Good Graphics Will Ruin Video Games

By Johnny Apocalypse

July 1st, 2010

I've been playing video games for around twenty years now. I started with my cousin's Atari console, graduated to the Nintendo, played Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo with my friends, and conquered the "Police Quest" series on my computer (before the series went strictly to that SWAT nonsense). I tore up whole rooms of people on GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64, rocked out Resident Evil and the first Grand Theft Auto games on Playstation, and have spent a few hours on each of the newest consoles.

While I don't own a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360, I've played them quite a bit. I've enjoyed the games immensely (my favorite for the modern generation of consoles being Batman: Arkham Asylum), but I've also found myself thinking "what happened to the older style of video games?"

Now I'm sure someone is thinking "does this guy mean old games like Doom or Jungle Strike?" A few might even go further back, and think I'm referring to Act Raiser (which was a bullshit game). Oh no, I'm thinking of games like Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, Pitfall, and even the original Mario Bros.

Many people will start to haggle with me right now, complaining that the older video games lacked so much. The controls, for instance. In Super Mario Bros, all you can do is walk, run and jump. In the newest Mario games though, you have the power to walk, run, jump, urinate, molest children, juggle billiard balls, order a milkshake, etc.

Sure, more options can make a more in-depth game, but what if I want a game where all I really do is walk, run and jump? Maybe I don't want a character who farts on command. If I can't beat level one by simply running and jumping, maybe level two isn't really worth getting to. The point here is that elaborate controls aren't necessary to enjoy a game. Sure, it's nice to execute a military raid in full command of twelve guerilla warriors with a variety of weapons and a multitude of ways to complete a mission. But sometimes it's nice to just keep things simple.

Another point gamers like to bring up is how much better the stories are today. And I couldn't agree more. But sometimes a story just isn't necessary.

Take Pac Man for instance. I imagine the game has some sort of story that's lost to time, but I have no desire to look it up. I'm perfectly content knowing that I'm controlling a hungry yellow blob who's apparently scared of ghosts. I don't need to know why Pac Man is so hungry, why the big power pellets cure his fear of ghosts, or how he got into this endless maze in the first place. All I really need to know is where the joystick is. And further more, Pac Man is more challenging then many modern video games.

That's a big reason why I like a lot of the older games. The challenge. And in some of the really old games, the biggest challenge is the fact that some of them never end. Never. They only get harder, and harder. In Pac Man, the ghosts get faster in every level, but you never win (unless you get to the two-hundred and something level, in which case the game crashes). In Pitfall you never reach an ending. You simply have nastier and nastier obstacles in front of you. In Yars' Revenge, the game speeds up mercilessly while your character remains the same speed.

Oh yes, Yars' Revenge. One of my favorite games ever. Back in the old days, when Atari was state of the art, this little gem came out and I've been working at it ever since. You control a blob that looks like some sort of insect. You have to eat away a protective barrier so you can fire tiny little pellets at some weird dome looking thing. Hit the dome thing, and you beat the level. All the while, you have to dodge this small blob that's supposed to be a torpedo or missile or something, and the dome will occasionally turn into a flaming pinwheel of death and try to wipe you out too. Beat level one, and the game speeds up. Beat level two, the game speed up. And this game NEVER ENDS.

That's the beauty of Yars' Revenge, and so many other old games. There is no ending. There's no princess in the final castle, no world peace at the end of the war, no final battle with Donkey Kong. The challenge isn't to beat the game, it's to get to the next level. Spend a week busting your ass to beat level sixteen? On to level seventeen!

I once mentioned to a co-worker that Yars Revenge was one of my favorite games, and they immediately criticized me for enjoying an old Atari game with horrible graphics. This leads me to one of my top complaints about today's video games. The emphasis on graphics. Sure, the newest systems have some awesome graphics, and I enjoy them immensely. But good graphics doesn't immediately mean a good video game.

My favorite example is Halo 3. When the Xbox 360 arrived, this was one of the first games to come out. A friend of mine eagerly bought the system and this game, and invited me over. I truly marveled at the graphics --- a big improvement to the already solid graphics of the first two Halo games --- and figured that we would be blasting away at the game for some time before beating it. But the shiny graphics on the newest system quit being quite so entertaining five hours later when we beat the game. In five hours.

Now here's my estimation of what happened at the old game factory (no research done here, if I'm wrong then oh well). The developers busted their asses to whip up the best graphics possible. But in rendering these impressive worlds, they had to cut down on the game time. Instead of easing up on the graphics to make the game a little longer, they kept the pretty pictures and left me with a game that was beaten far too soon. The only challenge left was the multiplayer, and trying to beat the game on the hardest difficulty level.

Since Halo 3, the newest generation of games have indeed gotten longer, but that's only until the next systems come out. Then the first few games will be the same story- better graphics but less game. And I surmise that someday this will lead to the downfall of video games. You'll have the greatest graphics in the world, but a ten minute game.

I say fuck good graphics. It's nice, but far from necessary. I've even known gamers who won't touch any games older then the Playstation 2 era, simply because of the graphics. Your loss. I want something that will challenge me for a little longer then it will take me to read the instruction book. I'll whip out the old Atari from time to time, play Yars' Revenge to my heart's content, you can stick with the newer stuff if you want. But don't whine to me when you've run out of challenges with Modern Warfare 2.


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