NOTE: The following contains end-game spoilers for Grand Theft Auto IV.
A couple of months ago, my youngest son finished a climactic quest in Grand Theft Auto IV that led to the main character's best friend and cousin, Roman, getting killed. This is not a minor character -- he's the very first person you meet in the game; the entire story revolves around him. All of the early missions center around him and his business. When he died, my son looked at me and very sincerely asked, "Who was that?"
It turns out he had been skipping all of the cut scenes from the very beginning.
Why Do They Do It?
I'm a sucker for cut scenes. Again, I remember a time when cut scenes weren't a thing -- the consoles weren't powerful enough to support them. So when the technology finally evolved enough to include full-motion cinematics, I was blown away. They looked a hundred times better than the actual gameplay, and so they became a reward for game progression. Hell, the entire point of beating a game was to see the end cut scene.
But my kids were born long after the novelty wore off. I still play with the idea that cut scenes are a reward, and still get excited, because I've watched them evolve from this:
But my kids aren't comparing game cut scenes to the NES era. They weren't alive in the NES era.
They're comparing them to movies.
And no matter how pretty the cut scene, they just don't compare to, say, Lord of the Rings. The acting is usually shitty. The animations are overly dramatic. And, in most cases, you don't need to see them in order to figure out what's going on. They're only there for the sake of flash, their primary function being to please people like me, whose minds are still blown with how awesome the graphics look. But kids my sons' ages don't give a shit. They were born long after graphics were even a concern.
So to them, cut scenes are something that stops the game and clogs up their murder sprees. They could give a crap less about why Niko Bellic is doing errands for a drug lord. To them, that's just what the game is making them do. Do this, then this, then this and you win. Everything that makes them pause the action is just useless bullshit.
Unless there is giant cleavage to look at, of course.
What Does it Mean?
I'm starting to think they're right. I love cut scenes and I always will, but let's be honest here: They can't put together a Hollywood-quality cast or script -- it's just not realistic. Too much of the budget has to be spent elsewhere, and game companies have already figured out that games with cheap actors or non-actors sell just as well. And that makes me question whether or not they were ever necessary to begin with. They started as a novelty, to show off new technology (specifically, storage media large enough to hold them) but now? Yeah, they kind of just intrude on the fun.
It's absolutely possible to tell a good story through the "game" part of a game. Portal. Bioshock. Modern Warfare. The more time we spend watching, the less time we spend playing. And that directly affects what I do and don't buy at Christmas and on birthdays because I'm not about to throw away $60 on something my kids are going to put on a shelf because they get bored from the lack of interaction.
Oh, hindsight, you are a cruel bitch.
Cheats codes aren't as much of a thing with this generation of consoles (the achievement system prevents devices like Game Shark) unless you're exploiting a glitch or the game just outright gives them to you (like the phone numbers in GTA that spawn vehicles, health, etc). And that's too bad, because I need that shit.
Maybe it's because my kids have rubbed off on me, but if I'm playing a story-based game, I mainly just want to see what happens next, and the whole "game" part is just a means of getting me involved in that universe. So, yeah, I don't want to fuck around with being killed by the same pack of wild dogs 10 times in a row. I don't want to replay the whole level because I didn't realize the enemy lodged a grenade in my asshole. "Shit, is that a sniper up there in th- yes, it was."
I used to turn on God Mode and just bypass all of that. If I'm ammo-starved like the old-school Resident Evil series used to love doing, I'd turn on an infinite ammo cheat and just go crazy.
But then the other day, I heard my youngest son giggling and when I turned around, I noticed that he was playing GTA: San Andreas, and he had turned all of the cars pink and put all of the NPCs into riot mode. Buildings and houses were on fire, cars were exploding, people were beating the fuck out of each other. Oh, and they were all dressed as clowns.
When my kids cheat in a game, that's how they do it.
Why Do They Do It?
Remember, they're not playing for the story. They don't understand why games need stories. So when they get stuck, they aren't sitting there in suspense, wanting to know whether or not CJ's gang comes out on top of Los Santos. They just see it as a toy that has stopped working. So, they break it down and remake it into something else, like how in my generation electrician's tape could turn any action figure into a ninja.
Manx gets it, man.
What Does it Mean?
This is one of the few cases where console games seem to be going away from this (it's PC gaming where you find all the mods that, say, turn every gun into a dildo launcher, etc). Most non-sandbox games walk the player along a specific corridor to trigger specific scripted events -- any kind of improvisation is limited only to games specifically designed for it. Even games like Bulletstorm, which are supposed to be all about creative improvisation in how you kill the bad guys, carefully walk you through how to do it, and are still leading you toward triggering pre-scripted events (it's less fun to impale an enemy in the butthole when you find out the game had a specific achievement waiting for you to do just that).
Cheating in the way I cheat is still playing by the game's rules -- I have extra bullets, but I'm still trying to achieve the game's objectives and go where the game wants me. I make the character stronger, but the game remains the same.
My kids don't see the point of being constrained by that. They don't change themselves. They change the universe. That's a pretty fucking awesome philosophy to have if you ask me.