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Graphics Ain't Everything...But They're Always Something

I'm not sure exactly when it started - perhaps during the 16-bit generation, when the Genesis vs. Super Nintendo wars were going on - but the graphics debate unfortunately continues to this day.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure why. Those who claim graphics are meaningless are just plain stupid. I mean, that's beyond naive. The very true saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words," is quite relevant in a form of entertainment that relies on moving images that we view on a screen. I'm the biggest defender of old-school classics in existence and yet, I'm not about to say developers could better depict emotion with a sprite and a little heart over its head. That's just plain asinine.

But it seems even gamers of today aren't willing to admit that graphics play a significant role, and I think it's because they don't want to come across as superficial. It's the same reason certain people try to tell us that "looks don't matter." Yeah, well, they do; it's called chemistry, biology, nature; I'm sorry, it exists. Cruel truth, just accept it. As for games, it doesn't make you a "graphics whore" to say that you appreciate a fantastic visual presentation, nor does it make you ignorant to say that you - shock of shocks - like games to look good.

Sure, subjectivity always plays a role, and we could go twelve rounds on an Uncharted vs. Crysis debate, but the bottom line is that what we see is a major part of our entertainment. Regardless of your personal preferences, there's no doubt that better graphics work to bring this industry to another level, especially in regards to the aforementioned emotion and sensitivity. It's about seeing the quirk of a pair of lips, a narrowing of the eyes, or a particular gesture that adds weight and meaning to a scene. These days, that's becoming more and more critical.

At the same time, as this remains an interactive medium, nobody can say graphics are more important than gameplay. That's just illogical. In truth, I'm not even sure why this is such a complicated or hot-button topic; I see this as being awfully cut and dry. Not much to argue about here.

Tags: video games, gaming, gamers, game graphics, game visuals

8/27/2012 9:01:33 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (36 posts)

homura
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 9:37:13 PM
Reply

Graphics greatly adds to the total immersion in a game. Graphics (or artistic visuals), Story, Gameplay and Sounds, if well put = a truly great game.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 9:43:52 PM
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For me the type of game matters a lot. Something that takes place in a fairly small world like an FPS, a TPS, or fighting game better darn well have incredible graphics because there just isn't a lot else to those games past the surface.

Open world games with numerous gameplay options like Skyrim or Dishonored or Fallout I think should be given plenty of leeway as the graphics aren't the biggest focus and just naturally suffer a bit by the nature of the game. Go ahead and add the Darksiders series to that too. On the flip side if emotion is your route a-la Beyond TS then you better bring the goods ya know?

I'm very susceptible to nostalgia but I think we should take care not to delude ourselves about just how effective the storytelling of the past was when we read text conversations, nobody's faces even moved, and character animations did not yet resemble the movements of real people or even the way we would expect unrealistic characters and critters to move.

The good news is if you have a great imagination graphics are less important to you across the board.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 2:43:42 AM

You touch on a very important detail here that unfortunately many gamers not fully realize: The relation between picture quality and size of playfield.

The smaller the playfield, the more details and gloss can be appended per square inch. This is why the Killzone 3 and Uncharted maps have to be so friggin' small/narrow, or why Infamous can be that much more open.

And it is from this perspective that Skyrim becomes so damn impressive: The size VS graphics ratio is astonishing.


Last edited by Beamboom on 8/28/2012 2:45:47 AM

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xenris
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 11:29:59 AM

I will take smooth gameplay over graphics any day of the week. One game that is on the PC looks like trash, its called Mount and Blade, but its just so responsive, and the menus are snappy that it just makes for such an enjoyable experience.

I am impressed by graphics, but really games like Journey, Limbo, Lone Survivor and other emotional games are really what I like to play.

But what you said does ring true. If a game is a corridor shooter they should really try to make it look good, as it would seem like they have left over resources.

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fatelementality
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 9:59:12 PM
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I will say this much: As bad as FFVII looks now, especially compared to Advent Children, it is still a wonderful game that I have played through multiple times. My play frequency of it has decreased, but not necessarily due to it's dated look. It's more or less because of wanting newer experiences. I think if a game has a story that you love, then it's kind of like visiting an old friend once in a while. If the story isn't there, well, I don't tend to revisit it. I mean, who goes back and plays Gran Turismo when they have GT5 other than to look at graphics comparisons? If a game is very addictive and you're a button masher, then the graphics don't matter so much. Also, if you prefer an earlier game to a sequel, it is possible to return to that. A good example would be that I still think that DBZ Tenkaichi 3 for PS2 is still the best DBZ game made so far. The newer ones either don't appeal to me or the controls are wonky. There are very few older games that I revisit now. FF7 and Metal Gear are about the only two PS1 games that I still run through every now and then.

