I'm a gamer. There are a lot of us around. In fact, people over 30 who never played games are actually picking up controllers and loading all kinds of interactive software into their computers. They're even buying consoles. Let's face it, television audiences are getting tired of seeing shows they enjoy cancelled, seeing one formulaic movie after another, and they're happy to look to truly engaging interactive entertainment.
The audience is growing and what people can't help noticing is that the graphics in these new games are just amazing. Frankly, all around it's hard to find a recently released title without fantastic graphics. Even games that seem to have only the most minimal effort put into appearance look better than releases three years ago. You don't even need a $400.00 video card in your computer to take advantage of the upcoming games, a $150.00 graphics card will last you at least two years and play games that look fantastic.
I'm really happy that the technology exists to make our gaming experiences look better all around, but this should change the way games are reviewed in my opinion. I recently commented on the quality of GTA IV and as you may have noticed, I mentioned the graphics briefly and moved on. That's really about as much attention as we should pay to the graphics as commentators and reviewers unless the gaming title actually fails to use the existing technology that makes creating good looking games easier to develop.
I'd happily rake a company and it's title across the coals for a full paragraph or two if they manage to make a terrible looking game. With the development tools and other resources at their disposal this shouldn't happen anymore. Any game should at least look good even if it doesn't meet current standards.
How do commonly amazing graphics change our buying and playing experience? Well, forget looking at the pictures on the back of the box or examining screen shots, you can make a terrible game look great for less money and effort than ever. What's important is grabbing a playable demo! I saw a screenshot for the new Conan console game and it looked amazing. After trying the demo I came to the conclusion that the whole game would be time very badly wasted. The graphics were great, but it really played like a platform game from five years ago, there really wasn't even much point in making Conan a 3D rendered game. I even found myself missing an old Commodore 64 game called Barbarian. Now that was a fun game.
Severely disappointing titles like Conan are out there and there are dozens coming down the pipe as studios release licenced content from the film and television industries that sell based largely on the power of the title. The Lost video game is another title that is really only any good if you're a fanatic fan of the show. The only good point about this $50.00-$70.00 game is that for 20 hours you get to walk through a different point of view on events in the Lost story. That's it, there's no replayability here and no way to change the ending or course of the plot. Sadly I couldn't find a playable demo of the Lost game on Xbox Live!, I wonder why.
There's the other side of the coin here, and I'm not forgetting it. If you take a look at games like Word of Warcraft, whose design team is second to none you'll find another story entirely. They use a graphics engine that can run on four and five year old computers with no problems and thanks to superior design and forward thinking style, the world looks fantastic. Sure, I'd love to see a high definition, next generation, omg-so-pretty! version of the game but I really don't have to. The graphics we have are clear, allow for a lot of variety in landscape as well as character costuming and show us everything we need to see in a style that is unique in the industry. They worked hard and their 10 million subscribers don't care that the game doesn't use a next generation graphics engine. The game is fun, open and uses old and new ideas in combination to create a great gaming experience for everyone.
The expression "Next Generation Graphics" is so yesterday, we're inside that generation and it's a couple years old now. The future comes down to game play because everywhere we look the graphics are awesome.