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Ask a Dork: Video Game Graphics – Nerds on the Rocks
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Ask a Dork: Video Game Graphics


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When it comes to games what are graphics? Do you value artistic or technical achievement more? What do you think of the retro movement?

Gotta love the weeks where I get multitudinous questions. To ensure that I don’t get accused of long-winded, pedantic ranting, I’m going to break this article up into to-the-point segments.

Graphics are the visual element of video games. A lot of people and video game studios value strong graphics because they are the most noticeable aspect of what makes a game what it is. Different games usually require different graphics engines to fit into their genre or theme. For instance, Borderlands originally looked ultra-realistic until the development them found that the graphical direction didn’t mesh well with the violent and humorous nature of the gameplay (latter changing it to cell-shaded and cartoonish). To the same effect, many games are limited to certain graphics by their genre (you won’t see too many RTS games out there with highly detailed character models). Some games are made slightly better by their graphics and others suffer by them, but graphics never make or break a game.

As a rule, I value technical achievement more than I do artistic. Making a pretty game is all well and good, but games are usually made great by their mechanics, story, and/or characters. That said, there are games that gain notoriety because of their artistic merits. Ico, Okami, and El Shaddai all are amazing games with strong artistic integrity, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are games first. I’m never going to be one of those people that call video games “art” because I just don’t see them in that sphere and I’m not nearly that pretentious (sorry, but that’s just my opinion).

I think the retro movement is tremendously whimsical. That’s about it. It’s a means to an end and that ‘end’ is almost always conjuring a sense of nostalgia. That’s not a bad thing per se, but I don’t really think the graphical style add anything to the gameplay outside of clunky movement. If you’re into 8-bit and 16-bit graphics than I’m sure you’ll find retro graphics awesome, but to me it all comes back to gameplay mechanics.

Trent Seely

I'm not that crazy about me either.

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