Are Modern Games Really That Much Better?

Are Modern Games Really That Much Better?

Recently I read an article on SAPPHIRE NATION titled: “Why Modern Games Are Better”. It was a really enjoyable read and made some good points. However, as an old school computer gamer, my take is a bit different compared to the ideas presented by the author. So I really wanted to offer a different point of view!

I started computer gaming in 1977 and have never stopped. It is a massive part of my life and a true passion. Perhaps even more than that, a CALLING! I am one of the few gamers who have been active since the beginning and are still hyper active now.

I was given an opportunity to share my experiences at QuakeCON 2018, where I was invited to be part of a panel on 40+ Years of Computer Gaming. During this panel I took time for a Q&A and the very first question was: what was it about gaming that I thought had changed for the worst. I felt my response was relevant and pretty well the opposite of the article posted on SAPPHIRE Nation about modern games being better.

The first point from that article that came to mind was the massive increase in graphic quality you get with modern games. Games look better today. Wait a second, I can hear your confusion already – games looking better is good, right? Well, it should be, but there is a truth that most old school gamers know: the improved graphics we have today have actually become a crutch for developers.

Back in the day, games relied on great game mechanics and just being fun. Today’s games often leave out depth, good mechanics, or even just fun, but will tell you about how great they look and how amazing their new graphics technology is. Graphics are not and should not be the only thing that makes a great game.

In fact, looking at most modern titles, some of the best games are not that great from a graphical perspective. Games like Minecraft, LOL, Overwatch and many more are not what any would consider graphics intensive. Many of these games look good, but they are not pushing the edges of the graphical envelope. Yet they are at the top of the charts, because they are FUN.

Graphics have improved, no doubt, but that has not in and of itself led to better games. The best games still rely mostly on great design, not high-end graphics.

The next segment of the article was focused on how gaming is better due to higher frame rates. This is at least partially true. Higher frame rates have allowed for smoother gameplay, but the higher frame rates are not the real reason our gameplay looks great.

Way too often people get caught up in how high the frame rates can go; the truth is smooth gameplay is less about high frame rates and instead about consistent frame rates. A steady, not constantly fluctuating frame rate ensures the best possible experience. Furthermore, higher frame rates are not due to better games but rather better hardware. Modern game design is not why frame rates are higher, better GPU designs and drivers are why we see this advancement.

Finally, we come to post launch support. There is no doubt that the internet has offered us the amazing opportunity to get game patches more quickly and easily. However, it should be noted that older games required patches at a much lower rate, if at all. The early days of gaming saw games released with a much more polished design, seldom in need of large patches. Today that easy of post-launch support is not used to making gaming better but again as a crutch for game developers to push products out the door quicker and then fix it after the fact.

As someone that has been with gaming for so long I can tell you that many modern games are amazing, but to say modern gaming as a whole is better than early gaming is incorrect. On the other side of the coin, saying that older gaming was better than modern gaming is also incorrect.

The big area where modern gaming has excelled is potential for depth. Older hardware could not handle the various tweaks we now see in AI, open worlds, and massive amounts of immersive content. This has been facilitated by modern hardware offering programmers more options.

A few of the modern programmers do see this and understand that modern technology cannot replace good, simple fun; and in the end that is what gaming is all about. For all our realistic graphical capability, the best games in the industry are some of the most simplistic. FUN is the one thing that binds all gamers, past, present and future. We cannot and should not let neat tech tricks replace that as the single most important aspect of gaming.

You can have a beautiful game, one that offers amazing frame rates and you provide dozens of patches for it, however if it is not fun then as a game, it is a failure. That is the lesson modern gaming needs to learn from the past.

Edward Crisler
Edward is the definition of an “old school” gamer, playing computer games as far back at 1977. He hosted a tech talk show for 20 years and is now the North America PR Representative for SAPPHIRE as well as SAPPHIRE’s unofficial gaming evangelist. You can follow him on Twitter @EdCrisler.




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