Opinion: The Age Old Criticism and How it’s Partially Blindsided

The age old idea that “graphics don’t make the game” definitely has a lot of truth to it. You can make a wonderful game without amazing graphics. However, aesthetics are an important piece to particular kinds of games, helping to weave memorable and powerful narratives into your gameplay experience.

I see this video as proof:

When you add the extra layers on via graphics and sounds, it greatly improves the mood and environment of your game, which in turn greatly improves the experience the player has exploring those areas and creating memories while playing your game.

The Wii U was a good console and it leveled up Nintendo’s IPs aesthetically (1080p Mario Kart, Wind Waker, Pikmin look great), but I really hope the NX takes the next step to a real upgraded experience comparable to, say, the N64 or Gamecube eras.

Wii and Wii U were cool (well, at least the Wii U), but I’m ready for a traditional 3D Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Star Fox, etc., experience on vastly improved hardware that’ll give us the kinds of memories from the N64/GCN eras that I still live with today.

I can remember the first time playing Mario 64 after getting an N64 for Christmas. The first time seeing Ocarina of Time on a Wal-Mart demo blew me away. The time I opened my Nintendo Power and seeing how visually improved Super Smash Bros Melee was over it’s predecessor had me calling friends to tell them how excited I was. I recall the unveiling of the Space World 2000 Zelda trailer and feeling immeasurable amount of excitement for what was next.

I’m ready for the NX to be something big. If it’s not, I’m not sure how excited I could ever be for a Nintendo console again. When one programmer can create a visually impressive demo like this and Nintendo won’t, it makes you wonder if they’ll get back to serious business again.

Using graphics and sound, you can further send a player on a magical journey while threading a whimsical narrative through the outer shell of the gameplay creating lifetimes of memories, fans and followers.

Our generation will probably be using some of these stories similar to how fairy tales are now.


7 thoughts on “Opinion: The Age Old Criticism and How it’s Partially Blindsided

  1. Anidaan

    I agree that graphics play a large role in shaping the overall experience but the narrative should shape the game with the graphics supporting it and not the other way around. A recent example of this in my mind is Destiny. The game is full of cutting edge graphics and beautiful environments but truly lacking a cohesive plot and narrative. It was such a disappointment to play through the story and have shells of ideas and reasoning thrown in as you are sent from mission to mission.

    1. Steven Santerre Post author

      I agree, aesthetics should be used to enhance a narrative and gameplay. More or less, this was a rant about how many games who already have good gameplay and stories could benefit with better visuals, and how the idea that “graphics don’t make the game” isn’t a good mentality to have. Instead, we should think of it as “graphics can enhance an experience” because, in my opinion, they can greatly improve immersion, believe-ability and give a narrative a final push to leave it in our memories forever.

  2. Red Metal

    I do think that aesthetics go a long way in lending a sense of professionalism. It’s hardly the only import aspect though, and I find it doesn’t factor into my assessments that much unless the graphics somehow interfere with the gameplay (or, more optimistically, improve it somehow). At the end of the day, I find it even more intriguing how certain game developers, especially from the indie scene, have been exploring new, creative ways to tell stories using the medium.

    1. Steven Santerre Post author

      I very much agree it’s hardly the only aspect that makes a good game, that’s why the title states the mentality of “graphics don’t matter” is “partially” blindsided.

      My argument is wholly that aesthetics, including graphics, sound and music, are what drive us to remember the games we play for the rest of our lives. You can play a mechanically great platformer and have a great time doing so, but you’ll remember specific parts of the game because of the aesthetics of it.

      I can think back to Donkey Kong Country for example:
      The pseudo-3D stylistic graphics and the sensational ambient, jungle themed soundtrack are what I recall most about that game, and it’s one of my favorite platformers of all time because of it.

      1. Red Metal

        I have always found it pretty impressive when creators put a lot of effort into details the average person likely wouldn’t notice. When it comes to judging art, there are very few cast-iron rules, I’ve found. While I don’t think graphics are everything, I also don’t think they’re to be completely dismissed (as is a somewhat common practice in certain gaming circles). I think that’s why you don’t see many indie games attempting to emulate the style of an early 3D game – instead opting to go for stylized 2D or PS2-era (or later) 3D.

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