A Brief History of Cutscenes
By Alex Kierkegaard / June 9, 2010
Ah, cutscenes! What gamer doesn't hate them? And, at the same time, what gamer doesn't love them? For,
to be perfectly honest between ourselves on this subject for once, regardless of whatever curses we might
utter -- and rightfully utter -- against cutscenes from time to time, the fact of the matter is that under
no circumstances would we be able at this point to do without them. For can anyone, after all, think of a
better way to set -- or to maintain, or to alter -- a game's mood other than by appropriately
directed and integrated cutscenes? Wouldn't Blazblue's world, for example, be somewhat less captivating
without its fantastic opening? (I am referring to the one included with the home ports -- the arcade version's
is decidedly inferior.) And can anyone so much as imagine Max Payne without its sprinkling of absurdly
awesome half-serious/half-parodic cutscenes? -- cutscenes so masterful, so bizarre, so paradoxical, that they
were and remain simply unrivalled in the entire history of cutscene-making (and note that in this
term I am also including cutscene-only games, more on which shortly).
So let us finally dispense with the facile popular notion that cutscenes are somehow intrinsically bad and should be eliminated: cutscenes are obviously a tool in the hands of the game designer, and like the rest of his tools they certainly have their uses. Let us then realize that it's not their use that bothers us, but their misuse, or their abuse, and that what we need is not unconditional praise or condemnation of them -- but concrete guidelines, obtained by careful study of the entire history of videogames, allowing us to infer rules dictating, in general but also for each particular genre, their correct use for maximum effect. A study, that is to say, such as the one I'll shortly be publishing under the title "On Narrative Delusions"...
But even that will not be the end of the matter, not by a long shot, for things are in fact a great deal more complicated. For the distinction between the cutscene and what functionally illiterate Anglo-Saxons call the "game-play" turns out, under close scrutiny, to be entirely spurious. Put simply, when looked at very closely, those portions of a game which the Anglo-Saxons label as "game-play" -- the so-called pure, 100% unadulterated "game-play" -- turn out to be little more than sequences of little cutscenes (-- a fact, by the way, which triumphantly validates my assertion that the "game-play", the play of a game, of game that includes cutsenes, turns out -- who woulda thunk it! -- to actually include also the cutscenes).
But do not despair, dear reader, if you can understand fuck-all of what I am saying here, since all this stuff will be explained in excruciating detail (i.e. even for retards -- though not for subhuman retards, I am afraid, who will forever remain simply beyond instruction) in yet another upcoming essay that I'll probably end up calling "Defining Cutscenes" (except if in the meantime I come up with a cooler or funnier title).
But before I get around to discussing these slightly more complicated issues I'd like to take some time to dispel yet another popular misconception -- the misconception, that is to say, that videogame developers invented cutscenes. I've no idea who's responsible for this ludicrous little myth, but whoever it was that started it must have been utterly ignorant of the history of videogames -- or of the world, for that matter. It's got to the point where one can barely browse around the internet for more than a few moments without coming across some moron on some crummy blog or message board solemnly declaring that Night Trap or INXS: Make My Video or some other FMV game from the early 90's was responsible for the invention of cutscenes. I mean Jesus fucking Christ people! How can you be so ignorant! The first videogame (Spacewar, by my reckoning) was made in 1962, yet the first cutscene -- check the history books! -- appeared in 1888! It was about some people strutting around a garden! It lasted two seconds! It was developed by a monocled, bearded French dude! It ran on a system called "the camera-projector"! I swear to God it's all true, look it the fuck up!
Kids these days. They can't be bothered to so much as glance at a history book, and yet have the temerity to go on little vlogobrogs like Gamasutra and run their little mouths off with a self-assurance and a pompousness as if they were history professors. And nobody ever shouts them down! Because they are children playing history professor to other children, you see, and there's not a single adult in the entire audience (not to speak of an intelligent, educated adult -- a species that's been virtually extinct for centuries; for so long, in fact, that it has by now become a mythological creature like the pegasus or, worse still, an entirely nonsensical one like the "real dragon". That's what an intelligent, educated adult would be today if he chanced to appear -- nothing less, I am afraid, than a real dragon.)
