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The Graphics Debate - Who's Really To Blame?

by Andrew Gonzalez

One of the editorial topics that's piqued my interest the most is the debate about the advancement in graphics (which, by obvious extension, includes FMVs as well). The Old Schoolers seem to believe that increased graphical quality is sending the genre to hell in a handbasket, because the game makers focus on it too much to draw consumers, that it detracts from the actual fun of the game and causes many gamers to hold the graphics as the focus instead. The New Schoolers think that graphics and FMV's on games such as Final Fantasy VIII are the greatest thing since sliced bread and truly enhance the RPGaming experience rather than detract from it. I myself am a sort of old/new schooler hybrid. Though my RPG scope does not expand beyond Square (something I've been meaning to change), I know what both the old and new schoolers are talking about. I've been playing since FF1, and I still love FF games up to 8. My up-front viewpoint is that advanced graphics are a good thing, that they enhance RPGaming, and that their use should continue. However, fun is still the most important aspect of an RPG (or any game, for that matter), and I view FMVs and eye candy as neat bonuses, not the sole reason for the game's existence. Because FF8 often ends up at the center of this debate, I will use it to explain my views.

Many editorials seemed to state that FF8 was appreciated by many only for its graphics, and that it was not very fun. I personally enjoyed FF8 immensely from start to finish. Not because of the FMV's spread throughout, but because it was a lot of fun. I thought that the FMV's were merely a nice bonus, that they were integrated very well and really enhanced the experience of the story. I did not play the game "just to get from one FMV to the next", as some seemed to think was the purpose of the game. However, there were likely many who played the game for that reason. Does that mean that advanced graphics are bad and should be abandoned? Not at all. To say that would be to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There are those who play the games only to take in the eye candy, but that is not the fault of the developers - it is the fault of the people who have lost the true reason that video games are played. To explain my logic, I'll quote Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that...neither height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul shows that no *external* forces can separate a follower of Christ from his love, yet he does not mention sins, or *internal* forces, which can cause that separation. Analagously, no matter how many flashy graphics scenes devleopers put in FF8, there is still lots of fun to be had. However, if you yourself, the gamer, expect nothing but flashy graphics in a game and don't get them, and consequently end up hating the game, you have only yourself to blame. I played FF5 for the first time right after I made a second trek through FF8. Did I bitch because FF5's graphics were far less detailed that FF8's? Not at all. I played FF5 for its entertainment value, and I played FF8 for its entertainment value. However, if another gamer were to immediately dismiss FF5 for that reason and lose sight of the real reason for playing the game, it is his fault and his fault alone.

Secondly, the technology to make those graphics and FMVs is there - so why let it lie dormant, especially if it enhances the game? For example, there is no way that Squall and Rinoa's embrace at the Sorceress Memorial would have been as moving with 2D sprites, and there is no way that the ending would have been such an effective way of wrapping up the game, especially in conjuction with the opening sequence. Plot is an essential element in an RPG, and the FMV in FF8 did a great job in conveying important emotions and subtlties. For instance, in the opening FMV, we see the flower field with the words "I promise". We also see the feather float away and turn into Squall's gunblade. The significance of this becomes very clear in the ending, when Rinoa finds Squall in the parched wasteland, which then turns into that flower field from the beginning of the game. Plot, that all-important element, is enhanced greatly by FMV, yet some are quick to say that FMV is the devil. It is not that at all.

Perhaps you agree totally, that my experience in both old and new school helped provide as objective an opinion as possible (which is what I hoped to accomplish with this editiorial). Perhaps you think I'm an idiot, that I understand and sympathize somewhat with both sides, but not enough of either. I'm expecting quite a bit of feedback (at Vegeta614@dbzmail.com), and I welcome it because I want to know what you think. Thanks for listening. :-)

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