Video game players are currently enjoying an era of unprecedented choice, from graphical-powerhouse AAA titles to simple, affecting indies representing a vast range of visual styles both original and harkening back to gaming’s earliest past. One common complaint about expensive, perennially popular studio hits like the Call of Duty franchise, however, is that for all their technical visual prowess, they manage to be less satisfying than simpler titles like FTL: Faster Than Light or Shovel Knight, leading many to question whether graphics are important at all in video games (or at least if they should always come in second to the underlying game design).
Granted, this either/or scenario of graphics vs. play is a bit of a false premise, since there are $100 million, wildly original graphical wonders and cheap, single-developer pixel-based indie titles as tired (and as inexplicably popular) as Flappy Bird. However, in his five-part YouTube series, Stuart Brown focuses his examination of video game history through the lens of games’ graphical development, from vector graphics through polygons and bloom, and how players and gaming tastes changed with each new leap forward in technology. Ultimately, he argues that aesthetics, more than power, are what truly matter about a game’s visuals, but the persuasiveness of his argument depends on the viewer.