So wake the fuck up and get your goddamn facts straight: cutscenes were in no way invented by videogame developers, they were invented by cutscene developers -- and in point of fact cutscene developing used to be a pretty vibrant and important industry during the previous century -- some people even going as far as to call it an artform. Now I know how most readers will respond to this: "LOLWHAT, CUTSCENES AN ARTFORM?!, etc.", and indeed I realize how bewildering all this stuff must sound, especially to younger readers, but that's history for you: stranger things have happened -- people at one point even used to think that dancing caused rain. Perhaps our ancestors' preoccupation with cutscenes will begin to seem slightly less ludicrous once you realize that the cutscenes they had back then used to be quite a bit more elaborate than ours, with the average cutscene, for example, lasting about two hours. "A TWO-HOUR CUTSCENE?! WHO THE FUCK WOULD BOTHER SITTING DOWN THROUGH THAT? NOT EVEN KOJIMA WOULD DARE PULL OFF SUCH A SICK STUNT!" But see the thing is that Kojima's cutscenes blow, whereas those of the cutscene industry were quite a bit better in comparison -- at least most of them were. And that makes sense since, AS I'VE BEEN TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO YOU, these people had been working on cutscenes for over a century, so it stands to reason that they'd get at least a bit better at them than videogame developers.
In fact a careful study of history reveals that our ancestors were pretty damn serious about cutscenes -- many of them could indeed be said to have been downright obssessed with them. There were even groups of people who went around proudly calling themselves "cutscene critics", and who, basically, spent their entire lives reviewing cutscenes. "PEOPLE REVIEWED CUTSCENES?! WHAT THE FUCK IS THERE TO SAY ABOUT THEM? THEY ARE FUCKING CUTSCENES, DUDE!" Astonishing stuff, I know, but there you have it. There was even this one dude who was said to have sat through and reviewed something like 7,000 two-hour cutscenes! It took him 40 years to do it! And if I am not mistaken he's still at it! That's like 14,000 hours of watching cutscenes, in addition to however long it took him to scribble all those reviews. "HE WILLINGLY SAT THROUGH AND WATCHED 14,000 HOURS OF CUTSCENES?! WAS HE A CRIPPLE OR WHAT?" And the funny thing is that he was not in fact a cripple (I think he can still walk) -- at least not in the physical sense, though he obviously was in the mental sense. He said his dream was to become "the best cutscene critic in the world", kind of like how you hear about people who stuff tons of pasta down their throats in order to become the best "pasta-stuffing-down-their-throat" person in the world (this is the thing with mankind: if you can't be the best in the world at anything worthwhile, you can always try for stupidity). The two-hour cutscene figure I gave, by the way, was just an average -- many cutscene developers produced far longer ones, some of them even extending to five or six hours or even more. There were even so-called "episodic cutscenes", many of which became quite popular in the previous century, which consisted of dozens of thematically linked episodes of roughly either thirty-minute- or hour-long cutscenes. These used to premier on something called "the tele-vision", a device which, if I understand it correctly, was capable of receiving nonstop series of cutscenes beamed out by relay stations over the entire planet, cutscenes which went on for, basically, ever (and which were naturally responsible for mentally crippling billions). So regular and uninterrupted was the transmission of these cutscenes in fact (you could practically set your watch by them), that they caused philosopher Jean Baudrillard to sigh that this tele-vision "would not be affected even were mankind to disappear".
