Are we too obsessed with graphics quality?

quality snob column

Are we obsessed with graphics quality? Obsessed with having the best looking games, something better than our friends’ consoles, or a higher PC spec than the next gamer?

Every day we see comparison videos, screenshot comparisons, and comments from gamers mocking other devices because they underperform compared to theirs. The ongoing Watch Dogs graphics debate is a good example of this, and the game hasn’t even launched.

Why do we make such a big deal about the quality of games? Are we just being brainwashed into purchasing more expensive hardware for these better looking games, or are we just wishing for a better gaming experience that looks stunning at the same time?

Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs bullshot – your results may vary.


One of the biggest problems in today’s society, is society. We are brainwashed to love and hate what others love and hate, and it’s the same in gaming.

The gaming media says visuals and performance are the most important aspect, and we believe it. A big deal was made about the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition’s frames per second performance, and we will all sit and watch a 5 minute video showing the game side by side on PS4 and Xbox One. The truth is, if performance and visuals didn’t matter to someone then the latest “revamped” Tomb Raider wouldn’t exist.

The publishers are also to blame. Why release a “Definitive Edition” and emphasise the game’s “new” mechanics, when really it’s the same game? Non-buyers won’t miss out on the story if they already own the original version.

The sad thing is that I nearly bought that game, just because it looked “better”. Then I paused to really think about investing another R799 into a game because it has a few graphical improvements. Does that mean my PS3 version of the game is incomplete or inferior? Well according to the “definitive” marketing, that’s what they are saying.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition screenshot 2 scav_hub7

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition – it’s so much better than that crappy original version, right?

Value for your money

So, we go out and spend thousands of rands on a new console or PC hardware – we obviously want that investment to reflect its highest level of performance, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

We expect AAA game developers to deliver on this – heaven forbid we get a AAA title that doesn’t play as well on PS4 as Xbox One. When this happens, gamers verbally bash others for their terrible, ill-informed purchase of whichever console is under-performing.

But remember, they worked just as hard as you to purchase their console, and shouldn’t be treated badly for that – they didn’t develop the game or the hardware.

AMD Radeon R9 295X2

The AMD R9-295X2 will set you back over R20,000. It will certainly deliver on performance, but is it worth it?

Compete with others

Is having the best console that outperforms other consoles the most important aspect of gaming? Maybe so; maybe that’s why there has been console fanaticism since home video gaming began.

Are we not supposed to enjoy a game that doesn’t look as good on our console as compared to others? There is a fear among gamers that if their game looks less graphically impressive, it’s simply not as good as a prettier version – and the media makes sure they know this.

Sadly, there is nothing they can do; they own the console already. The “better” console fan-base are then sore winners, ridiculing the inferior.

When the time comes that the tables turn, the “losers” cannot wait to hit the comment section and return in kind. It’s a big competition that begins at the top – the manufactures.

Nintendo Wii and Wiimote

The Nintendo Wii wasn’t exactly a graphics powerhouse, but it was the best-selling console of the last generation, and boast many of the top-rated games.

We should just have better looking games

Sometimes I just expect better looking games because it’s the year 2014 and we should be getting the best – we are not playing on old hardware.

There is nothing wrong with expecting the best, but there is something wrong with expecting the best for the wrong reasons.

Then again, there is nothing wrong with getting something that doesn’t live up to your expectations visually, but turns out to be cracking good fun. Many developers have proven that you don’t need visual power to be successful. Plenty of games have made it big by offering simple, charming graphics on a solid framework of storyline and gameplay.

Fez featured relatively simple pixel-art visuals but blew minds with its charming setting, astounding technicality, and mind-boggling puzzle-platforming.

Fez featured relatively simple pixel-art visuals but blew minds with its charming setting, astounding technicality, and mind-boggling puzzle-platforming.

As much I would like to point out one problem with the whole graphics debate, there are many that derive from other problems. We are brainwashed to believe that performance and looks are everything, so we go out and spend thousands of rands on hardware and consoles to compete with others. We then poke fun at the under-performer.

When our console and hardware under-performs, we then go out and buy higher spec hardware or sit back and take the flak from the gamers who have the “better” gaming experience.

Because all that matters is how well your game runs and how great it looks anyway, right? Brainwashed or obsessed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Forum discussion

Join the conversation

  • Sky_Duke

    “We are brainwashed to believe that performance and looks are everything”

    True but at the same time don’t show us a steak and then serve us a piece of worse.

    I know that ultimately it comes down to gameplay and having fun while you play the game but really I believe that devs/publishers need to stop showing us one version years in advance and then not delivering what they’ve sold us back then.

  • Vorastra

    I’ll leave this here.

