Chapter 2.31. Emotioneering Techniques Category #31: Writing Powerful Pre-Rendered and In-Game Cinematics
Stacking emotional layers in short cinematics.
This chapter shows
ways to make both in-game and pre-rendered cinematics more artful and, thereby, more emotionally complex and powerful.
When you talk about writing in games, some designers think you're speaking only about cinematics.
 A cinematic is a section in a game that is like a very short movie. The player loses control of the game and watches passively. Cinematics can range from a few seconds to a few minutes.
There are currently no consistent terms for these cinematics. Cinematics animated or filmed separately from the game and then later integrated into the game are called pre-rendered cinematics, FMV (full-motion video), cut scenes, or CG cinematics (computer graphics cinematics). Cinematics created with the game engine are called in-game cinematics, in-engine cinematics, in-game-engine cinematics, or real-time cinematics. Some in-game cinematics permit the player to control the camera angle.
To say that an in-game cinematic is created with the game engine necessitates that we define game engine as well. A game engine is code that makes a game run, renders what you see in the game, renders the audio, governs the use of the controller, and operates all other systems that make the game function. Some (but by no means all) in the game industry also use either the term rendering engine or renderer for the code that renders what you see in a game, and say that the rendering engine or the renderer is a subset (or part) of the game engine.
Of all the ways to evoke emotion, however, cinematics are the least game-like portion of any game. That's not a criticism, just a fact. Still, they play a role in many games and probably will for some time to come.
In some games, they serve powerful functions:
To set the tone of the game in the beginning or to establish the story itself
To establish a particular character
To establish the game's world and its backstory
To bridge the story from the last game, if the game is a sequel
To bridge one section of the game to the next
To reward a player for making it to a certain point in the game
Two categories of Emotioneering deal with cinematics. We'll examine one here and the other in Chapter 2.32, "Opening Cinematic Techniques."