However, to get back to our main point, even though all this stuff is by now ancient (and -- as is evidenced by a quick survey of online blogs and messaged boards -- forgotten, long-forgotten) history, one of the facts I want to drive home with this essay is that this industry still kind of exists! To be sure, it's nowhere near the glories of the previous century, when cutscene-frenzy had seized hold of the entire planet, at the height of which there were cutscene production companies, cutscene theaters, cutscene university programs ("Cutscene Studies"), cutscene magazines, cutscene awards ceremonies, etc. (all of which have of course been over for decades), and it hardly gets any exposure in the press nowadays, but despite all that new cutscenes are still being made and relished by a small dedicated group of hardcore enthusiasts -- kind of like how a few weirdoes still kept going to galleries to stare at jpegs even after the advent of computers. So despite all indications to the contrary, this archaic medium (artform?) is not yet dead -- it's still quite possible to find new cutscenes if you know where to look, and even a few of the cutscene critics are still around, defiantly scribbling as if it were 1985. To be sure, the terminal decline of their industry has turned all of them into bitter, grumbling old pricks with a low sense of self-esteem -- since their industry nowadays "makes" less money than the videogame industry, and, as one knows, nothing is more important to the slaves than money (money being for slaves "the score" of life -- and, as everyone knows, nothing is more important in a game than the score). Still, however grim the cutscene industry's future prospects may be, I do hope that whatever little money it does still make will at least suffice to pay for all those people's shrinks. With all these complexes of theirs they sure as hell will need them!
Having said all that, I must admit I still enjoy watching the odd cutscene on occasion. I mean, however much my primary focus may be on videogames, I am an older dude, I lived through some of those years, and so I've developed a certain fondness and appreciation for old-fashioned, straight-up cutscenes (some people would call it a fetish) that at this point I can't really shake off -- that, to be honest, I don't really even want to. To be sure, I try to hide this fact from friends and relatives as much as possible -- and above all from my girlfriend! Which is why I always keep my cutscenes well-hidden, either at the bottom of my sock drawer or in a carefully concealed folder on my laptop. Unfortunately, after my girlfriend moved in with me it became impossible to avoid her randomly walking in on me and catching me in the act. "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS! YOU ARE WATCHING THESE MINDLESS CUTSCENES AGAIN?! FOR CHRISTSAKE TURN THEM OFF YOU STUPID OAF AND GO DO SOMETHING MANLY LIKE PLAY RUGBY OR SUPREME COMMANDER! CUTSCENES ARE FER FAGETS!" It was simply humiliating. The situation reached its height when she went as far as to accuse me of being addicted to cutscenes, threatening to leave me if I didn't seek help. For a while I found myself on the brink of despair -- I even toyed with the idea of calling up one of the cutscene critics and asking him to recommend me a shrink. But in the end I was saved by a friend who suggested that I try to pass off the whole thing to her as a kind of "cultural" thing. Girls it seems are massively impressed by anything, anything at all, that has the word "cultural" in it, that seems to have even the most vague, the most tenuous connection with any cognate form of the word "culture" -- you can practically hypnotize them with the damn word. So I made up some story that my interest in these archaic cutscenes stemmed from my passion for "mankind's cultural artistic heritage" or some such tripe -- and before I was even finished blurting this shit out she was all over it like an artfag on some incompetent indie bum's abortion of a non-game.
This happily resolved my domestic situation (I can now watch cutscenes whenever I want!) but, in a wholly unexpected turn of events, it has made my social situation unbearable. The dumb bitch simply refuses to give the issue a rest, and at every single party or social function we attend (even at funerals!) insists on telling all her friends that I am an expert on this "old cultural artistic heritage medium" and I can tell them all about it. So on every social excursion I invariably end up surrounded by young people (my girlfriend is roughly half my age... yeah, nice boobs too, which is why I don't just simply dump the stoopid bitch and get it over with), all of them bombarding me with non-stop questions about cutscenes -- while none of them seem to ever get my answers. "YEAH, WELL, I SEE", they usually blurt out after my first round of explanations, "BUT WOULDN'T YOU RATHER BE, WELL, DOING SOMETHING? LIKE PLAYING A GAME, FOR INSTANCE?" Well, I try to explain to them, you see watching cutscenes is also a form of doing, though an extremely docile, extremely tame form, to be sure. But it's still technically a doing, since watching -- the act, that is to say, of observation -- still consumes energy. It is simply not possible for a human being to not be continuously "doing" something -- even sleeping is a form of doing, and in fact an extremely productive one (in terms of healing of the organism, both physiologically through muscle reparation, etc., and mentally through dreams). To put it in scientific terms, a human being can be seen as an open, dissipative thermodynamic system (by this point I've lost more than 90% of the audience, which is why I am considering moving up to the beginning this part of my little lecture routine), meaning that it is simply incapable of being inactive. The word "inaction" is in fact strictly speaking meaningless, being merely a shorthand way of saying "acting less vigorously than usual", or "acting to such a small degree that it seems from a distance as if one is not acting at all", etc. etc. It is the same kind of thing with many other fundamentally nonsensical concepts -- with, that is to say, non-concepts -- such as for example "peace", "truth", "justice", "equality", "altruism", etc. etc. -- words which are never to be taken literally since they do not correspond to anything in the real world, but which we still use as an abbreviated form of expression, in order to put in a few words longer and more complicated phrases which do, in fact, make sense.
