This Is Not About How Or Why Graphics Make A Game Better
I'm An Artist
I am a "graphics whore." I think that may be partly due to the fact that I spent many years as an artist. I loved to draw, rarely still do, but for years now I spend more time playing video games than I do drawing. And when I did draw, I would copy stuff, not trace, but copy. So I don't have enough motivation to draw my own stuff because my own stuff is quite horrible. I notice the finer details, I love them, I appreciate them, and I want more finer details. It's like the first time I ever finally learned how to add shadows to my drawings, that small extra detail made such a vast improvement.
A problem I run into because of my love for the finer details is that I simply cannot afford a PC to get the best out of it, dangit! But I will push my PC to get everything I can out of it even if I have to run at lower frame-rates, which is actually pretty normal for me. =p
The main reason to being a graphics whore, I believe, is just simply due to the evolution of video games. I started with Atari, moved to nintendo, genesis, super nintendo, sega cd, skipped over a few consoles that my mom couldn't afford to keep up with. I did play every single system, if I didn't have it, my friends did, and being the little greedy gamer that I am, I played everything I could get my hands on. I had played the Turbo GFX16? I think that's what the name was. Out of all my friends and all the people I ever heard about, one single kid had the Neo Geo. lol Man that thing was expensive. Who remembers the CD-I? I wanted that just for the Zelda game! Never did play it tho. I think that was probably the one system I never actually touched.
I Agree, Graphics Do Not "Make A Game"
So, back to the whole "graphics whore" thing. Since I've played all these old games and been through all the advancements of video games through the years, I care about graphics. Do I think graphics "make a game?" Of course not, but that's far from the same thing as if they matter or not. They do matter. They might not matter to someone who's just started gaming and doesn't actually see the difference because they haven't spent the time going through all the stages of video games evolution. But to someone like me, they very well matter.
I enjoy games like Hotline Miami and They Bleed Pixels and those graphics look old to me, I do consider them "bad" compared to today's standards of course, I think it's silly not to. It's like going back to the Nintendo. Some people are into that, I am not, I've already been there. If I'm in the mood to "go retro" and play some of my favorite classic games, then I'm going to play my favorite classic games. I'm not going to look at a game made in the 2000's that looks like something I played twenty-plus years ago and be like "oh wow!" That does not mean I don't enjoy them. However, they certainly won't be at the top of my play list. This does not mean I think it's a bad game, I cannot re-iterate that enough.
I'll use Renegade Ops as an example. This is a top down view where you drive a car and blow stuff up. Real simple, this is a classic style game, this is stuff we played on our Nintendo's and Genesis's. The graphics are today's though, they are absolutely gorgeous. If I'm going to have a choice between a beautiful game of today and a game that looks like something I played twenty years ago, there's simply no competition. I'll likely ignore the game with graphics like that. Not because it's bad, but simply because I have hundreds of better looking games I'll enjoy just as much and probably more-so.
"Graphics Don't Matter"
When gamers say "graphics don't matter," not only can I not help and think to myself "a real gamer would not say that" (while I know some people think the opposite) but it's also an insult to the game designers and artists. These people are artists, they whip up these incredible gorgeous looking games and then you want to say "graphics don't matter?" lol I'll be honest here, every single time I see anybody with an opinion of that, they're opinion is meaningless to me and I simply don't care what else they have to say.
I don't mean to be rude tho. It's along the same lines if someone doesn't like a game that I really, truly enjoy, then their opinion means nothing to me. Am I going to listen to someone's recommendation of a game right after they just completely trashed a game I love and called me an idiot for loving it? lol No. But that's where I seem to be different from so many gamers. I just love almost every game I play. So that seems to be a problem when I'm dealing with the gaming community. If you're interested, here's more detail on my general passion for video games: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Germaximus/my-deep-passion-for-video-games-255712.phtml
Impressive Indie Games
Here's a list of Indie games that show me these designers and developers really put their heart and soul into the games and obviously far more time and effort than someone that put together a game that looks like it belongs on the Atari. Or they simply have more experience and it shows. Please don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that games with "bad" graphics are made by people that don't care. To me, those are people that are testing themselves and getting into the line of work. Keep it up guys, you freakin rock! This is my opinion, I'm not offering it up as fact.
In alphabetical order, these all stand out to me:
Anomaly 1 & 2
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior's Rise
Mark of the Ninja
Orcs Must Die 1 & 2
Sanctum 1 & 2
Shank 1 & 2
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
Trine 1 & 2
The Showdown Effect
Whispered World (not my kind of game but beautiful graphics and art)
That's not counting the one's I probably forgot (these are off the top of my head) or haven't discovered, and also ignoring Free2Play games.
I don't know any technical specifics. When I talk about graphics for video games I'm not talking about SA, AA, PhysX or whatever that stuff is... I don't even know what any of that means. I just hope my computer will pull it off. I am interested in learning the technical stuff but then when I try to it's just so boring!
Basically good graphics to me is this, "ooh shiny!" But I definitely notice the details, the small intricate details that show off the beauty of these illusions and dreams, these creations. The way sunlight beams down through tree's, glimmering deep colors that splash... I see it all. I often talk to other gamers that continue to insist that they don't need those extra details and this is why "graphics don't matter." Not for me. They do matter and I truly appreciate the work that the designers and artists put into these games.
An Example of Immersion
As I've said, I don't know the technical stuff. I don't study the science of games, I just love playing them. Another argument for "graphics matter" is one I do come across from other gamers. They seem to be in the vocal minority, makes me laugh. The argument is immersion. You are dang right, my friends. Of course, you don't need high end graphics to be immersed into a game. You certainly won't be immersed into a game on graphics alone. Story is a huge deal, but not only that, music and sound effects.
Battlefield 3: I'm not a huge fan of shooting games, I love them just like I love others but they're not on the top of my list of favorites as far as genres go. Some of them stand out, and this is one of them. The graphics and music of Battlefield 3 had me fully immersed, and I give a lot of credit to that musical score. It was beautiful, soft yet hard, and put me in the freakin mood! And the graphics are gorgeous! The story wasn't super great, but I did like it enough.
I completed this game around at least four months ago if not longer and I can still picture my first time on the aircraft carrier in the game. I didn't realize I was on one cuz I think I was distracted by something else in real life at that point in the game. Walking along talking to my superior or whoever, getting my orders, getting to the door and it opening into the top deck of the carrier. The sunlight, the surrounding battleships, jets taking off and flying by. The wind, the epic music along with that wind. Climbing into my jet, checking my flaps, taking off. I was freakin nervous man. I seriously got nervous. I don't know if I'll ever forget that experience, it was incredible. Would I have been immersed just as much in an older looking game? Maybe, as long as the music and sound effects were just as good and the way the game took me through all these actions still happened, but the graphics sure do help make it an even more incredible experience.
And as I've said before, if I have a choice between a game that has worse graphics or better graphics but offers the same experience, there's no competition, graphics win. I'll still play them both tho. =)
If Graphics Didn't Matter...
Even the developers wouldn't bother improving them. I mean come on now. Over all these years of playing video games if graphics didn't matter they wouldn't have gone through this amazing evolution over time. This is art, and its beautiful. I wish you would appreciate it more.