The Death of Graphics in Video Games?

If you visit a video game site, you’ll be struck by all the beautiful high-definition videos and photos that capture life-like moments. Turn on the TV and game ads will hit you in the face with their large explosions. Walk down the street and . . . you get the picture.

One might think that these ubiquitous fancy graphics and explosions are what defines video games. But you could be forgiven, if you looked only at advertising, for thinking that.

In case you didn’t know, popular games can have simple graphics.

“But wait,” one might say, “you’re talking about games that were popular. You’re talking about the old school.”

Not quite.

I can think of at least two popular indie games that have simple graphics. By indie game I mean a game not produced by a large studio, without a traditional publisher, and it doesn’t look like its mainstream counterparts.

One example of an indie game with simple “graphics” is Zach and Tarn Adams’ Dwarf Fortress. In Dwarf Fortress, a player controls a group of dwarves who try to build — you guessed it — a fortress and survive.

Better yet, check out the pop cultural heavyweight Minecraft. Will you fight monsters or just hit things with a stick all day? Well, you can do both of those things and more in the pixellated world of Minecraft.

Would you believe that these two games are making plenty of money? Of course, everyone knows Minecraft is a success. Microsoft also seems to love it and paid $2.5 billion for it. In addition, The New York Times says Tarn Adams earned $50, 000 from Dwarf Fortress in 2010. That’s not bad.

The Next Big Game?

So we know indie games with simple graphics can do well.

But I wonder what the next major indie game will do to stand out from the rest. I mean, and I say this somewhat facetiously, can developers keep out-doing each other in simplicity?

This would be like a tech striptease where eventually there will be nothing left to strip. Just a black or white box will remain on the TV screen, and maybe a contemporary art museum will mount it on a wall.

But maybe there’s one way to stand out from other games with simple graphics. A developer could make an old school text adventure. You know, the ones were you see nothing but text on the screen. I mean, you can’t get much simpler than only having text.

Also, it would be nice to see a game that focuses primarily on telling a deep story. We all like a good story.

Now, I like games with gorgeous art work and graphics. You probably do too, and that’s why so many games have stunning graphics. But who knows for sure what the next major indie game will look — or read — like?


Filed under Video Game Technology

4 responses to “The Death of Graphics in Video Games?

  1. Prof.mcstevie

    Graphics is far too large a term to say anything about. Lighting is part of the visuals, animation is part of the visuals. Good visuals paint a picture so beautifully when done right, the only issue is there is a lack of appreciation of all the extras that make an experience feel so alive. I haven’t seen a camera shot of a REALLY beautiful landscape in a game for ages.


    • Perhaps I should have defined graphics first. Let’s say they are a combination of several categories, such as lighting, animation, as you suggested, sharpness of visuals, etc. Can we not then look at games and compare them based on these categories?

      There are some popular games that have a simple appearance across all of these categories. Something like Dwarf Fortress is successful even though it may look, to our modern eyes, so simple based on these categories. I mean, can we really talk about “lighting” in that game?

      I think people like these games partly because they have such simple graphical quality across these categories. They look charmingly different. But I wonder how many games can use these simplistic graphics to distinguish themselves.

      How unique could games start looking… or reading in the future? This last question interests me in particular.

      Thanks for your comment :).


  2. Next, we will have a game where all you do is press the A button to breathe. It shall be called “The Breath of Life”.

    Liked by 1 person

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