Now one or another of the few (smarter) interlocutors who are still left by this point usually comes back at me with something to the effect that, "IF CUTSCENE-WATCHING IS A DOING, THEN WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON THE CUTSCENE? EVERY DOING, AFTER ALL, IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE AN EFFECT, IS IT NOT? IF THE CUTSCENE REMAINS UNALTERED -- UNLIKE A GAME, WHOSE COURSE IS CONTINUALLY AFFECTED BY WHAT THE PLAYER DOES -- THEN HOW CAN YOU BE SAID TO BE DOING SOMETHING TO IT?" Well, you see, I try to explain to them -- and I know this sounds like magic to uneducated people, but is in fact 100% scientific -- the strange fact is that whenever you look at something you are always to an extent affecting it. Strictly-speaking, you have the power to move things with your eyes -- though it is a very small power and hence can only appreciably affect small things -- so small, in fact, that most of the time you can't even see them. Have you heard of something called the "Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle"? Look it up. So yeah, the cutscene IS being affected by your watching it -- even though the effect may be extremely minor and practically undetectable without expensive laboratory equipment -- but also, and just as importantly, you are also affected by the cutscene (just like with videogames then!)
But there is a yet simpler way of grasping in what way an old-fashioned cutscene was still a doing of sorts, indeed even a game, though a primitive kind of game, to be sure -- a cutscene-only game. A game with only a single rule: to just fucking sit there and watch the entire cutscene, preferably even in one go. Whoever managed to do it (and remember, these are TWO-HOUR-PLUS cutscenes we are talking about!), whoever watched the entire cutscene -- whoever FINISHED IT... had basically won the game. Whoever didn't finish it had quite simply lost. If this seems to you as far too easy a feat you are not thinking hard enough. Think back to how often have've had to skip through even brief cutscenes because you couldn't bear to wait for them to finish. To how many times you've cursed a game's developers for shoving in ten- or twenty-minute cutscenes, expecting you to sit through them without even allowing you to skip them! To how many times your eyes have glazed over when a cutscene came on in the middle of a game, and in order not to fall asleep you've left your seat to take a piss, or call up a friend or fetch some ice cream. So don't be in such a haste to ridicule your ancestors: watching a cutscene through to the end (especially one that lasts for hours...) is no mean feat -- one must be very persevering, very patient, very cow-like to do it -- perhaps even a little braindead; like all types of games, not everyone's got what it takes to do it -- while others have too much.
And it was for the benefit of this last group that various other rules were added to the original one over the medium's (artform's?) history to make the game more challenging. For example, one rule that was added very quickly basically stipulated that, while watching a cutscene, no one was allowed to speak! Astonishing, isn't it? -- not to mention highly anti-social. Imagine several hundred deaf-mutes sitting in a large room staring at a gigantic screen for hours, all of them entirely hypnotized. This was in fact one of the effects of the cutscenes (and later on, on a grander scale, that of "the tele-vision") on our ancestors -- they made them less outgoing, less friendly. Before cutscenes, social gatherings used to be loud and boisterous affairs, full of noise, gossiping, heated exchanges and a general sense of kinship and community (kind of like how sports and LAN parties are with us today). But once cutscenes came along, and the Second Rule was introduced, everyone was always like, "Shhhhhhhhhh! Shush! A Cutscene is in progress!" There was really only a single cutscene genre in which "speaking", more precisely laughing, was allowed -- the comedy (and even then only at specific points... i.e. those in which you were SUPPOSED TO laugh...) -- but in every other genre it was sternly frowned upon, and woe to him who started giggling in the middle of something like Schindler's List! (this was a science fiction cutscene that received widespread critical acclaim during the previous century because of its highly realistic portrayal of entirely fantastical events).
