There was a time when long cut-scenes were the norm for most story-driven games, including many RPGs and the legendary Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Even in this generation, MGS4 featured some of the longest non-interactive cut-scenes ever. But as technology advances (and attention spans continue to dwindle), completely passive scenes in a game may be unnecessary and in fact, going forward, maybe they should disappear entirely. At least that's what some of the industry's top writers believe.
In speaking to Gamasutra , Valve's Chet Faliszek ( Half-Life , Portal ), Irrational Games' Ken Levine ( Bioshock ) and Frictional Games' Thomas Grip ( Amnesia: The Dark Descent ) all spoke about ways storytelling in video games will have to change in the future. And at the top of the list: "death to the non-interactive cut-scene." Faliszek said he thinks players today "have less and less patience for sitting through a cut-scene, waiting for the story to unfold." Levine agreed and elaborated:
"Modal switches are strange in a narrative. I think the closest thing is probably Broadway musicals. They switch from acting out a scene to singing a song, and that's a bit of a leap to make because it's so different. It's a form that you have to get accustomed to, whereas stage plays take less acclimation because they're consistent."
Grip added that games shouldn't strive to be like films, either. After all, this is an interactive hobby and that alone is a gigantic difference.
"There is a big difference in our relationship to a protagonist when you are a passive observer compared to playing as that character. I think the jump to a cutscene removes much of the empathy that you might have in a movie. Because of this, I believe games can never become as emotionally powerful as movies, even if the cutscenes are done exactly like film. This means that in order to improve the medium, other methods need to be used."
RPG fans came to love the beautiful cut-scene in the early days of PlayStation, simply because it showed what technology could do, beyond the realm of the sprites. FMV and CGI were huge; such advances vaulted video games into another stratosphere and opened the eyes of many. But we're already past that and now it's time to focus on better ways of telling an interactive story.