Online Presentation, Gameplay over Graphics

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    We've all had the experience where we were watching our favorite television show, and suddenly during the generally monotonous commercials our interest is sparked by a next-generation video game. We are greeted with an action packed, visually stimulating scene by which we are overtly intrigued. Just as we start to get a taste, the slightest idea what the game is about the commercial ends, and we are left to wonder "What happens next?" We do remember however the expected release date, and all we know is that we must have it.
    What happens next might also be familiar. That date finally arrives, and we make our way to the local BestBuy or electronic store that carries video games. After weeks of waiting the anticipation has reached its peak, as we purchase the game and venture back home to spend hours upon hours exploring this new world. As we start up the system we begin to play, greeted by that familiar feeling as we watch the opening cut scene once again take our breath away. As the scene fades we take control of the main character, its time to start our story and make our own history. We encounter our first adversary, only to be met with confusing controls, awkward camera angles, and perhaps AI that seems more like a three year old on the other end.
    As someone who is a game enthusiast I have seen this too many times through my own experiences. I've made an uninformed decision on a game based solely on graphics. So this is where the debate ensues, Gameplay vs. Graphics, which is superior? Well lets first look at the beginning, where text-based games were the only form of video games available at the time. If the most important part of a game was its graphics how did such games enjoy success at the time? Game designers drew from their imagination in order to use words as the paintbrush on the canvas. As games progressed, visuals were provided for the user, but these graphics are by no means "pretty." Take for instance Super Mario Bros., voted the most popular game of all time by IGN IGN's Top 100 Games. If you read the reasoning behind the existence of this game on the list you find that nostalgia for a time when games had "an unwavering attention to play control and level design."
    There are other games as well that have echoed the effects of a revolution. Take for instance Street Fighter 1, a classic that nearly any gamer recognizes. So why was this game so popular? Why, above endless other titles, did the particular game enjoy such high praise and immense social status? Well certainly graphics were not a part of the experience according to Benjamin Wai-ming Ng. Despite its "primitive program and character design  and unsophisticated graphics, Street Fighter 1 won the hearts of the players with an innovative control system" Because the game was of the fighting genre storyline was a small part of the actual game, yet an amazing influence of a cultural revolution.
    But do graphics then hold no effect on a video game whatsoever? Not at all. As Axel Strohm points out, the success of the game Tony Hawk Pro Skater may not have been with cell-shaded graphics that were utilized in Jet Set Radio. There really is no comparison for the two games, as Tony Hawk Pro Skater enjoyed larger scale success than other games of its genre. As James Newman mentions in his article "The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame" that as far as games are marketed and sold graphics are vital. So then we have to ask ourselves did people miss out on Jet Set Radio because Tony Hawk Pro Skater was visually represented in a better way? As mentioned in an article on pixelreview.net, "We all know that fundamentally it is the personality that will be the ultimate decider on whether or not you want to see that person again, but it is the initial way that person presents themselves visually that will be what catches your attention." The same applies to games, we see that commercial that just takes our breath away, but in the end the gameplay spoils our sense of what "could have been" in that game.
   

5 Comments

This is a good start, Brandon. It's amazing to see that Tetris made it that high -- that's more proof that great graphics aren't necessary for good gameplay. But now that people are giving away amazingly addictive free games that you can play in a browser window, it seems that top-notch graphics are among the few things that gamers will still pay for. (The formula becomes more complex when you talk about companies that sell both the games and the machines that the games are played on, so that designers have a motivation to push the limits of their own particular system, rather than push out a PC game that uses resources sparingly enough that people with older computers can still buy it.)

The history of cinema is full of lists of forgotten films that were wildly popular in their day but had no lasting impact. I can't imagine that all 100 of these games will still be considered "important" even 10 years from now. Grim Fandango, Civlization II, Deus Ex -- those are among the titles that seem influential enough to be worth discussing in a "history of video games" class years from now. I'd agree that Mario is worth a closer look, but because I've always been a PC gamer, and I prefer strategy and story-heavy games that you can play with a mouse and keyboard, I have little first-hand knowledge of console games.

Can you focus on a few games, and link to good resources online that help you to show your readers what it is about those particular games that you find worthy of special attention?

Darrell Kuntz said:

Good start Silent G, but I think that addition of more links would really help your presentation. Why not give links to some of the games that you were disappointed with that show some of the screen shots you may have been impressed with and then disappointed with later. I like your thesis though because it is very common on console games and it has happened to me as well. Call of Duty 3 comes to mind because I was expecting it to be like Halo but more realistic but I never really liked the controls for climbing walls and taking cover and crouching.

Brandon, please post the link to the course website so that more of your peers will be able to find it and give you feedback. Thanks.

Brandon Gnesda said:

Thanks D, I still need to finish up a the presentation with more of the links used in my annotated bibliography. My internet actually just came back up about 20 minutes ago so I have to finish up that presentation by this evening. Also I can certainly do that Dr. Jerz, I'd enjoy focusing on two or three particular games, I think that would make my paper much more interesting. I will have the presentation completely done late tonight as I am still working on my internet connection as well as putting together my new computer. Once my presentation is done I will post it to the class website as well.

Your extension really helped you to make your point more thoroughly, Brandon. You've made a good case for why graphics can catch people's attention, but gameplay is what matters in the long run.

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