The rationale for the Second Rule, then, as well as for all the ones that followed, was the same: to make it harder for the players to keep themselves awake; prohibiting them from talking between themselves obviously made it that much harder. Other rules included dimming of the lights to near-total darkness, extremely plush, comfortable seats, late night viewings, and so on, culminating with the design and construction of giant sleeping traps called "cutscene theaters" in which all of these rules were rigidly adhered to, with specially trained referees who would expel from the game whoever was caught cheating. And of course many further rule variations followed, including for example the so-called "Dinner and a Cutscene" mode, the idea for which was that the players first went out and stuffed themselves with a large dinner, preferably gulping down a large quantity of alcohol as well, then sat down in those plush theater seats in that almost completely dark, silent room, while hypnotic light patterns flashed onto the theater's giant cinematographic screen. Who could possibly stay awake for two or three hours under such conditions? A formidable challenge, then, even for the more seasoned cutscene players.
But aside from being a relatively sophisticated and challenging game in their own right, there's yet another angle seen from which the cutscenes of our ancestors were also, and still remain, like all superseded mediums (artforms?), extremely interesting: I mean in terms of craftsmanship. For the development process of these archaic cutscenes was by no means as trivial a feat as it would be for us today. It revolved around something called "the video-camera", a machine capable of an early form of video generation used by primitive peoples before computers gave men the power of creating any cutscene they could think of from the comfort of their desks just by hitting a few buttons. For the astonishing thing, scarcely conceivable today, is that all the stuff depicted in primitive cutscenes actually sort of happened! All the persons seen in them, all the places, all the fireworks and pyrotechnics, actually existed! Those primitive human tribes had no computers, remember, so they were forced to use real people, real animals, real cars, real furniture, etc. etc. -- and they had to haul all this shit around the world to whatever real locations the developers wanted to use, then physically act out every scene in every cutscene in front of this "video-camera" machine, so that, if I understand it correctly, the machine would capture everything and output the avi file that would be later played back in the world's various cutscene theaters (and even the avi file itself had to be personally flown back and forth across the planet, since there was as yet no internet).
Now, as astonishing as all the above must sound to uneducated people, it is by no means all there is to the history of the cutscene, for this stretches a great deal further back than even what we've so far seen. Because up to now we've only been discussing video cutscenes, which are actually only ONE type of cutscene-only games, and one among many. A previous form of cutscene, for instance, was the theater cutscene, otherwise known as "drama" (from Greek drao, "to do", "to act"). At that stage, lacking the "camera-projector" machine invented by the monocled, bearded French dude I mentioned in the beginning, it was simply impossible to make the avi file, so, instead of taking the file to the viewers, one had to take the entire fucking cutscene -- people, animals, furniture, etc. included -- and bring it to the viewer -- kind of like how people used to have to walk for hours every day to fetch water before the invention of home plumbing. So those primitive peoples basically FedExed entire so-called "cutscene troupes" around the world in order to act out the same fucking cutscene over and over and over again, like ten times a fucking day for like 40 years in a row until they dropped fucking dead, at each particular city or redneck town or shithole village in the middle of fucking nowhere, until every last fucking savage around had finally been subjected to it.