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SmokeyPSD
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 10:35:10 PM

Some people like to have it on a PC to mod the models but for me I still love to have the pure experience of playing it in it's original form. The visuals of FFVII are it's own aesthetic, like all classic, retro gaming it adds not detracts when returning to old greats.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 10:58:12 PM

Normally I agree with you smokey but once you put FFVII on an HD TV it just gets messed up and certain details appear to be missing.

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Vivi_Gamer
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 2:04:59 AM

It still looks good upscaled on the PS3! as do all PS1 & PS2 games even DVD's.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 9:40:31 AM

I don't like how their mouths intermittently disappear.

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AcHiLLiA
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 10:35:13 PM
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I still love the graphics in super mario brothers.

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Killa Tequilla
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 10:43:10 PM
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Off topic but PSV firmware update is now live!

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Jawknee
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 1:11:24 AM

LOL, I should have read the comments before posting.

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Killa Tequilla
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 2:00:57 AM

It's okay, I skipped everything and went straight to the comments too. LOL

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Leafs25
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 12:08:37 AM
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I personally love a great looking game ( can't wait for next gen hockey). But there are people out there who don't care for graphics such as, casual gamer who plays a bit of console and games on their phone. That's not retarded. Thats not for me, but it's not retarded.

Last edited by Leafs25 on 8/28/2012 12:09:53 AM

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VampDeLeon
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 12:27:24 AM
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I would think calling that opinion "retarded" would make it politically incorrect. That aside, graphics definitely matter in terms of attracting anyone to show interest in the game, especially nowadays with how advanced technology has progressed.

Personally, I never held graphics that high, during when PS2 was popular my friends would mock on how I still enjoyed playing the crappy graphics of PS1 games. It was their loss though. :p

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 9:07:34 AM

"I would think calling that opinion 'retarded' would make it politically incorrect."

Excellent. All the more reason for me to do it.

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VampDeLeon
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 11:42:40 AM

Okay.. but why use that word? Especially in the headline, it's inappropriate and unprofessional to use outside anything medically-related. No matter how much you may disagree, it's still rude to use it that way.

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Jawknee
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 12:34:21 AM
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Sorry, O/T...but PS Vita firmware 1.80 is now live in the US.

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Highlander
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 4:59:31 AM

1.80 might be live, but so far PS1 classics are a total no-show for Vita. :/

Sony, get your act together please, this is the single most ridiculous thing you've done in a long time. Software emulation of the PS1 console is freaking child's play these days, you are the platform owner, if you can't get it right, don't you think people might ask WHY?

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Beamboom
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 12:43:01 AM
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Among whom does this debate rage? It's like saying that the actors doesn't matter as long as the script is good...
Of course graphics matter.

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daus26
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 12:45:25 AM
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Yes, I'm on the same page with this. It's a silly argument and one that really only exist in our minds.
The assumption is that a game with bad gameplay is because the devs focus too much on the graphics or whatever. It's a ridiculous mindset.

It doesn't matter what's more important. Like mentioned before, they all add up together to what makes a good game. You can't ignore one or the other.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 9:42:15 AM

Who doesn't?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 12:56:05 PM

Oh I wasn't being critical, just saying right on.

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Vivi_Gamer
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 2:17:02 AM
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I wish I could say that graphics don't matter, I know many of us want to take this moral high ground and say that, but we all know deep down that is not true. Take Silent Hill: Homecoming, not only is it an awful game, but the Graphics actually look worse than some the series in on the PS2. I can fully say with confidence Silent Hill 3 had better graphics than Homecoming. There is a certain expectation each gen, not every game has to push the boundary every time, but it has to remain a consistent quality with other releases or it does slip up.

Take another example, I thought Final Fantasy XIII's visuals were breathtaking. Not just the cutscenes but the battles and open map to, I spent countless hours riding that chocobo across gran pulse just admiring the scenery. Obviously the 360 version while not bad did not have as much detail and more jaggies. When XIII-2 I noticed that the quality of the graphics were more equal to the 360 version of XIII-1 & it did bug me a few times.

