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Graphics Are a Crutch


I feel that games tend to take a dive as graphics advance. Of course, there are many titles that can handle gameplay and graphics quite well. Yet, it is not a common occurrence. It tends to be one or the other in most cases. Graphics seem to mask most games and hide their true potential. It is a setup of self deception that even I fall for at times. The problem, for me, is that I can’t play graphics. With such heavy emphasis in that department, games are no doubt suffering.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I can still enjoy a visual masterpiece. I’m not saying we should scrap our current technology and regress back to the 8-bit era either. I just have no direct interest in graphics. The whole basis is so self focused that people rely on visuals to gauge the worthiness of a game. The more that graphical benchmarks progress, the more apparent it is becoming. The first thought or comment is always in regards to how a game looks. That’s fine, but what happens is gamers lose sight of what the game is trying to accomplish. How does the game function? How much content is involved? What are the mechanics? These questions often go unanswered. It is quite hard to discuss such points when most gamers would rather bicker over pixels on a screen.

Graphics should be the enhancement and not the foundation. Without stong gameplay and design, what good could graphics possible do? A game is meant to be played, not looked at. No amount of visuals can change that matter. What bothers me is when gamers pass up amazing titles based on visual quality alone. It is definitely a true showing of the direction that games are taking. What I’m worried about, in terms of next gen, is stagnation. We’ll have graphical enhancements to replace the quality in games. I expect next generation to be similar to our current one, but with a leap in graphics. Downloadable content will be expanded, first person shooters will still be dominant and reboots will be more common. All of this will occur with the leap in technology, but I’m not interested in being part of a shinier version of  the current generation.

Now, lets take a moment to talk about the Nintendo Wii. Yes, that little box that has been collecting dust for most gamers. Truthfully, I find the Wii to be much more diverse than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The Wii has platformers, action games, puzzle games and party games. Some are great, criminally underrated titles and some are complete shovelware. Yet, the Wii encompasses what the HD consoles lack: diversity. It has games in all ranges from colorful and skillful platformers to hack and slash bloody greatness. Sure the graphics are fundamentally underwhelming on all accounts, but the games have a unique style of addicting gameplay that keeps me coming back. Nintendo games are a testament to what can be done without relying on the latest and greatest hardware. These are games that can last many years and offer endless replayablity without watering down the user experience.

Games have not been progressing because of the visual overbearance. People tend to think that unless the graphics have upgraded, the game has not. A great example of this would be the difference between Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. Battlefield 3 has really pushed the visual limits of whats possible in a first person shooter. The game is downright gorgeous and has its own style, but it is actually no different than any other Battlefield game. The graphics have improved, but the game has not. It is not new, refreshing or next generation, but it has the same Battlefield gameplay that I know and love. On the other hand we have the Call of Duty franchise. It is quite apparent that the visuals have gone unchanged and they even recycle a few items here and there. Yet, the game is fast paced, action oriented and has a massive following of dedicated gamers. Would a new graphical overlay really change anything? It would make the game far more appealing for sure, but it still would be Call of Duty. It wouldn’t be a better or more playable game. It would not change anything in regards to the functionality of the title. A game with a new coat of paint is still the same game. Some people tend to forget that while gawking over the latest screenshot or video.

My main point to all this is that graphics are always the main focus of advancement. When I look at the entire cycle of games thus far it is rather bland. Most games that are being released are exactly the same mechanically and aesthetically, with only minor tweaks that differentiate one from another. We have interesting modern designs such as regenerating health, grand cinematics, multiplayer and motion controls to some extent. It is a safe bet that the next game you play will include one, if not all, of those concepts. I dont mean that in a particularly gloomy way either. It’s just that graphics carry all sense of appeal and it’s slightly disheartening. As we move forward I’m hoping for new concepts and experiences to enjoy games. Gaming is an extensively creative medium that can go far beyond the constraints of graphical prowess. More emphasis should be applied to creative player interaction and design than just raw power. Something I would like to see in the years to come.

Chris is just an average gamer who has been playing and enjoying games since the SNES. He has a very diverse collection of games and enjoys a wide range of genres. Above all, he is always up for some open discussion and debate, so dont be shy. When not writing, he spends most of his time relaxing and gaming. Catch him on online. His PSN is christheredhead.

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