Gameplay And Graphics: Why Not Both?
There’s been a long-standing debate in the gaming community regarding whether graphics or gameplay is more important. Often I have said in the past, with regards to games like Prototype for example, that gameplay really is the most essential ingredient and graphics is merely secondary. Other times, with amazing games like the original Crysis, it’s the graphics that really make the game. Of course the gameplay in that original Crysis was stellar as well, but it does go to show a fair degree of inconsistency in the grand scheme of things, or at least point towards the fact that context (the game in question) matters above all. In that way they’ve proven almost interchangeable in importance, depending on the game being analysed, and there’s not a whole lot of consistency about it.
Funnily enough however, the new generation of consoles is proving that graphics matter far more than people like me would have cared to admit in the past, with all the resolution and frame rate arguments getting thrown around, and every game getting scrutinised on both platforms and people raving about Infamous Second Son (for example) more because of its visuals than its gameplay. Admittedly, there is merit to those particular discussions involving platform differences since back in the day when the PS3 suffered from frame rate or texture pop-in issues with its multiplatform ports, people had a lot to say then too. It’s just the fact that the gaming community is much larger and more vocal now that frame rate and resolution appears to be such a huge deal. But the PS3 and Sony got it good in the past, so this is just history repeating itself in a slightly different way. And there’s always that whole issue of paying the same price for an inferior product on the suffering platform too.
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But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. With that said, it has been puzzling me as of late as to why graphics and gameplay are being viewed as if they have some absolute relationship. As if focusing on one causes trade-offs to be made about the other. I don’t understand why they get degraded to being interchangeable excuses, such as when a game doesn’t look visually great, gameplay is the defense, but when gameplay hasn’t made significant strides (like in Infamous Second Son), graphics will be the raving point. It was always going to be natural that with the new consoles graphics would be a hot topic, but it’s like people have forgotten that the PS3 and Xbox 360 were six or more years old technology by the end of the generation, and graphics is just the start of a brave new world.
It’s completely as if some gamers have forgotten how many great games out there manage to have excellent gameplay while still packing attractive visuals, and vice versa. Even in indie, there is an ocean of artistically or visually excellent games backed up with fantastic game experiences. With the new generation of hardware, putting out attractive looking games should be expected. I’m not at all saying that gorgeous games or games that decide to go the extra mile with their visuals shouldn’t be applauded. Of course not. I am trying to say that there shouldn’t be some trade-off. Especially not now with the PS4 and Xbox One. It shouldn’t be that you have to settle for a game that plays great yet isn’t attractive. Of course the bigger evil of the two would be a game that looks nice but plays badly, since gameplay is and will always be the most important element, despite how important graphics is too.
The bottom line though is that there shouldn’t even be a debate. Why should we pick between the two? We really shouldn’t have to. It’s quite simple. Gameplay is always the most important element – or at least the gaming experience. But graphics is highly important too, and no one can really say that it isn’t, especially with recent events in mind. But there should be no reason we have to ‘sacrifice’ graphics to get great gameplay. That just isn’t sensible or logical. There are just endless examples of games that have both. I can reference Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes as a very recent example.
However, I’m not saying that every game needs to look like a Naughty Dog production or something insane. But at least up to standard – at least attractive. Especially now when it’s easier to achieve a pretty game. It goes without saying though that artistic style and presentation often is more important than raw graphical power, and an example of what I mean here is with Crysis 2 and 3, where they look good, but aren’t really attractive or beautiful because of drab art direction. There’s a lot more to graphics than just looking pretty, and there’s creativity required for that. But I’m veering off point a bit.
The fundamental point here is that if graphics weren’t important, we wouldn’t need to upgrade consoles. And secondly, we wouldn’t rave about them so much. But as technology improves, more can be done with gameplay as it can be with graphics, and the ending consideration is: why the hell not both?