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Do Graphics Really Need to Get Any Better?

I still remember the first time I got to the top of a Nepalese hotel in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. After a long and arduous journey up to the top of the building, I was greeted with one of the most beautiful vistas I had ever seen in a video game. I could see off into the beautiful green mountains, and had a fantastic view of the war-torn metropolis below.

It’s moments like these that remind me that graphical fidelity in games is always improving, and has never been as good as it is now. Uncharted and its sequels are perfect examples of games that are on the cutting edge in terms of graphics, always having the best animations, water effects, and vistas. Many developers like Uncharted developer Naughty Dog seem to always put a lot of emphasis on their graphical technology and how revolutionary it is.

Yet, it seems as if the advances in graphics have become less and less significant in recent years. 3-D graphical technology seems to be reaching a plateau. The only two major graphical advancements in the past generation, in my opinion, were Uncharted 2, and much more notably, Crysis. Crysis, a first-person shooter initially released only on PC, was the last game that actually blew me away. The game was ahead of its time; the vast majority of computers could not play Crysis the way it was meant to be played (maximum graphical settings). But since Crysis, with the exception of Uncharted 2, graphical advancements have been largely incremental.

And, I have not missed them. While Uncharted 2 and Crysis both were incredible to watch, I’ve begun to care less and less about a game’s graphics. For example, after playing both Crysis and Uncharted 2, I sat down to play Final Fantasy X, a PS2 game, for the first time. Despite how terrible the primitive 3-D models in FFX look, that game became my favorite game of all time. And as I played Uncharted 3, going in with high expectations, I was a little let down. Uncharted 3 looked just as good as its predecessor, not better. After becoming accustomed to a certain level of graphical quality, I had become much more focused on other aspects of a game.

The question is, do we need better graphics? More polygons? Better shading? My answer is no. While they are nice, we do not need them. What we do need is great combat systems like the one found in Final Fantasy X, or great suspense and action like Uncharted 2. These qualities can be achieved by working within contemporary graphical parameters, and if people focused on graphical fidelity a little less, perhaps these other equally important qualities would get the attention to detail that they deserve.