Oh course when I go play an older game, I do not have such expectations. Mind you some games do put me off like Doom for it's garish visuals and pixels everywhere. But in general I am willing to play anything from the NES onwards.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 3:11:48 AM
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There's a standard upheld in the current generation, for sure, but as long as that barrier is reached, I'm sure that I don't care if there is some fine detail missing. I mean, I'd be quite happy if every game sat around the benchmark set by Sleeping Dogs. It's not particularly fancy, but it gets the job done. Just... improve the lipsynching.

I don't know. I just think that good is good enough. Pretty is great, but hardly necessary.

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___________
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 4:10:18 AM
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not to say it does not help but its certainly the last thing on the priority list!
exactly why allot of games this gen suck!
ME series for instance.
1 was focused on telling a story in a RPG styled world.
2 toned that down a little to gain more fans but kept the story.
3 was ok we still have not made enough money so lets add big epic bosses big space fights and big wow explosions!
f*ck the story!
sadly everything has to be produced by micahel bay these days.
all shirt no trousers........
in short ill take ME2, U3, over ME3, U2, any day of the week!


Last edited by ___________ on 8/28/2012 4:11:09 AM

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Alienange
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 5:28:23 AM
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The graphics debate rages amongst those who think higher resolution textures are what makes a game have "good graphics." And so they argue and do side by side screen comparisons so they can take dumps on "opposing" platforms or developers.

That's the REAL joke. I spoke to a "gamer" once who doesn't play Minecraft because he, as he put it, "needs a game with good graphics." There wasn't enough palm or face for me at that moment.

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Clamedeus
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 1:44:19 PM

You should have turned into the Hulk. Although I don't think that would still be enough for a face palm.

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Solid Fantasy
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 5:58:58 AM
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Graphics add a nice touch and add to the immersion of the certain games. I'm playing through the PC version of BF3 and the graphics make a significant difference in the fun factor. I think this is due to the same reasons that World mentioned. Twisted Metal is another good example of a game that doesn't need high end polish to me awesome.
At the end of the day graphics are an "almost essential" bonus, but gameplay is still the most limiting factor.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 9:45:40 AM
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Graphics, like 3D, tend to have the biggest impact within a 10-20 minute window. After that, if you keep playing, it kind of vanishes. When I popped in Condemned 2 late in this generation it just looked horrible, but once I got into the game all that melted away and didn't matter. Not only that but it didn't seem to look bad at all anymore.

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xenris
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 11:34:39 AM
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I will take stylized graphics over hyper realism, and I will take snappy quick responsive playing game over one that looks better but is more sluggish.

I do love me some graphics, but as I get older I get more and more interested in responsive gameplay.

I mean you could make an amazing platformer game where you played as a square and the graphics were grayscale. If the gameplay was fun and challenging and responsive I would enjoy it.

Now that is an extreme example but my point is graphics aren't needed to make excellent gameplay however graphics can help convey feelings and an artistic tone. Even then I think music makes a more emotional connection with people than realistic graphics, Journey would be a good example of this.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 3:38:40 PM

Maybe it's all in my mind but 60fps games just feel nice and snappy over their counterparts. That's one thing that has me worried about DmC. Though perhaps the lowered graphics power will make up for that 30fps lag.

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xenris
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 5:04:20 PM

Yeah I agree. 60 FPS is needed for a game to feel snappy like what I'm talking about. I do prefer when games play like that, even if they don't look the best.

The only time when I don't care is if it doesn't affect gameplay like in Heavy Rain, or any other type of game that is by nature more slow paced.

I have the same concerns about DmC too. Time will tell I suppose :\

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 7:07:33 PM

Puts me back in mind of Dante's Inferno, so slick at 60.

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Rogueagent01
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 @ 10:00:10 PM
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Well I guess I am retarded then for enjoying some of the text based games in the 80s and even a couple tabletop games that rely strictly on your imagination. I hope David Cage does a text based game before he ritires and then I'd like to see the article on that one, I'll bet that the tone would be slightly different.

And sorry, but emotion is emotion it is not reliant on graphics, that to me is asinine.

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SS4
Friday, August 31, 2012 @ 10:14:58 AM
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To me its just like grils.

Like you see a really hot one and then u talk to her and realize shes an airhead or whatever . . .
Thats a one nighter and you move on with your life.

Now you can meet one without the perfect look but as you get to know her, shes great and you just want to spend more time with her. Now if you are looking for a GF you want at least a certain visual level as a minimum but the content is more important. Now for friends only the contents matter most of the time.

So games are like that. Graphical orgy can lead to one night rental and great game can be life partner or must add to your collection :P

Hope this exemple made some sense to some of you lol.

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