There was a time when the most important things in video games were the gameplay and the background stories. A game could look decent enough with 8-bit or 16-bit pixels, but if the gameplay stunk? It wouldn’t really matter. Then, something happened – technology advanced, and it was good! We just went from 2D graphics to 3D models, from parallax backgrounds to fully rendered 3D worlds that we could interact with. But with each advance in graphics, there became a fundamental game issue. Is story or visuals more important?
Now yes, it’s easy to look at games like the Uncharted series, which balance both perfectly, and say, “They both matter!” and that’s very true, but not everyone sees it that way. For proof of this, look at the recent generations of the PlayStation and the Xbox. Their biggest advancements (more or less) were graphics based, and they wanted to make sure their graphics were so superior that the best visual games could be put on their systems alone. Moreso, now we have the PS4 Pro, and the Xbox One X, which are meant to be major graphics powerhouses.
Yet, if you look at certain games over the last few months, or even years, graphics don’t hold up when the game doesn’t work well. Look at Destiny 2, a visually stunning game no doubt, but one that has many fans angry because of gameplay issues. Or how about Street Fighter V? A game that again, was visually beautiful, yet was so lacking in gameplay content that fans were confused as to why it came out like it did (and now we’re getting the Arcade Version.) Heck, even a title like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn’t excluded from this argument. For while players LOVED the beautiful and deep world they were allowed to explore…the story felt lacking to many. And do I even have to mention the problems with Mass Effect Andromeda? I didn’t think so.
So what’s the lesson here? Well, it’s tricky, to be honest. On one hand, we do deserve to look at visually good games, but how we define “good” depends on the player. Shovel Knight is a great example of using classic graphics with deep gameplay to create a fun experience. Now, not every game should use those graphics, but it should show that you don’t always need to be “visually superior” to make a great video game.