Moderate Spoilers for Accel World vs. Sword Art Online ahead, but I'll keep them as vague as possible. At one of the climax moments in Accel World vs SAO, a villain's plans come to fruition and it looks like they have the opportunity to kill a character. The cast seems appropriately horrified about this but aren't taking any real action in the moment to stop it, which is something I see a lot in RPGs when one of your party members is killed or captured. I figured this was about to be a "narrative death", which always comes across to me as revulsively cheesy and even unfair - here you have a cast of characters who are willing to fight anything, who you've been able to make victorious through your own skill, and you have to sit there and just watch as a beloved character is taken away? But then something unexpected happened. The main character said he needed to find a way to stop it, and it opened up into gameplay - with a very visible 15-second timer onscreen, several objects around, and no real hint of what to do. My heart was pounding. I didn't want to fail. I didn't want this character to die. And as I flailed around for 15 seconds with none of my ideas working, I watched in horror as the timer ran out and the villain completed their task. As a long, sad cutscene played where I was maybe expecting an immediate Game Over, I wondered (my soul wracked with genuine guilt) - is this just a very creative GO sequence? Is it a branching plot, where I have to live with the loss of the character? Or... was this the narrative intention all along, and I actually had no hope of saving the character? Looking it up in a spoiler-free walkthrough a little while later, I noticed their instruction for this part of the level was "Despair for 15 seconds" - indeed, it was designed so that there was nothing the player could do to halt the villain's plans there. Essentially, it was a quick and streamlined adventure equivalent to the "Unwinnable Boss Battle" where you're intended (and forced) to lose, and the game continues as normal afterwards. This has had me so fascinated, though. Had the characters (and I) just watched as the atrocity was committed, it would have felt so shallow, cheesy, disconnected from everything I'd been doing. But giving me those few seconds of gameplay to think I had a chance to stop it completely changed the way I processed it. Instead of "the designers decided I'm losing this character", now it was "I failed to save this character". In 15 seconds, with no extra narrative work, it became intense, desperate, full of emotional investment and connection. For me, at least, believing that I had the opportunity to succeed allowed me to connect emotionally to my failure and its consequences. So with that long buildup out of the way, I'd like to open it up to you guys for some general discussion: What do you think of this kind of "Gameplay as Plot" design? Do you like the idea of presenting something that will necessarily happen in the plot as gameplay (where the player either cannot fail, or cannot succeed), instead of non-interactive narrative? Do you feel it helps players emotionally invest themselves in the moment in ways that a cutscene can't, or do you feel that players feel merely cheated when they realize that they actually had no agency in the matter? And how do you keep it from becoming overly transparent, to the point that players realize in the moment that they have no agency? Have you seen this technique used effectively in any games that you've played in the past?