Seems that every time a new graphics advancement is about to take place, the gaming community divides themselves between those who only want to have fun with a great story and fluid gameplay against those who like to stare at the graphics quality regardless of how the story evolves and the actual gameplay feels.
The first are usually console gamers, they check the game for its story, style, and playable fun and just buy it and play. Usually, graphics are just background aesthetics, they won’t weight much in their decision and the overall fun is based on the gameplay itself.
The second style of gaming consumers are usually PC gamers. They get the graphics cards updated more quickly than their consoles counterpart, enjoy demos and benchmarks of the latest graphical advancements technologies, and have a broader range of budget choices when assembling their gaming platform.
Beyond the technical side of things comes the actual fun and what we take out of games in the end.
I remember playing Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V fully modded, I was having fun, but always a bit worried if things could look somewhat better, or if my gaming computer would withstand an even greater improvement with more heavily modded textures and models, maybe some new weapons too?
I went to a friend’s house that got the same games at the same time as me. He was playing through them way faster and always talking about the fun he was having with them.
I just couldn’t understand what was going on. I had some fun, yes, but not so excited as he was. And couldn’t keep up with the story advancements he was doing gameplay wise. It was just too fast compared with my little advancements.
Until one day we swapped the visit place and he came to my home. We fired up the games and were about to have fun when something started to get clear as we went on through the gameplay – he couldn’t care less about the graphics.
As long they don’t really suck and look awful, he only wanted to play and have fun, while I was stopping my character all the time, just to look at things around as if I was the one that programmed the whole game.
He couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Why giving so much importance to the stupid graphics if they are just a background of the whole package? I was losing a bunch of time installing and testing mods that I was losing the opportunity to actually play the game and enjoy it as the developers intended things to be experienced.
This was a PC gamer, I can’t imagine what a console gamer would have thought when I was staring at my new shiny graphics, (thinking I was having fun,) while they were actually playing the games and having a great time.
At what point did we trade fun for aesthetics? I have an idea – maybe when the game developers themselves found they could stretch your time dedicated to their game if they offered you Mod Construction Kits? And there you go spending a bunch of time in their game, their forums, etc. without really moving on with the game.
My first experience in modding was with Bethesda´s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The liberty I had to switch almost everything in the game to my liking had messed up my gameplay, and at one point I was spending more time changing the way the game looked that really playing the game itself. I got lost and couldn’t anymore understand what was the intended experience the developer wanted me, as a player, to have inside the open world, unless I restarted the game over and over. Would never get to finish it that way.
Did I have fun? It was eleven years ago, I do remember the part of the game I played, but the modding part? I only remember those times solving bugs and the days lost tweaking everything to get an eventual play-through; that never happened with the game modded, (I finished the game main story in its pure unadulterated form a few years later).
Lately, I find 4K gaming and +100 fps enough of a technological improvement in 2017.
If I have to upgrade my computer in the coming years I know what to expect. But to have a good game-play, those will be the last points to consider. A great original story and a fun gaming experience will get an advantage over my decision, and I think I am not alone in there.
Minecraft, Undertale, Stardew Valley, Papers Please, etc. are games with a great following, and the pixelated graphics are not a concern when those gamers are enjoying their fun experience the way developers chose.
Are developers investing more time improving the graphics instead of an original story and game-play experience creation?
I will leave here some of the new graphical improvements, showing that the technology is already here. Not sure if game developers will ever use it this soon.
Looks promising, but the constant useless reboots (Prey, Doom) and easily forgotten copy-paste games (Mass Effect: Andromeda) that lately fills the shelves of retailers, doesn’t make it look that better graphics will improve the fun of gaming.
Makes me wonder if I need to install my 20-year-old PlayStation to play Legacy of Kain – Soul Reaver, to have some really great fun again.