Many hardcore gamers share the view that graphics should not be regarded higher than a game’s gameplay and that, in fact, a game’s gameplay is its most important aspect . Generally speaking, a gamer that feels otherwise is looked down upon by the rest of the gaming community. Graphics is indeed important – or at least, the presentability of a game’s graphics, seeing as I think even the PS1 era’s blocky-looking graphics are downright beautiful – but gameplay is certainly something of higher importance than a game’s graphical style or quality. After all, without gameplay, there’s no game. Obviously. Uh, usually.
Nothing is to be regarded higher than a game’s gameplay in most people’s book, but for me, this may not be the case. Oddly, I’ve come to realise that I may view charm either on par with or more important than a game’s gameplay. A colourful, bright or interesting looking game is something that instantly appeals to me; it’s likely half the reason that Rayman Origins was my favourite game of 2011.
Now, I’ve always been pretty vocal about how many modern games just don’t do it for me. I’m not just talking about the likes of Call of Duty – which despite getting a lot of stick for being pretty dull (which they are to me, don’t get me wrong) are very well-made games still – but also of other popular franchises that people unanimously agree are brilliant. Assassin’s Creed? Never played one. BioShock? Never played them. Batman Arkham games? Can’t get into them. They’re all legitimately great games and from a critical viewpoint I can recognise that, but I simply just can’t get into them, however much I try.
It even goes so far as to annoy people how ratty I can be about modern retail games. I’m unsure why I’ve got like this – perhaps because I find modern photo-realistic graphics to be rather dull, perhaps because getting into indie games in recent years has spoiled my perspective on gaming as a whole.
I own very few retail disc-based games on my PS3. I own the obvious ones like Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, but other than that I don’t have that many and not due to a lack of money either, but to lack of interest. Watching E3 and other gaming events, it’s peculiar not being able to get excited about many of the titles that virtually the whole of the gaming community unanimously rave about.
The PSN store though? That’s a whole other story; I’ve spent a God-awful amount of money on the PlayStation Store as there are a great deal of interesting, beautiful, creative games there. I can totally be bought over on charm of a game alone and this is apparent more-so with the PSN Store (and freeware PC indie titles) than anything else. For example, though the gameplay itself is nothing unique or remarkably interesting, I rushed to buy Arkedo Studio‘s (creators of ‘Hell Yeah!‘) games PIXEL! and JUMP! when I saw them on the store. They’re gorgeous, bright, colourful looking games that are almost literally bursting with charm and are totally what HD TV’s were made for. Seriously, check out Arkedo’s PIXEL! game on the store if you own a PS3; at under £2 it’s a feast for your eyes and a wonderfully charming game, even if the gameplay is nothing hugely unique. I’d happily own these games over the likes of Skyrim any day.
That’s not to say charm can’t go hand-in-hand with great, unique gameplay – in fact, it very often does. Just look at Double Fine‘s ‘Stacking‘, for example; a gorgeous-looking, charming and wonderfully original game and totally worth anyone’s time and money.
And charm to me isn’t always necessarily at all graphic related – a game can have charm in other aspects (such as a concept, soundtrack, message or story, so long as it’s not overly arty or pretentious), but the game generally needs to presentable in whatever graphical style it uses. And I’d much rather play a charming, interesting 10-minute long game than a dull-looking 10-hour long game. Indie title ‘Hero’s Adventure‘ (from VVVVVV‘s Terry Cavanagh) is a reasonable example of this; a very short but interesting game with very little gameplay. Even with its incredible length and virtually non-existent replayability, were it to be available for PSN, I’d likely be willing to pay a small fee for it.
Perhaps I’m just being pretentious, arrogant and picky, perhaps I’ll feel stupid about this in a week and perhaps playing thousands of indie games has changed my view on the gaming industry as a whole, but you’ll always find me getting more excited over games like The Puppeteer coming out than something like a new Uncharted game.