These, then, were the so-called "theater cutscenes", but even they were by no means the beginning. An earlier stage were the text cutscenes, in which, basically, the reader (no longer quite a viewer, though strictly speaking he was still viewing something: i.e. the text) would sit down somewhere for hours and hours with a bunch of stuck-together papyrus leaves which had been previously scribbled all over with ink by the cutscene developers, and would basically READ the cutscene, playing everything out inside his head! I swear to God that's how it happened! The developers would basically scribble down every single thing that was supposed to happen in the cutscene, painstakingly describing, word by word by tedious little fucking word, every single frame of every single scene (though thankfully for them cutscenes back then were still only made up of 24 frames per second...) So that when the savage had to walk for half a day to fetch water, for example, he could at least take a stack of papyrus along with him to help him avoid dying of boredom. As for the soundtrack and the sound effects, these would also be described with words! For example, if a loud explosion was heard, the papyrus would read "A loud explosion was heard". If Beethoven's ninth was supposed to start playing, the papyrus would read "Beethoven's ninth started to play", etc. etc. (or sometimes the most inarticulate developers would simply scribble "KABOOOM! " or "tra-la-la", or they would even invent little weird note symbols (e.g. "♪" or "♫") in a miserable, pathetic effort to make the reader mimic the sounds in his head -- this was a technique particularly popular with the so-called "comic-book cutscenes", which were a bastardized form of the so-called "painting cutscenes" with text cutscenes). Now the lack of proper soundtrack and sound effects may seem outrageous to a contemporary cutscene lover, but back then this was counterbalanced by an evolutionary advantage, you see, because the text-cutscene reader could at least have a chance of hearing and avoiding the lions who would have otherwise ripped him to shreds while on his trip to fetch the water. A further advantage was that after one was done with the papyrus one could put it to further uses, as toilet paper for example, or to light a fire, etc. Indeed papyrus-burning became quite popular at certain points in history, for example in Nazi Germany where, when things became rough, in order to supplement the war effort, the people started burning large piles of papyrus (among other things).
But cutscenes existed in other forms even before the invention of papyrus. In ancient Greece, for instance (which has a long history in cutscene-making; the Greeks are the ones who would later go on to invent, among other things, the theater cutscene; though theirs were quite primitive in many respects compared to, say, those of the French -- for example in the fact that all the actors were men, even the ones playing the women, because women had not yet been invented -- all this taking place long before God had taken a rib from Adam to make Eve) -- so the Greeks, as I was saying, used to hammer blocks of marble (yes marble!) and form them into various shapes. The people would then gather round these marble blocks, these so-called "sculpture cutscenes", such as for example those of an Adonis or an Aphrodite, and would basically hallucinate, for example, having sex with them. They would just simply gape at them, dude, while imagining doing to them whatever the fuck it was they wanted to imagine doing to them -- perhaps some of them even taking it out and masturbating right there in the middle of the town square (we cannot be sure of exactly what transpired, because our historical knowledge seems to have been strangely censored at this point). At any rate this whole business of "public cutscenes" was an important first step towards the introduction of individual "private cutscenes". When, much later, with the arrival of the "Industrial Slave Revolution" (which occurred a few years after the "French Slave Revolution"), cutscenes of all types could be easily reproduced in great numbers (see Walter Benjamin, "The Cutscene in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility"), everyone could just simply buy a cutscene, take it with him, and masturbate in peace and quiet in the privacy of his own home. In ancient times, however, masturbation was still above all a public affair, with primitive peoples sometimes even going as far as to jizz, not only in their pants, but also in each other's faces (or each other's feces, depending on one's fetish -- see for example the so-called "orgies" of the various cults of ancient Greek religion, where lurid dance cutscene routines helped whip up the participants' libido to the point of frenzy -- all this taking place well before the Greeks renounced their sinful ways and became pious, God-fearing Christians like everyone else).
At an even ruder stage of culture, before the idea of hammering away at slabs of marble had occurred to anyone, let alone papyrus-scribbling, there used to be people who called themselves "poets" (from Greek poiein, "to make", presumably from "to make shit up"), and who would basically stand up somewhere, next to a campsite fire for instance, and would basically SHOUT the cutscene to whatever half-human beast had learned enough words to understand them. They basically just stood there and shouted to them, dude, "AND NOW THE HERO LUNGED AT THE EVIL BEAST!", "AND NOW THE BEAUTIFUL MAIDEN BEGAN TO SLOWLY UNDRESS HERSELF!", etc. etc., and everyone around just did their best to imagine whatever the fuck these dudes would shout at them.
