Graphics get better and better with every console generation. Right now we've all got our eyes on the Scorpio as the chance for couch gaming to be taken to the next level graphically. PC gamers are always upping the ante with new rigs. I myself made sure I had the best graphics I could get for my money when I built my computer this last year. We want to be able to be immersed in video games. The best way to do that is to make it as realistic as possible. How do we make video games realistic while set in fantasy environments? You make them look as much as possible to reality as possible without going straight video.
Full motion video (FMV) games exist, but by using real video, we're limited to what players can actually do. It also distracts more than it lends to the sense of realism. It seems counter-intuitive, and yet its true. For immersive and realistic games, we have to go with computer generated graphics. These get better every day, as we already know, so the chances for full immersion are always right on the horizon.
Immersion and realism are important factors in video games, but there's also the very simple fact of enjoyment. We like looking at pretty things. We love looking at fantasy creatures and characters that look most like they could exist in our world. I'm going to make a surprising reference here, but bear with me. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had some pretty impressive graphics already when it first came out, but since then the modding community has gone crazy. They've made changes to the game that up the graphics far past what Bethesda was capable of at the time of release.
Take the goose photo we've included in this article. That goose is gorgeous. Never in my life did I think I'd utter that statement, and yet there it is. According to the Redditor that captured said goose, they jacked the Skyrim graphics up as far as they possibly could via multiple different mods. They were on a multi-thousand dollar gaming PC, and the game was running at an infuriatingly slow three frames per second. But you know what? It was worth it for them just to capture this screenshot of a beautiful goose. It says something about our need for epic graphics if someone went through that much effort for a single screenshot of a pretty fowl.
Let's use that as our springboard for the rest of our conversation about graphics in video games. We've got people maxing out their technology to marvel at simple things like a bird wandering around. This is the smallest thing. Most would say, “Who cares about the dang goose?” but it's a means to an end. That goose is beautiful, and if the rest of the Skyrim looked that pretty and ran at a normal frame rate, it might bring tears to my eyes.
That actually almost happened to me with the more recent best example of beautiful graphics in a video game. That is, of course, Horizon: Zero Dawn. I did a piece a while back that mentioned the difference in graphics for this game between the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 4 Pro. The game actually changes based on your graphics settings. Aloy looks stunning already when she's just standing around in the game, but with 4k graphics, she motions to play with pieces of fluff floating through the air. This is another very subtle difference in graphics quality, but it has a huge impact. Aloy looks more realistic if she's interacting with her environment, even if it's in a small way. She's also prettier to look at in these cases, because rather than just a blank stare into the horizon, she's looking at something in particular.
It's amazing the snowball effect small things like a goose, or random air fluff can have on a game as a whole. This is the wonder of graphics in video games. We've experienced this from the inception of gaming technology. I thought the graphics in Bully were awesome when that game came out, and honestly for the time it was. Kids now would look at that game and probably laugh. I mean, I looked up the graphics again just to write this and laughed to myself a bit. Nostalgia would overcome the graphics for me in that game and I could play it. But anyone nowadays probably wouldn't choose it out of a pile of new releases.
Case in point, graphics make a game. If we're going to be staring at the same thing for hours on end, we want to be dazzled by it. It's gotta be pretty, it has to include things we haven't seen before; it has to be quality. If we have the option, we'd much rather play a game that's graphically enhanced to the max over something with outdated Bully circa 2006 graphics.
Who's with me? Do you like your games to be stellar in the visual realm? Are you more concerned with how a game plays over what it looks like? Let me know!