Let me skip.
I know you worked hard on those words, those animations, that music. I know it was distressingly expensive. I know you think it’s extremely important that I understand the context of my impending actions, or that you have my full attention while you introduce an unusual mechanic. I know I wouldn’t skip a chapter in a book or forward wind a film by ten minutes to get to the explosions. I know it’s disrespectful, I know it can be lazy, I know it ruin my own experience, I know it can even be actively anti-intellectual, but please, let me skip. Let me skip anything that isn’t me playing the game, no matter how detrimental it might be to your concept of your own game.
I know you don’t want to risk complaints that I didn’t understand something or the game was too short. C’mon, you’ll get complaints about something whatever you do. I know you don’t want to risk NVIDIA complaining or a marketing director screaming at you. I know you think it’s your game and not my game, but please, let me skip. Let me not have to sit there watching, doing nothing, if I don’t want to. Let me choose. I’ve given your game my money and my attention, so please respect my time and my choices.
Don’t try and find a compromise – it’s even more frustrating when I can skip one cutscene but not this other one, or if I’m allowed to skip a cinematic on the second viewing but not the first. And no, you can’t get around it by allowing me to walk around or pan the camera without a cutscene. Just let it be. I appreciate that thousands of dollars were spent on that mo-capped facial animation or cameo voice appearance by Shane Richie, but you can’t force me to like that stuff if it hasn’t grabbed me immediately or I’m just in no mood. I’m already a lost cause, perhaps. What’s the point in fighting?
Worry instead about pleasing the people who do lap their cutscenes no matter what, not about those who are too impatient either intractably or simply in the here and now. And absolutely do worry about those who’ve played your game one or more times before and shouldn’t be forced to sit through hand-holding or scene-setting they’re already intimately familiar with.
Let me skip if I want to. Just because I do and he does and she does and they do doesn’t mean everyone will. If anything, when I see that Skip option on the screen I’m more inclined to give the cinematic my time, because I don’t get the panic reflex that I’m stuck watching this damn thing when all I want to do is play the game. If I know I can get out the moment I want to, I will feel that the game and I are on the same page. Because it has shown that it won’t force me to waste my time, I will have more faith that the cutscenes will be strong enough that I won’t regret watching them.
Games have gotten better at this, by and large, but there’s still a clear reluctance to fully release control. Just do it. It’s just tradition that leads to unskippable, non-playable scenes, and that tradition means games neglect to find more integrated, interactive ways of telling their tales. If it’s not compelling enough for me to be told it even as I perform some other in-game activity, then perhaps it’s just not compelling enough at all. Let me skip, and let yourself skip too: see what your game is like when all uncontrollable frippery is skipped, and if new ways of inserting the information you really, truly think the player needs then occur to you.
Let me skip. It’s about trusting me to work your game out without your help, yes, but more than that it’s about trusting that your game can stand on its own two feet without unavoidable expositional interruption. And for the love of God, stick a ‘skip logos/intros’ option into your settings menu.
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