Videogame Graphics: Where Do We Go From Here?

In recent years we’ve seem somewhat of a graphical revolution in the video gaming industry, with the creation of higher, and higher definition of resolutions. Developers have scrambled to create the best visuals possible, only to be topped by another company months later, in late 2010, however, it seems like developers reached the apex of what was possible with current generation consoles. So that leaves one question, where do we go from here, and why are graphics really that important?

With the exception of the Nintendo Wii, current generation consoles have embraced HD(High Definition) in its entirety. So how do we go about judging which graphics are better than others, when they’re all virtually the same level of presentation, just a slightly different look or sheen. Do we judge Wii graphics differently because it’s not in the highest definition possible? Or to put it most simply, do we continue to judge graphics at all, because they’re all virtually the same.

Nearly every review you read for games on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, has a phrase like, “Stunning Graphics” or “Visually Captivating”. It seem like at this point, that should be a given, and not worth mentioning. So why do we keep talking about it? Because in video game advertisements or interviews with developers, it’s all they really talk about, so it’s all we look for. Once gamers began to look past graphics, and various visual effects months after games came out, they slowly started to realize, “Wait…I’ve played games just like this on the PlayStation 2, this game isn’t so unique at all”.

Perhaps it’s these reasons that gamers are suddenly going through an indie game craze. Games like Minecraft, Fat Princess, and Castle Crashers, that aren’t the most visually stunning are making serious money from gamers who are craving gameplay that’s enjoyable. Another example is Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a great game that had all around good reviews, without really having anything to offer visually. It’s because the game had substance, and a fresh outlook on horror games, that’s why we all latched onto it.

Somewhat recently when Uncharted 3‘s developers revealed the first playable demo on the Jimmy Fallon show, I quickly noticed besides, “Hey! Check out how cool our fires effects look”, that Naughty Dog didn’t have much for us. I awaited the press release thinking, “OK maybe they just didn’t have enough finished to really showcase the game”. However, when the press release rolled around, all we got was more fire, and the same old gameplay from the previous games. The only exception was, “Hey now Drake can jump on top of people!” naturally this didn’t satisfy.

If you ask just about any gamer, from casual to hardcore what their favorite game is, for the ones that are a little older, you’ll usually get a Super Nintendo title. For the younger generation, you’ll probably hear a late PlayStation 2 title, and I guarantee you it isn’t because that’s the game that they say the most visually appealing. Although all these things have been stated the question still remains, where do we go from here? Do you continue on to 3D and beyond? Do we try to tell developers to hang back on the graphics and focus on gameplay? Well, that’s for you to decide.