One of the first things that capture our attention when it comes to a game is the graphics. There is this debate between enthusiasts in the gaming community on the importance of graphics, some say it needs to be top notch and ahead of the competition in order to sell itself, while others consider graphics irrelevant compared to the gameplay, controls and physics.
I happen to be the latter as I play any game, classic or modern without discrimination. However, as a game developer I find myself agreeing with the former on the importance of graphics as well.
The gamer side of me, as in the person who plays video games as a hobby in my spare time, does not care much for the graphics as I’m more interested in having fun with the gameplay and controls. To me, as long as the graphics don’t interfere with the game
As a child I was raised on old 8-bit games like Super Mario Bros. and Game Boy games, this was during the 90s which saw 16 bit consoles hit their peak and then shortly the emergence of 64 bit consoles and three dimensional graphics. Eventually I bought a PlayStation, I played many games on that system, as a result of my upbringing I was able to enjoy the games I played regardless of their graphical capabilities.
As a game developer, I understand that I make games for other people, not for myself which means I have to take their viewpoints and demands into account over mine. I may not concern myself with graphics too much but a lot of gamers do. Graphics are very important in terms of appeal; when gameplay footage is released as a trailer, the first thing people notice is the graphics and the hype behind the game will remain in that realm until the general public can test out the gameplay for themselves at a demo.
With all that out of the way, let’s get back to the question. What is more important, the advancements or the aesthetics? A lot of people believe that because something has more advanced technology that it’s automatically going to be better, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not always the case.
Let’s compare a screenshot from Mickey Mania for the Sega Genesis which was released in 1994
To Tekken (1) which was released in the arcades later that same year and ported to the Playstation in the following year.
I think this a great example of advancement vs. aesthetics as you’ll notice that Mickey Mania looks much more appealing with its cartoony aesthetics converted beautifully into 2 dimensional sprites while Tekken’s graphics were quite the onlooker back in its day as it employed the latest in 3D graphics, it hasn’t aged well compared to its opponent as it looks blocky and quite frightening if you ask me. In Tekken’s defense though, it was one of the earliest 3D fighting games and was made at the time when 3D technology in video games was very immature while Mickey Mania had the luxury of being made during the peak of sprite based graphics.
Mickey Mania makes better use of the 12 principles while Tekken is more limited in terms of animation and has fairly stiff physics.
Minecraft is a great example of how aesthetics over advancement made it one of the most popular games in the past few years. The game looks like it has limited graphics and choppy animation but it is made in a primitive, late 90s PC game style so that players can create elaborate buildings limited only by their creativity. Up close it looks pixelated and blocky but from a distance it’s amazing, especially when made by really artistic players.
My main point it that developers need to be able to use the latest technologies to their advantage but put a considerable amount of focus on the aesthetics because fancy graphics will eventually become outdated but aesthetics will help games stand out from other games and stand the test of time.