  • Alex Rowley

    Pretty much this. I would give Ubisoft a break on Watchdogs because they aren’t trying to hide the fact that there is a difference, they have released actual gameplay videos and we can see it, unlike quite a few other devs don’t do this and that is quite unacceptable to me.

  • Bl1zz4rd

    I’d trade a brilliant looking game that doesn’t engross me for a good looking one with a strong storyline any day. BioWare’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age titles weren’t the best games visually at their times of release, but they quickly became some of the best games I’ve ever played due to their being so immersive story-wise.

  • Cameron Booth

    I have been playing Minecraft now for the last 2 years and I cant remember the last time I bought a game that I can still enjoy 2 years down the line.. Fair enough I am playing FTB which get updating all the time but definitely not in graphics department…

  • Wurnman

    I am playing Dead Space only now on PC. The graphics are dated for sure but the story is so riveting that i cant stop and do not care that the graphics looks old. Even the annoying over the shoulder and crappy camera movements do not bother me that much.

  • Jethro Stebbings

    Aesthetics > Graphics.

  • Wyzak

    Excellent article, anybody who has ever played a MUD or Angband/Zangand/Adom will attest that graphics does not make the game.

  • Bl1zz4rd

    Exactly. Good gameplay can definitely compensate for worse graphics. Also, with that game you’re so busy freaking out over imminent death that you wouldn’t even notice if it had visuals from the 90s.

  • benjamin

    i still play san andreas (with mods though)

  • Helldriver Phoenix

    Final Fantasy 7 Psone. Crap graphics but the BEST ff of all time.

  • Jo

    1st time I hear about actual graphics quality being a big issue. The graphics issue is about processing the data fast enough to have a smooth/fast running game, including display speed. We hate it when the images shudder or stall, even if it is only for milliseconds. The speed of processing is not going to affect the actual image quality, but will definitely seriously influence the smoothness of the response, for both gamer and hardware. If a 800×600 monitor reacts within 1ms, who’s going to complain that the image quality is not 4k or UHD?

  • oblivionImperialGuard

    The only time we are interested in graphics is when the story line is crap and gameplay is crap and the only thing going for the title is its graphics. FF7 proved that point in the aspect that if you played it today, you would still be hooked due to the story line, characters and gameplay. That subjective though if your a graphics needy person.

  • Ruan G

    I just hate how they can release game footage which looks great, and then when the game releases its worse than the early released footage.

    They set you up just to knock you down.

    If AC Unity doesn’t look as good as that Alpha gameplay footage trailer they released I will be very disappointed, might even stop paying for their games

  • Just to add a possible parameter to the discussion; are we perhaps not grouping art direction/style and graphic fidelity as one entity? What exactly do we deem a good looking game?

    Games like Fez, Bastion, Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, Sonic Generations, even Dust: An Elysian Tail come to mind ;all beautiful games without being tech demos by any stretch of the term.

    Personally, I couldn’t be fussed about groundbreaking graphics or the like since I place more value on gameplay and story (unless we’re talking MP), although I don’t necessarily think it’s far-fetched to expect a good looking game. I just think the gaming community needs to rethink how they define a good looking game.

    Personally, if a game is fun, has a story that grips me (if it’s a Single Player game), and presents a good art style whether it’s 16bit pixel-art and the like, 2D animated, or even realistic 3D graphics or whatever aesthetic style you go for (which is subjective, I guess), then I’m a happy gamer.

    In terms of how a game looks, I just think developers should make the most of their chosen art style, for example Far Cry 3 is no Crysis 3 or Battlefield 3 in terms of graphic fidelity or pushing graphical boundaries, yet it’s a more beautiful game IMO. I’m sure gaming history has similar examples where better a good art style looks or feels better than “tech demo” level graphics in terms of immersion.

    That brings up another question; what is a good looking game to you? My own answer to that question is a lot more open and flexible than the average answer.

    Somewhere, lost in all that rambling, is a point I’m making 😛

  • Wurnman

    So so true, the sound in the game gives me the willies for sure. I cant wait to finish it and move on to DS2 and DS3.

  • You Sir, are a scholar and a gentleman 🙂

  • Jethro Stebbings

    Why thank you, a little ‘extra credits’ can go a long way.

  • Mark Actual Ellisguy

    The most important of course is game play. Games dont even need to have a story but when we can connect game play and story together in ways never seen of felt before. That is where the magic happens. Then it just needs to be polished with graphics and performance and then immersion is just intensified from there on.

  • KUDU

    Lol, why does South Africa have its own gaming forums? If you all speak English, what is the point? Why not just use international forums? If you had forums in Afrikaans, Zulu, etc. then I could understand it if you had your own…

Are we too obsessed with graphics quality?

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