Critic Opinion: Saying “Graphics Don’t Matter” is Idiotic

See the difference here? It makes a difference in regards to the overall experience, too.

See the difference here? It makes a difference in regards to the overall experience, too.

We hear it everywhere: “Graphics don’t matter, gameplay matters!”

In point of fact, the gameplay will always be most important simply because this is an interactive entertainment medium. However, the idea that graphics don’t matter at all is just plain idiotic. We’re usually a bit more diplomatic in our approach to op-eds at VGRHQ but this is so devoid of logic that it must be labeled appropriately.

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That truism operates on a number of different levels, and several of them apply to video games. Video games are virtual worlds, designed specifically for the sake of immersion; the player wants to become absorbed in a fantastical environment every now and then. Immersion is highly subjective, of course, but the bottom line is that if you’re not emotionally invested (in some way), you’re gonna be pretty bored.

This world is believable in a million different ways. How is that a bad thing?

This world is believable in a million different ways. How is that a bad thing?

In the old days, one could barely distinguish the human characteristics of a video game avatar. For the most part, we had to use our imaginations. Now, there is the argument that this lends the game a more mystical aura, in that the player must infuse more of himself (or herself) into the experience. For instance, if you asked ten people to draw Terra from Final Fantasy VI, you’d probably end up with ten distinctly different sketches.

That being said, it’s difficult to portray emotion with a sprite. The best they could do is toss that little heart up there in the dialogue box. Nowadays, we can see authentic human emotion on the faces of game characters, and we’re instantly more in tune with the story. Beyond the story, a similar thing happens with the environment: The more we see and clearly recognize, the more our brains accept it as impressively “real.” Our brains aren’t working to fill in the blanks, so-to-speak.

Do the graphics matter as much here? No, but you still can't ignore them entirely.

Do the graphics matter as much here? No, but you still can’t ignore them entirely.

We’re not saying graphics are essential for a great game. We’re saying they can’t ever hurt. We’re saying that good graphics can only help. They can’t make a broken game playable because gameplay does indeed reign supreme. Awesome graphics can’t contribute to immersion and emotional investment if we don’t give a fig about the story or world; it falls to the developers to make that work. No, graphics aren’t the “be-all, end-all.”

But what they do for our virtual experiences should be obvious. From a critic standpoint, you only have to decide how much weight will be given to the visual presentation. It would only be wrong if the critic discounted graphics entirely. All graphics, from the retro style we see in games like Hotline Miami and Lone Survivor, to the nigh-on photorealism we see elsewhere, have an impact on the interactive experience. Always. It’s merely a matter of determining that impact.

8 thoughts on “Critic Opinion: Saying “Graphics Don’t Matter” is Idiotic”

Of course graphics matter. The only people who say otherwise are those filthy elitists who honestly believe all games should still look like Space Invaders.

Yep, it’s just about how important those graphics are. They do always matter. We’re looking at them the entire time we’re playing, right?

For a game like Hotline Miami, it’s all about the retro vibe. But has anyone noticed that it doesn’t work at ALL unless you were playing games when those graphics were around? Try showing that to a young teen; they’ll just laugh.

Any time I hear the “graphics don’t matter” argument I just ignore it. It really is too stupid to dignify with a response.

The graphics don’t matter is one of the dumbest arguments in gaming. Hell yes graphics matter! Even games with the simplest graphics are visually appealing. Meaning you were drawn to the game by the visuals. How were the visuals done?…with graphics!

The whole idea behind the argument is based on the arrogant belief that, we don’t need amazing looking graphics, when simple looking games can be just as fun. That simple games can be just as fun is true, but the notion that we don’t need amazing graphics is ridiculous. I seriously doubt anyone would buy a PS4 if it had NES graphics. Obviously we expect a certain level of graphics in this day and age.

Each next gen console has better graphics from the previous gen for a reason. Developers are striving to take it to the next level with each next gen, both visually and control wise. While still making it fun. Such a large industry also allows room for smaller more simplistic games from creative indie developers.

It’s absolutely true that such a belief is based on arrogance. It’s the elitist idea that, “oh, I don’t need great graphics” which makes people feel special or something.

I’d say the latest round of consoles doesn’t give us QUITE the visual leap I was hoping for, but we just started this generation, right? 😉

It’s all a matter of perspective. To some, graphics really DON’T matter. And that’s that. You can’t tell people what matters to them and what doesn’t.

That’s irrelevant. This isn’t about subjectivity; the article isn’t telling anyone to like anything. It’s just saying that when it comes to the quality of a piece of entertainment where it’s at least partly VISUAL, of course the graphics matter.

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