Being wooed by the latest graphics and eye candy has been a common vice for gamers. Lets face it, great graphics help to sell games. We do tend to judge a book by its cover based on our knee jerk reaction to the visuals. Most likely because we have so many forms of entertainment competing for our attention and need to make a quick decision. Having to divide our attention with other video games. But also competing forms of entertainment media like books, movies and music. As we can only allocate our attention and dollars to so many things.
Graphics move the marketing engine. They are usually the first thing people wonder about when a new game is announced. They are also the area that is easiest to improve from one generation of games to the next by default. Since the norm of gaming hardware goes up each given year. Along with the improvements in graphic creation tools. Making it even easier for a small Independent Studio to produce better graphics than they could 5 years ago. The same improvements are not as easily gained for other gaming elements like the Music, Story or Gameplay. Chances are if a game doesn’t have some shiny graphics, you might not feel it is a project that has been properly invested in.
Graphics can help your enjoyment of the game by just having more eye candy and WOW moments. As well it can help you feel more immersed in a game. Presenting the illusion that the environment is more realistic. Practically spoon feeding the images into your head, leaving little need for the imagination to provide input.
More experienced gamers know that graphics aren’t everything. Eventually that gold no longer holds the same glitter. What was once considered pretty gets overshadowed by something else that is shiny and new. If the major selling point of a game was its graphics alone, it may not stand the test of time. 3D Games can particularly be more susceptible to this extinction trend. Since 3D Games often don’t age very well as they have the goal of striving for realism. As years pass they seem they end up looking like laughable imitations of reality. Whereas 2D Games don’t even try to be realistic and are usually Cartoonish in nature. Yet Cartoons in general haven’t really changed much over the years. Aside from some resolution differences, a Mobile 2D Game doesn’t look all that different from a SNES game.
End of the day a game is meant to be fun. Sure graphics will help get people interested, but if the game concept isn’t fun then you won’t stick with it. Look at a game like Super Mario 3. For its time it had amazing graphics for the 8 bit NES system. Today those graphics are still good enough to be appealing to the eye. However the refinement in Gameplay is where it excels. If you miss that jump by a few millimeters you might just not see that hidden pathway. The developers didn’t have much to work with, but what they had, they sure made the best of it and trimmed the excess fat in the Gameplay.
As another example consider a game like Ultima 6. It maybe a top down RPG with only 256 colors Yet the artwork style is still colorful and bright and gets its point across. Yet the game is still more open world than some RPG games today like Oblivion and Skyrim. This is demonstrated by having EVERY object in the game world potentially manipulated and interacted with. Such as letting you utilize different music instruments in the game and playing the scales.
Eventually comes a point where games start to lose their effect on you when you are no longer infatuated by the initial graphics. Where a certain emptiness and hollowness creeps in when playing the game. So enjoying games for the eye candy should be handled like other areas of life. You certainly can’t help but appreciate the surface level, bit digging a little deeper provides long lasting value. Because usually 10 years from now, people don’t really remember a game for its graphics. As it almost always looks dated as time passes. Yet elements like Gameplay, Story and Music can truly stand the test of time.