Aging Gameplay

The new console launches and recent debates over 1080p and 720p reminded me of this little conversation from the summer.

I was at Toys R Us killing some time, doing my normal walk through the Lego aisle and then to the gaming section to see if there are any deals. The Technic Lego grabbed me but I knew that blowing $250 on a new kit would probably annoy Iris and hell, it would give me buyer’s remorse big time, so I walked on by like I always do.

I continued to the gaming section, through the little security gate, and over to the 360 games. The area was almost empty with just me, one other customer, and the kid running the till. Nothing was grabbing me and the bargain bin was mostly games I had picked up with the last online sale so I moved over the DS wall.

“Looking for something specific?”

It was the sales kid, the other customer had left and it was just me and him. Since I was in front of the DS games I asked for a couple I had been hunting for on friend’s recommendations.

“Civilization or Age of Empires for the DS?”

He laughed. “We don’t have those anymore, try out ebay or something.”

I think he had figured me for a gamer type (whatever that may be) as asking for old games like that must have clued him into some knowledge of the industry.

“Do you have the DS or the 3DS?” he asked.

“My girlfriend has a DS she got from work that I’ve been using, but I’m just killing time right now, seeing if you had anything I wanted for the 360 as well.”

“Cool, are you going to preorder a PS4 or One?”

At that point I was firmly in the wait for it camp. I didn’t see anything coming out (besides Forza 5) that would make me get the console on day one. That and I still had a pile of games left on the 360 to get through. I told him as much.

“What?! They are going to be so much better!” he said excitedly, “Just think of playing Forza with high-resolution and the detail in the cars. Call of Duty with much better graphics, Dead Rising with hundreds of zombies at once. It’s gonna be amazing!”

“Well,” I started, “as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that I just don’t care much about that kind of detail. Think about Forza. You’re flying down a straight passing cars at 200kph concentrating on the next corner. You won’t notice any of the extra detail; all you’ll care about is how the game handles that corner. How it handles the AI cars so they don’t slam into you. The extra horsepower the new console gives won’t make a difference if the gameplay isn’t good.”

The next few minutes were a back and forth debating how the shiny gloss makes a game good versus the actual gameplay itself. An age gap of 20 years showed itself as we discussed the games we first started playing and how they obviously affected what we consider good now. There was no common ground when this kid had started with Mario and hand helds and I had started with Zork and arcade machines. Then it dawned on me the one popular game that shows how gameplay trumps graphics.

“I can name one game that will convince you how right I am about this.”

Doubt came over his face; obviously he didn’t think one game could change his opinion about the need for flashy graphics.

“Okay, what?”

“Minecraft,” I said as I made my way towards the exit.

He laughed, “Okay, okay. I’ll give you that. Have a good one.”

“You too.”

I do believe that graphics are important but it’s a path of diminishing returns, if the game itself is not fun then no amount of amazing textures, high resolutions, and fast framerates is going to rescue it. Having been playing games since the very old days I think I have a stronger footing in this idea.

Yikes. I’d continue on this train of thought but I just know it will turn into a “git off ma lawn” moment and I going to avoid that.

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