Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

It Is No Longer Cool To Worship Graphics. But Why Not?

Back in the eighties and nineties it was all about graphics to the point where no one mainstream really seemed to question the fact that the first thing you looked at in a new game was the graphics. And games were often judged almost solely on the way they looked. Lately I have noticed a real shift in this attitude. It is not just that people no longer only look at graphics, the fact is people are now full of contempt for those that still have a touch of obsession with this subject. Tags like ‘graphics whore’ seem to be popping up everywhere. So why the backlash?

It seems to me that the bile directed at this group is due to the fact that people tend to think that they are responsible for the fact companies that mega pretty games with Meh gameplay. A lot of dedicated gamers grew up in the eighties and nineties. They are over the graphics issue, they watched it when the movement forward was at rocket speed, from Pong to Tomb Raider in just over twenty years. They are not gripped by the impressive but snail like improvements of the last ten to fifteen years. No matter what anyone says, Tomb Raider released in 1996 had a hell of a lot more in common graphically with Killzone 2 than it does with Pong (1972?).Graphics are just not that exciting anymore. In fact we simply expect them to be good, or I do, there is no excuse for them being poor. Bad graphics therefore have a chance of ruining a game but good ones will not make a winner. Not by themselves.

The problem is, I think, that gamers don’t believe that the developers have necessarily caught up with this concept. The general gamer has a fear that the devs are still listening to those stuck in the graphics obsessed past. They fear that their voice is being drowned out. So what is their voice saying?

Three main things I think ‘gameplay’, ‘storyline’ and surprisingly most importantly of all ‘innovation’. Older (don’t say jaded) gamers want to see something new. Something that has not been done a hundred times before. It seems to me it is not the engine designers or the graphics moguls that have the future of gaming in their hands. It may well be the ideas guys. The ones with the imagination.

Don’t get me wrong clearly a brilliant game has all of the important elements. Strong plot and characters, fresh ideas and gripping gameplay all wrapped up in a jaw droppingly beautiful package. But let’s be realistic, how often does that happen? Only in the top few games every year. The ones with the seemly endless budget. Most game simply can’t afford to do everything beautifully, no matter how much the devs may wish to.

So what are we prepared to sacrifice? On a personal level I am willing to give up a little sharpness in the color blue and being able to see the pores in people’s skin for an amazing new concept and a game that plays like a dream. Something to hold my interest. After the first amazing wow factor graphics become fairly peripheral, you honestly forget they are there. If you don’t then the game is doing something wrong. It would be like choosing a car because you like the color even though it handles like a slug and has no air conditioning.

Still, I think terms like graphics whore are a bit extreme. I don’t think gamers have that much to fear. I believe that they developers are getting the message now that we expect more than beauty from our games.


March 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments