Cervat Yeril is the boss at Crytek – makers of the Crysis series. There was an interview posted by X360 magazine where Yeril says that graphics are, essentially, the most important part of a video game. X360, which claims Yeril is saying that graphics are 60% of the game, slightly misrepresented Yeril in my opinion. However, it doesn’t change the core message that Yeril was trying to get across – which is that graphics are the most important part of a video game. The direct quote is:
People say that graphics don’t matter, but play Crysis and tell me they don’t matter. It’s always been about graphics driving gameplay. […] The better the graphics, the better the physics, the better the sound design, the better the technical assets and production values are – paired with the art direction, making things look spectacular and stylistic is 60 per cent of the game.
Yeril says that graphics drive video games and that they are the most important aspect in creating immersion. Yeril says:
Graphics, whether it’s lighting or shadows, puts you in a different emotional context and drives the immersion.
And immersion is effectively the number one thing we can use to help you buy into the world.
However, Yeril seems to be missing something and there isn’t any data to truly back up what Yeril is saying.
There are a lot of key factors to becoming immersed. One of them is a willingness to suspend belief. Any video game player, book reader, movie watcher, and television watcher should know that when you want to immerse yourself in something then you need to have a willingness to suspend your disbelief throughout the experience, otherwise all you will do is ruin the experience and immersion.
Even with that Yeril claims that things like “the better the physics…sound design…technical assets and production values are – paired with art direction… is 60 per cent of the game.”
Besides leaving out a willingness of the audience to be immersed here are some things that Yeril completely leaves out – story, characters, and voice acting (which falls outside of sound design) are all left out. There are many other areas which contribute to a game overall and these are just a few of them.
Naughty Dog studios, in its want to succeed in creating immersive gameplay for their game series Uncharted, focused on voice acting and believable characters. They characters and voice acting was considered the best of its time and better than any before it. Crystal Dynamics did the same thing for their Tomb Raider release. Irrational Games focused on story-telling and character interaction to tell the story of BioShock Infinite. Uncharted and Tomb Raider have fantastic games (just google Lara Croft Hair and you’ll see what I’m talking about), but BioShock Infinite’s graphics, while smooth and polished, are not the most realistic graphics I’ve ever seen. But BioShock Infinite didn’t need graphics, or even the best physics engine, to create immersion because it was done through story-telling and character interaction. In other words – these games have great immersion and don’t focus on solely on graphics for creating immersion, as Yeril would seem to imply is necessary.
Two other quick games that immerse and create amazing gameplay – Journey and Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. While Wind Waker is obviously dated at this point the graphics, even for its time, were not realistic. They were never intended to be realistic either. Journey falls in the same category. Wind Waker created immersion through story telling and through interesting people. Journey had no dialogue, had abstract graphics, and yet did a better job of immersing me than many AAA games.
What’s the point of this? Immersion cannot be boiled down to graphics, physics, or the environment alone. Books create immersion without any visuals at all. I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost myself in books. But again, you cannot create immersion only with focus on things like character interaction or storyline. Games, as interactive media, rely on an interworking of everything. Immersion in games needs to be understood holistically – that means with attention to sound, story, characters, graphics, gameplay, physics engine, and everything else that goes into a game and not just looking at the visuals that go into a game.
In all Yeril is attempting to boil down a highly complex idea – the creation of immersion in video games – to a very simplistic and very narrow idea of how to achieve it. While some may be looking for that experience (I’ve met many of them) I feel pigeon-holed by his statements. It’s like Yeril thinks he knows what’s best for me and what I want as a gamer and, most importantly, if I disagree with him apparently I’m wrong and don’t know what I want.
Make what you want Yeril. Be proud of it. But in the end, don’t tell me I’m wrong because I disagree with you. Because then you’re just being an asshole.