At a still earlier stage, before people had invented marble, or papyrus, or even words, or anything whatever really, everyone used to hang out in caves. By far the person with the coolest cave was Plato (kind of like how I am the guy with the coolest website -- it's a philosopher thing), and that's where all the cool shit went down, including the birth of the most primitive of all cutscene industries. These half-human animals would then simply light a fire inside Plato's cave (they didn't invent the fire themselves, you understand; the Titan Prometheus had simply given it to them after stealing it from Zeus, a gesture for which he would have to pay dearly, and for which they would later thank him by devoting to him no less than an entire trilogy of cutscenes), and they would deface the walls with pathetic little chicken-scratchings of whatever beast or god they had hallucinated, and then sit around all self-satisfied while smoking pot and grunting to each other.
And finally, countless millennia further back than even the whole business in Plato's cave, shrouded in the mists of the animal brain's primordial past and the evolution of its higher functions, lay the dream -- a kind of total, all-encompassing, lucid vision, in which all the various forms of cutscene were initially bound in a tight unity, apparently sent to us from gods or spirits, or from deceased relatives, but at any rate from elsewhere, from without -- as primitive peoples for the longest time used to suppose -- yet as we later came to realize in fact coming from within, being nothing more than interpretations of nervous stimuli we receive while sleeping, in a kind a self-induced hallucination (which is at bottom what all cutscenes are), a mental construct whose function Nietzsche had already speculated to be "to compensate to some extent for the chance absence of 'nourishment' of some of our instinctual drives during the day" (Daybreak, §119). And isn't this at bottom also what Heraclitus had said regarding dreams?
"The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own."
For if a man could have his own world, a world of his own making, wouldn't this world have to be precisely the one he wanted to have? And would the world he wanted to have not necessarily also be the one he needed to have? ("because he needs himself again and again -- and makes himself necessary..." (Beyond Good and Evil, §56)). A world reflecting his instincts and desires, indeed entirely created by and for them, and consequently -- in theory at least (but is there something missing from this theory?) -- ideally suited to fulfill them?...
All Your Cutscenes Are Belong to Us
This, then, is the history of the cutscene -- and let no one tell you otherwise; that, for example, the various forms of cutscene are not intimately connected with each other; that they perhaps appeared "randomly" and "arbitrarily" and that no theory could ever possibly encompass all of them and shed light on their many and manifold connections -- all this is silly chatter and nonsense to which no one should any longer pay attention; for in a world of flux nothing could ever be truly "random" or "arbitrary", since everything always comes from somewhere and flows toward something else...
And whither then are cutscenes currently flowing? -- an easy question for one who's carefully studied where they are coming from. The future of the cutscene then, in brief: Cutscenes so immersive, so elaborate, so lucid, that they cause him who experiences them to forget where he is -- to forget who he is -- swallowing him whole inside a tiny bubble, inside a dream come "true", inside a manufactured reality; an immaterial realm of "strategic calculations", a kind of drug, a "mental surgery of perception"; strange, manifold, fractal cutscenes that take the form of self-contained, hermetically sealed universes; stacked at first next to each other like grains of sand, and then again inside each other like elementary particles; each lower one shut off entirely from the ones above it, so that one plunges from the highest, largest, most complex ones straight down to the simplest, tiniest, most insignificant ones, then again rising all the way back up to "reality"; yet all of them, seen from within, appearing equally real -- which is to say perfectly fake -- meaning without adjustable difficulty curves, without extra lives or second chances; but also with no exit button, no escape, no "transcendence" -- a cutscene that's unskippable, a game that must be played -- and finally, containing everything, a tremendous whole: the universe of being; "enclosed by 'nothingness' as by a boundary", "blessing itself as that which must return eternally", et cetera; an eternal, unchanging, immovable, unfathomable whole, neither alive nor dead, neither intelligent nor stupid, neither corporeal nor spiritual, simply indescribable, inconceivable in any way from within the flux -- for it is itself this flux -- yet still partially apprehensible through glimpses acquired via mental veils of concepts; for example as an object -- though an object no one will ever be able to grasp; or a cutscene -- though a cutscene no one will ever see in its entirety; or a game -- though a game without rules, that no one will ever be able to replay; and so on and so forth; a dizzying whirl of intepretations, perhaps as numerous as there are beings in the flux -- which is to say infinite -- yet an infinity which can be summed up in a single concept (the highest concept, and therefore also the most useless one of all), as the opposite of a "nothingness": an everythingness, a world...