All gamers know that moment when you play a new game and you’re absolutely blown away by the graphics. Occasionally the game will be good too and you’ll be sucked into it. It’s one of those times when you marvel at the age we live in, that such a realistic looking game exists. ‘What next, virtual reality? How could anything get more realistic–?’
I’ve lost track of the times I’ve felt that. The first time was when I sat down to play a PSX game; Tekken II. I remember thinking it was ‘too mind blowing’ and ‘scarily realistic’.
These precious shards of memory take the form of disks, placed away in your collection for a later date. They seem to be timeless classics. But nothing is timeless. These games always come with an expiration date; a moment when the curtain is pulled. You sit down and play the game only to notice small holes you didn’t notice before.
You start to see the game not as a world but a collection of graphics – the clipping and poorly rendered textures are painfully apparent. How could you have not noticed these before?
That’s the graphical expiration date. Everyone’s expiration date is different – after all, it’s not the game that’s changed. You’ve tasted something better, more refined and now you struggle to go back. That sense of wonderment will never return no matter how badly you want it to. It’s still a good game, but it’s not as magical as it once was. What was once sparkle is now to your eyes a blocky particle effect.
It would be a sweet world without the expiration date- we’d all relish in low resolution graphics, never needing the graphical ambience of games like Skyrim and Assassins Creed 4. Developers would have an easier time of it too; imagine if they only had to work with 8-bit graphics instead of designing new cutting edge game engines every year. The rise in HD editions and console generation ports are pretty much proof of people’s need to have better graphics – it’s supply and demand.
Humanity used to be happy just having a steady food supply, fire and water. Our ‘needs’ escalate and we find ourselves not being able to cope without that little bit more. Is it our fault, or are we just built that way?
I picked up Vampire: The Masquerade for the PC last week and tried to play it. It had seemed so cutting edge, so brilliantly designed. Now there are indie games on the market that can achieve a higher level of graphic design. I found myself struggling to connect with it as I used to. I’d waited too late to pick it up and play it through again, I’d gone over the ‘expiration date’.
Some will claim there’s no expiration date on a truly timeless game, that even saying so is being ‘shallow’ and interested in graphics more than quality. I’m not speaking about good game play like Minecraft, a game that is wholly unrealistic yet still wholly addictive to play.
I’m talking about that moment of marvel when you pick up a game and you feel your avatar and the world on the screen are truly realistic. For those who truly have no graphical expiration date, I envy you – what I wouldn’t give to once again approach an 8 bit game with awe.
There may never be a point in which things stop having a graphical expiration date – the Matrix game may never come to pass. But if we could convince people to be satisfied with the games we’ve got, we could probably solve a lot bigger issues.
Me? I’m going to mod out Oblivion to try give it a graphics boost.
By Adam Ipsen