Graphics vs Gameplay - What is More Important?

You know those debates that last in forums throughout the ages with the same regurgitated arguments? Girls aren't interested in games, shooters are for stupid people; reactive statements like that, which have resonated with little forethought since games and groups have met. One of the biggest overarching meta-discussions in the community is the importance of visuals and the superiority of gameplay, each with their own superlative quality. Every game needs top of the line production quality, but when it does, people lament that it favors its looks over its handling, which is clearly done better in archaic and purer renditions. Everyone is always wrong.

With the new generation at hand, it's time to recalibrate the sides. It's the next best thing, as a conclusive thought may never be reached on this. It's not the same thought to say that fancy scenes are insignificant upon the emergence of Sega CD full motion video games, as it is two decades later, when cinematic cuts are nearly indistinguishable from in-game footage. Machinery has evolved since then, arguments should as well.

So, which is the biggest of them all; graphics or gameplay? Let's find out.

Graphics Are Important - Deal With It

Since the first crude depictions placed a few moving blocks on Atari, gaming has become a lot clearer. It's easier to figure out how to operate something when shapes aren't all the same and designs are self-explanatory. A square is a square; but a modeled boat is not an animated giant. There are always limits to technology, so fewer obstacles mean fewer problems.

More so than just a facilitator, eye candy is important to soothe gamers into the illusion of a feature's overall quality. Rest assured that with poor visuals, no one would've liked Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Crysis and many more blockbusters, because their general traits contribute little to their genre. Shooters kill people, Lara's been hopping for decades; few things have had a cathartic change throughout time.

Titles with smaller budgets and therefore rougher edges immediately get thrown into a “clone” box with whatever similarity. Observe any release lower on the totem pole. Inevitably, they'll not only be compared to their paragon, but placed below it, regardless of eventual better content. In turn, a top tier franchise is rarely put underneath its lowly produced peers.

Veneer is a powerful tool, much like strangers look appealing, not because of their intangible personality.

Gameplay Is a Weakly King

There's always a timeless quality applied to games revolving on their action component. An alleged good game is often measured on its ability to retain an entertainment agent. Still, few are those that stay in this realm of classics, because game mechanisms are much like any other advancement. Strive too far and what is left behind falls short. Ideas become more complex, simple rewards get appended with more versatile incentives. More is better and what once was the pinnacle now looks as basic as the wooden bike seems cruddy towards a brand new car. Once a standard resets, its lower bars lose their appeal.

Moreover, the gameplay term is reliant of many different subsets, which make it a frail system to overcome as a whole. Controls need to be responsive, motions should be tuned precisely, level design has to reflect its goals well. Many small parts contribute to one big sum and any crack in that can grow into a fissure over time. Content has to maintain its attraction, because without the desire to progress, there is no game. Only when virtually flawless will subject matter rise to the top and stay there, as competition grows in numbers.

Forget Everything – Innovation Is Your New Lord

Since both presentation and action have equal good and bad attributes that make or break them, an outside trace needs to be applied. If there's one thing that can distinguish both, it is novelty. Innovation defines the shape of the industry. Much like in art history, when a style is done to death, a revolution renews outcomes.

With visuals, this example can be taken quite literally, certainly as some higher productions are nearing realism. Finding new methods to handle perception is a sure way to remain relevant. Whether this is scaling back down with previously unattainable designs, adding a new dimension or working on illusions, spectrums are still only bound to a creator's imagination. That hasn't changed since the days of Atari.

For gameplay, finding new tricks can separate games from established genres. This is most notable in the indie industry, which doesn't have the means to produce blockbusters or can't make room for follies. Their edge is a technique to rediscover the same thing anew or even breaking down convention altogether. Where this risky approach is shunned in big budgets, the divergent experience rests with those who seek that heralded revolution; the setting of a new standard that shifts all.

So Wait, Who Won?

If by the time we wrap up, there is no clear victor, it's because there shouldn't be one who is definitely superior. A lot of confusion within debates comes from extreme opinions that can't reach common ground. Hearing someone's plea is harder when it's so far removed from one's own ideology, while in nearly all walks of life a more average notion is the norm. That's why it's an average.
Still, when weighed upon in different perspectives, there is one of the two who has more wiggle room and that is gameplay. Where the roof for graphics is more finite, similar things aren't necessarily true for execution. It's possible to approach any one thing from a million different angles and still let it be unique, which is just one single topic.

Don't rejoice too much though, as the winning vote doesn't set it atop from its opponent completely. More specifically, this is more of a 60/40 percentage draw. Both are reliant of each other to produce interesting results and that more as time progresses. Where games used to stand out on content alone, due to limitations, possibilities have grown and the two have started a symbiotic relationship.

Basically, it's all good.

Posted: 15th Jan 2014 by Daav