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The Escapist Staff | 6 Aug 2010 10:00
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Quick-Time Events

Most aspects of videogame design are open to debate - escort missions, turn-based vs. real time, the merits of linear levels - but few produce such ire as the quick-time event. The mere mention that a game has quick-time events is enough to drive some players to write it off as unplayable, while others will suffer through, if only so they can speak intelligently about just how bad the QTEs in question are. But quick-time events, when done properly, can create opportunities for immersive gameplay, highly dramatic scenes and replay.

Key phrase being "when done properly," of course. Most of the time, QTEs are gamestopping killjoys because they force you to pay so much attention to them that you can't see what actions they're representing and, more often than not, they reward the smallest error with complete failure (Resident Evil 4, I'm looking squarely at you). That's a fault of execution, not of concept. As Shamus Young pointed out, QTEs can grant you access to abilities that your character wouldn't normally have. Shamus calls this a "crutch," but it can also enhance a game by fleshing out the world your character inhabits. You'll put most of your time in Fable 2 into swinging a sword or shooting off spells, but thanks to a quick-time event, you can also chop wood, tend bar, or work in the smithy, should you want. It may just involve one button, but make no mistake - those amusing little minigames are just well-crafted QTEs. Having more to do in Albion than just kill whatever monster is next on your checklist makes the world feel more like an actual place and less like set dressing for your next adventure.

It has many flaws, but when Heavy Rain succeeds, it's because it's managed to pull you into its world and connect you with its characters - a feat made far easier by the inclusion of quick time events. By tying your character's actions to QTEs you can drive at breakneck speed, perform impromptu surgery, even get in a brawl or two - creating control schemes for all of those individual activities would be overkill at best, clunky at worst. Heavy Rain and games like it aren't defined by their controls, but rather by the way their characters interact with each other and the world around them; the wider variety of things they can do, the more compelling and realistic the experience is. Forcing the player to learn control combinations for so many activities would be unwieldy and - worse - unfun. Quick-time events not only can solve the problem efficiently, but also can make the player feel connected to the action - tapping X to kick a guy in the shins feels very organic when the icon is actually on the guy's shins.

I get why people spew bile and vitriol at quick time events, but it's not the mechanic itself that should be the target of derision, but rather how it's being misused. The potential of quick time events has yet to truly be tapped.

-- Susan Arendt

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