The issue of graphics has been a long time debate among gamers. Which, of course, makes sense. Graphics are a fundamentally crucial aspect of gaming. Every game has graphics in some way, shape, or form, one could even argue that the text in text games could be a form of graphics. They serve as the bridge into a world carefully constructed for your enjoyment. This however has resulted in a bit of contention over the short history of gaming. Ultimately it comes down to this: stylized or realism.

While the issue of graphics is of course much more varied and complex than that, it has long been what it comes down to. Some, for what ever their reason may be, prefer the heavily stylized looks often found in such things as Minecraft, Journey, Team Fortress 2, the indie scene, et cetera. While others prefer graphics that try to replicate reality such as found in most third party as well as mainstream titles.

In this article, I will be highlighting various pros and cons that I have found over my years of gaming for either side with the intent of allowing our great readers to derive their own preference. And hopefully spark some healthy debate in the comments.

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Stylized

(Pro) Born from limitation

Stylized graphics are, what many would say, the original graphics of gaming. Back before there was enough processing power to really make headway into the 3-dimensional gaming medium, game designers needed to make compromises when it came to their graphics. having to work with flat images created the necessity for bright, contrasting colors and creative design to express their game world while keeping the player interested enough to actually play it. Over time, stylized would come to be seen more as a overall style rather than simply limitations, and would continue to be replicated for decades to come.

(Con) Not something to write home about

Stylized graphics are less common for this very reason. They aren’t bad by any means, but because that they aren’t trying to push the processor for all its got, so that they can render every individual strand of hair on your NPCs, it’s harder to brag about. The thing that really makes a stylized game popular is if it delivers a unique and enjoyable experience that receives proper attention from the media and advertising. Or when it was something no one was expecting like the No Man’s Sky reveal, which brings us to….

(Pro) Can impress when not expected.

Due to the strong use of realism by many of the larger game companies, it is generally what people see modern games as. This may not apply to those who actively participate in the indie scene, but for the casual consumer, games such as Call of Duty or FIFA come to mind when one mentions games. That means that when a game following a heavily stylized format gets revealed at a large event, where the competitors are going for realism, it will receive a good bit of praise

Realism

(Pro) Realism Sells

Though as we have seen with Minecraft, stylized games can sell and become very popular. but it’s fair to say it’s a great deal harder. When a company puts out a gameplay trailer for their new “next-gen graphics” there is a good chance that it will be quickly proclaimed the greatest thing since slice bread. This of course is a great example why realism is a third party norm. But all that hype doesn’t usually deliver quite the way people hope.

I was going to put the AC: Unity face glitch, but this is a bit less startling

(Con) Does not indicate quality

There have been a great many games that have had stunning graphics at their reveal, creating in turn a massive amount of hype for it’s release. The problem with hype is that if it doesn’t meet expectations, it’ll be seen as a large disappointment to audiences, thus cutting greatly into potential income. Though Watch Dogs is one of Ubisoft’s fastest selling games, imagine how much better it would’ve done if it met expectations (and didn’t scale back the specs)

(Pro) Drives hardware innovation

let’s face it, if games didn’t try to push hardware limitations, whether that be the predefined limits of consoles or the average specs of gaming PCs, then gaming will be going at a much slower rate. Stylized certainly drives hardware upgrades, though Minecraft is low on graphics the world generation can be a problem for casual computers, but it’s no where near at the speed that realism games push it. due to the nature of the style, they have to continually go bigger and bolder with each new iteration, else lost consumer interest. And I’m sure we all agree that that extra game processing is certainly nice.

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Though people will always have their sides and preferences, I think it’s fair to say that gaming wouldn’t be nearly as good if one didn’t exist.

Thanks For Reading!

Christopher Carpenter

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