Can Graphics Influence the Popularity of a Video Game?
Graphics can get a bad rap sometimes when people are discussing video games. Everyone likes a game with ground breaking graphics but many have also started saying that remarkable graphics are just an excuse developers use to justify poor gameplay.
Is it true?
Just look at a game like The Secret World: the graphics are impeccable and you couldn’t ask for more in terms of storyline. But this isn’t always the case. The amount of game hours derived out of a game like Pong back in 1972 is about the same as the amount of time you would spend playing Fallout 4 today.
Yes, high resolution graphics certainly count for a lot, but why are so many people base their purchase decisions on graphics alone? Just ask any gaming aficionado, they will tell you that gameplay is far more important than graphics. But the biggest question here is, when it is so much easier to refine gameplay, why do all development companies focus more on rendering technology which is more technically challenging and expensive?
The other side of the argument
The simplest argument here is, people are superficial. They will buy whatever looks the best even if the gameplay is worthless. Customers never get to experience gameplay until they’ve actually purchased the game. All they see are graphics through trailers and advertisements. If graphics didn’t matter, such presentations would never suffice. Let’s just face the fact that people want hyper-realism in their games. Whether the story is any good or not.
Does hyper-realism have any other purpose? Could there be another reason why developers are so insistent on making their games look like real? Well, as far as immersion is concerned, polygon counts on their own will not be able to keep a person hooked, but they are important. Being immersed in real life is entertaining. So when software and hardware is used to replicate this feeling, your brain will not be able to differentiate between what’s real and what’s virtual anymore.
What will happen when a video game is just that good? For your brain, it becomes a reality. Your brain starts believing that it is directly participating in the scene. It is only when the environment is so immersive that our brain will start thinking whether it needs to participate or not.
Good graphics and environments
Any game which has low resolution graphics needs more translation time as far as efforts from the player are concerned. This may just be why video games appealed to a very small section of people initially. Not everyone wanted to go through the effort of being engaged in a game. But with an improvement in graphics, this barrier was removed and the translation required was far lower and the game began appealing to more people.
But this would mean that graphics aren’t just superficial but the most important component of any game. This would mean that any developer who is focusing on graphics isn’t actually ignoring gameplay but is working on its most important aspect instead.
As far as hardcore gamers are concerned, they would most probably disagree with such a characterization altogether. A hardcore gamer will rationalize using all their gaming moments and determine that the games which are dearest to them, aren’t necessarily the best looking ones. They will be able to cite countless examples of games which looked excellent but didn’t have anything to offer in terms of gameplay and were quickly forgotten. They will also be able to cite numerous games with low resolution graphics but popular appeal.
The point being made here isn’t that graphics aren’t important when designing a game but that they cannot be used as a scapegoat each time a game tanks. They need to be considered an important aspect of gameplay and treated with equal respect. Graphics are important. They help improve the design of a game and should be treated with objectivity and respect.
Appealing to a broader audience is just an added benefit and not a reason for them to be condemned. Stunning graphics is not inversely related with exceptional gameplay. Games can have the best of both worlds. And even though it happens on rare occasions, when it does, the results truly are spectacular.