Do Looks Matter?

The other day, I was given quite possibly THE best present I have ever received in my life. For my graduation, my mum bought me a Nintendo 64.

With eight games.

Including Goldeneye, Pokémon Stadium, and Mario Kart 64.

And it wasn’t just any old grey N64, oh no… it was one of these bad boys.

N64

Yes lad.

Naturally I was ecstatic, and recently I’ve spent the majority of my gaming time reliving some of the old classics. One thing that struck me was how bad these games actually looked. The hills in Mario Kart are nothing more than 2d green semicircles and the characters in Goldeneye… just wow. It’s unbelievable to see how far gaming has come graphically. My mind was blown when I booted up a copy of Bioshock as a comparison.

However, the question I want to discuss is… does it really matter? Do we really care that much about how a game looks? Or is the gameplay itself more important? Well, from what I gather, it seems to be totally a matter of taste. Some people refuse to look at Final Fantasy VII simply for its blocky sprites and rusty scenery, whereas others would rather play an unusual game lacking stunning graphics than the incredibly good-looking Call of Duty 4.

Portal

What Portal lacks in graphical beauty it makes up for in intriguing concept and gameplay.

When my friends and I first turned on the N64 and the Mario Kart main screen popped up, a warm sensation of nostalgia and joy washed over us. Anticipation grew as we selected from the eight available characters, fighting over who got to be Yoshi. But as the race started, we looked at each other and said, “I don’t remember it looking this bad… ” It’s true, back when the console was new and exciting we were enthralled by 3d graphics! We ignored the sharp edges of the characters’ blocky heads, we didn’t notice the crude strips of colour which were supposed to represent sky and grass, but most of all; it didn’t matter. It was fun. And it still is. The more you play such unsophisticated games, the better they look.

I mean, obviously, there’s a line. I realize that there are some games out there that are actually painful to look at. Some genres don’t need to be beautiful, strategy games for example, but I’d expect an RPG to be relatively pretty. Or at least bearable. But Dwarf Fortress just takes the piss. I couldn’t play that without getting a headache. I mean, look at it!

Dwarf Fortress

This just looks like someone’s been playing on MS Paint.

Again, maybe my aversion to this game due to its looks is unfair. Maybe if I invested some time I’d grow to enjoy it, and perhaps even find the graphics quirky and original.

Or, it would make me want to rip my eyes out.

Paperboy

This is what I used to play. Yes, I'm being serious.

But anyway, one thing that saddens me about all this is the new generation of gamers. Yes, I realize that makes me sound old, but I don’t care. Kids these days (ha!) are spoilt with the beauty of current gen graphics. When I was a kid, I was given a copy of Paperboy for the MegaDrive and fucking loved every minute of it. Give that to an eight year old today and he’d threaten to call Childline.

It’s sad that some people turn their noses up at older games. Final Fantasy VII looks terrible now, but it is still regarded as one of the best games of all time. Sometimes it’s good to go back to where it started. Whack out that NES. Play some Spyro on PS1 (back when it was good). Or do what I did: get some friends around, stick a fat cartridge into the dusty old N64, and have some fun. Oh, and involve alcohol. It becomes even more entertaining.