.

The only point I really take issue with in your initial post is where you call those new games cheap , crappy, and that they have no faith in our skills as players. You can assert those as opinions based on your personal tastes, but asserting they are somehow innately this way due to their choice in game design which is at odds with yours is kind of unfair and subjective. Those two games were much more likely failures due to overall bad game design, possibly even simply just due to subject matter which was not appealing to a large enough western market, not their incorporation of said elements.. I would say putting things like batman and Uncharted, or games like Demons souls are a good counter balance.

Ben Ruiz
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I'm going to make my point as simply as possible just to be super clear (I might have contrived it in the article and during the ensuing conversation):

-There are game mechanics that take a small amount of input and turn it into a large amount of output. I call these "low interaction mechanics." I know why these exist! Their birth and continued existence makes sense.
-But there are now some games comprised almost entirely of low interaction mechanics. I call these games "watch 'em ups."
-I don't personally like them, but I know why they were made. I don't know if there is a market for them yet. I hope there isn't because that would be a bummer on a personal level.
-In any case, they bear a strong resemblance to beat 'em ups and that resemblance is so strong that thus far I can't tell them apart until I've played them myself, which concerns me.
-Compared to the experiences they resemble, they are mechanically shallow and carry much less meaning to me (and to other games of my type).

I realize "meaning" is entirely subjective but I do believe that 1 unit of meaning X does not necessarily weight as much 1 unit of meaning Y. There's a tremendous difference in responsibility, required skill, time consumption, etc.. To say they contain the same type or amount of meaning is silly. In any case, I'm making the personal assertion that they are less meaningful because succeeding at low interaction challenges makes me feel nothing. And I know it's not just me.

But seriously, I don't have a problem with their existence! I understand that people want to experience more cinematic moments where they have varying degrees of responsibility. I just want these low interaction game types to distinguish themselves from this other thing I like for completely different reasons. Just imagine going and buying a hamburger and biting into it and it's made of hot dog meat! I don't like hot dog meat nearly as much but that's not the point. The point is I'm now chewing hot dog meat when I should be chewing hamburger meat. Haha I'm losing my mind now. Much love, Jamus! xoxo

Bob Satori
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Just piping up to point out that Hokuto no Ken (1997 Banpresto PSX) appears to have beaten Shenmue to the punch on this mechanic by a couple of years, attempting to emulate the cinematic style of Buronson & Tetsuo Hara's manga/anime "finishers." Even that might not have been the origin of the mechanic, aside from associating it with cinematic boss fights, as it was similar to that used in arcade and PSX dance/rhythm games of the '90s, not to mention the old handheld Simon game/toy.

T'tell the truth, I found the mechanic challenging enough in that implementation and a VAST improvement over previous fighting-game "finisher" mechanics such as the arbitrary and convoluted input schemes of the horrendously awful and depressingly popular Mortal Kombat series.

A little canned animation for boss fights isn't such a bad thing, and doesn't have to mean the regular brawling mechanic has to be shallow. Better a little game of Simon in your over-the-top boss fight sequences than completely non-interactive narrative cinematics... right?

Ben Ruiz
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So you've made a fascinating point, but I don't think I would qualify the attack mechanics you're referring to in Hokuto No Ken as a low interaction mechanics, nor would I qualify the traditional "fatality" mechanic as such, and for the exact same reason; these mechanic types take a lot of input and turn it into a lot of output, which makes a world of difference. Sure it's cinematic and spectacular, but it's also a lot more complex an accomplishment. It's still not the kind of thing I personally want to do, but I would definitely still classify it differently. Very interesting!

And I appreciate the comparison to the rhythm games of the era!

Peter Eisenmann
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Didn't read all the comments, but I think the main argument one could bring up against QTE is the complete lack of choice for the whole duration of the event. It's not limited choice, it's no choice at all, instead it's a pure reaction test with two possible results, success or failure, and no middle ground.
Also, I usually never care what color or icon there is on my controller button, I just remember that "upper button" = jump etc. QTEs forces me the know which button has which icon by heart. Even if there are only four, and you probably have to learn it only once, there's just no fun in it.

Maria Jayne
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Seems you're talking more about QTEs in console titles, as a pc gamer, I can say being forced to watch endless custcenes of the game narrating itself also falls into this category.

I consider Call Of Duty Black Ops and Max Payne 3 two of the worst games I've played due to this issue.

I actually like cgi trailers/intros and some cutscenes, but I think they are becoming a lazy tool to skip adding in narrative gameplay. There was a time when a cutscene was a reward for doing well rather than something you were subjected to every 5 minutes. A break from the gameplay and a nod to your achievement. What happened to that?

Nigel Davis
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I'm not sure how to feel about QTEs. In some fashion I agree completely with Mr. Ruiz. They do take away from gameplay. God of war is a great example of how QTEs can be improperly used. I would like to point out two examples of QTEs that work very well though.

The first of which is in Kingdom Hearts 2. Occasionally the triangle button would become available to allow the user a small edge over their opponent. Now some fights this was just an annoying mechanic (Roxas' first fight with a giant Nobody), but against other enemies (big bodies) QTEs made fighting an annoying opponent easier to defeat. A lot of the time the user wasn't forced into the QTE if they didn't want to do it either.

The second game that uses QTEs very well is Mass Effect series. I don't think a single player felt any remorse for knocking out the reporter who was spreading false rumors about them across the galaxy. Shepard or Femshep use QTEs to take charge of a situation and allow the player to be that renegade or paragon more than a simple command wheel, or turning in a quest.

Overall great article.

Michael Joseph
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I think a dislike of QTEs (or at least their overuse) is part of a larger overall dislike of games specifically targeting mainstream audiences. Big budget developers are decreasingly making games that they would want to play and increasingly making games for others. And there's a sense that by investing so heavily down that path, we're forever lowering the bar with gratuitous and visceral experiences rather than educating users about the joys of games that require more thought and skill.

It's very reminiscent of the age old elitist vs uncultured plebe debates that have followed all art forms and media. In fairness to the elitists, i think to the extent that we disapprove of certain mainstream games, it's because we wish we could raise everyone else up to a place we find glorious and frankly... superior. In other words, we're not exclusionists. It's not about pointing and jeering about how much better we are. We want everyone to join our particular righteous utopian federation. Of course our goals are completely unachievable given the current culture. :)

So we have all these new gamers as the market has rapidly expanded and on the one hand we enjoy the fact that the market has expanded, however a lot of the newer gamers just aren't like the hardcore nerds and geeks of the 80s and early 90s. But we wish they were because we wish these big budget productions could give us and everyone more hardcore geeky/nerdy games that benefit from state of the art visuals, audio, AI, etc.

And so we lament...

p.s. If you're a fan of making any type of game as long as it rakes in the big bucks, then I think you (figuratively) relinquish the right to complain about the state of pretty much anything.

Ben Ruiz
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"Big budget developers are decreasingly making games that they would want to play and increasingly making games for others. And there's a sense that by investing so heavily down that path, we're forever lowering the bar with gratuitous and visceral experiences rather than educating users about the joys of games that require more thought and skill."

Yep. :(

I understand why this has happened because I understand bean counters and what they want. But as an old elitist, it still bums me outs because it's completely changing the nature of the product we love. But I'm trying to do something about that now by putting these game types in a different light so that they can be reexamined and hopefully refreshed. I want to elevate the form! I get upset when I see (what I believe) is the opposite. But anyway, I'm not saying anything you don't already understand. Thanks for chiming in! *tips cap*

Steven Christian
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And to think I was excited when games started going mainstream with the PS1..