Ever since I was a gamer, this question has been thrown around many circles and debated countless times. The question being: Which matters more to a video game…graphics or gameplay?
When I was a child, I paid no attention to either major factor of a game, I just had fun with them, because back in previous generations, that’s what it was all about, even before companies started becoming money-hungry charlatans selling hype in a box.
Around the late ’90s and early 2000s is when I became more of an avid gamer, where the days of Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid ruled the world of gaming. Games like these had good stories, relatable and memorable characters, and excellent gameplay that made games like these must-haves. Memorable characters like Solid Snake, Cloud Strife, Barry Burton and Gabriel Logan gave games the replay value that we just don’t hardly see, except in rare cases like Fallout 3 where there’s a ton of side content along with the main story. Games like Chrono Cross made gameplay an important staple to gamers because of the experience it brought to gamers at the time, and games alongside it.
Then came the PS2, GameCube, and XBox generation. Microsoft’s first attempt at a gaming console I think was an outshining debut, but a debut nonetheless with Halo: Combat Evolved, Microsoft’s first real exclusive IP. The PS2 exploded with games like Kingdom Hearts and Kindgom Hearts II, along with Silent Hill 2, which is regarded as one of the best in the series. While the GameCube brought the remastered versions of the Resident Evil games, along with the origin game Resident Evil: Zero, which is my personal favorite, Nintendo and Capcom partnered together to create what most RE fans think is the best in the series, Resident Evil 4.
While not many copies were sold for the GameCube version, this I think is the one title that defined success during this era, because it went multi-platform and succeeded when it released for PS2 users. While it abandoned the survival-horror elements that made the first three games in the series successful, Resident Evil 4 still had enough scare to keep gamers’ interested and brought back Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong.
When the Grand Theft Auto series became mainstream, I think this is when gameplay mattered more than graphics, but for its time, the graphical output was as accurate as it could be. Grand Theft Auto, before the PS2 era, was simply known for being a top-down action game where you’re completing missions for various factions, thus affecting how other factions saw you, either as a friend or foe. When Grand Theft Auto III, emerged on the scene, this was another multi-plat bliss of success. This was the first game in the series to offer 3D graphics, robust gameplay, memorable characters, and an unforgettable story experience, full of side content to do outside of the main story.
The series evolved with the next two GTA games with Vice City and San Andreas. While these two games offered the similar experience of GTA III, San Andreas is remembered a bit more than Vice City in my opinion. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Carl Johnson, he wasn’t as bad as some of the NPC characters like Roman Bellic, who every 5 minutes it seemed like, asked you to go bowling with him. San Andreas not only improved on the mistakes of the previous titles, but also gave the player more of an experience with more side content only known to exist in the GTA universe.
Of course with new technology and advancements comes a myriad of problems.
The XBox 360 and PS3, while both had memorable titles, titles that had good gameplay got shoved under the rug, unless it was a known franchise or something that the flock of gamers could go to, but even a few years into both consoles’ lifecycle, gameplay became secondary due to downloadable content, which meant developers and publishers were giving us less of a game in a box, and the hype trains corralled their way out of the station, and some crashed, and some succeeded, and some just downright pissed gamers off (see Mass Effect 3 and Call Of Duty).
While graphical output became a staple this past generation, I’m still a relic of the past and say that in my opinion, gameplay matters more, and will net you a better experience.
Which do you think matters more. I appreciate any and all feedback.