I love the Quick Time Event…and it needs to DIE

September 7, 2008

Sorry I have not contributed regularly to my Meta-game Narrative series, but now that school has finally started I should be able to set a regular schedule to post. Hopefully I can maintain this blog on a bi-daily basis or close to that if I am lucky. Do not fret, however, the Braid/Bioshock discussion will continue.

So if you have not figured it out from the seemingly dubious title of this blog post: I love the Quick Time Event. For the uninitiated, it is a scenario in a video game where the game goes into a cut-scene and the player must play a game of Simon Says in order to proceed. The design originated from Sega’s Shenmue in 1999 and has become popularized in the game design lexicon through Resident Evil 4 and God of War.

QTEs are the most reductive form of interactivity in a video game and has become the crutch for game design. If an action is too complicated to program for a scenario, low-and-behold, the QTE will likely show up. Of course, for the player that are unaware with the layout of the controller, he is invariably screwed to repeat the cut-scene ad nauseum.

And yet I absolutely love the adrenaline when a QTE occurs. It is both transparently simple and undoubtedly frustration. This may be because it is arguably the most cinematic moment of the game. But at the same time is the the most non-interactive element of the game as well. It is a quagmire existing as an easy out for a scenario to give the designer the utmost control of the player for the intended experience. Having recently played the demo for the Bourne Conspiracy, it wonderfully captures the visceral experience of the films and while being one of the most mediocre game experiences I have had the joy of playing.

Maybe that is the genius of the QTE. Giving the player the ability to feel immersed in what is going on screen yet still technically qualifying as an interactive media. In fact, that is exactly what it is and it is retarded. And though I love the QTE, I am positive my brain activity drops exponentially every time I must execute these simplified repetitious sequences. The QTE is a de-evolution of video games and must be phased out.



  1. I love the QTE just as much as you do, but I don’t necessarily think it should die altogether. It is definitely an easy way out in several of the scenarios you described. I believe there is a strict set of guidelines that could be followed to make the QTE valuable and rewarding. Tell me what you think.

    1. Surprise: Always use when least expected. (Requires No. 2)
    2. Sparse Usage: I’m think just a few times throughout 10 hours of gameplay. QTE should never be the core mechanic(except for Shenmue 3).
    3. Never used to end boss battles: If you want drama, don’t do it with a flashy QTE.
    4. Extremely short: After one or two button presses, it’s just a distraction from the action/story.
    5. No Game Over on failure: Please continue the game. Just extend some small reward for success.

    If used very precisely it could possibly add a bit of drama and mystery to a standard cutscene.

  2. I may have been over zealous on my tirade on QTEs. This is probably because I had been playing Indigo Prophecy with the “dodge everything for five minutes” sections of the game where it’s a repetitive game of Simon Says.

    Your guidelines are reasonable and I believe a lot of developers are using QTEs in that sense. They seems to be used most effectively in survival horror games (examples of 1 and 4 in your list).

    But I do believe that QTEs are pretty pointless in adventure games like Drake’s Fortune. Heavy Rain will be interesting because the button indicator is near the action (guideline 3) so it may be less distracting to what is actually occurring on screen. Personally, I would rather have the “flicker” element seen in Tomb Raider: Legend or Prince of Persia 3 for attacks rather than QTEs, though they are essentially the same thing.

    I must say, 3 and 5 on your list should be a definite in every game.

    QTEs have been ingrained in this generation of games and I don’t expect them to go away. However, I don’t want it to be a crutch against developer’s for game innovation.

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