Graphics vs. Imagination ... Who wins?

Let's talk tech. Better yet, let's talk about graphic technology and how all of us see it in relation to how it has improved or hindered the immersion of game playing over the years. Remember that I'm an old fart so you may need to use your imagination. Your imagination is what this editorial is really about.

Back in the old days of online gaming, if you can actually call it online, meant using your dial-up modem (usually something painfully slow like 300 or 1200 baud) to connect to someone who set up multiple modems to allow players to log in and play a text based game. It was a lot like the multi-person chat rooms of today with one window where you could talk with players and another where you could enter commands that the game would process and respond. I'm psyched, prepare to die evil doer.

The obvious difference was that as you were playing the game, everything was left to your imagination. If the game responded with, "You have drawn your sword." it was up to you to imagine what that sword looked like. You could imagine that it was a standard broadsword or something out of any fantasy realm you had ever seen or read about. My swords were always had a leather hilt, shining flawless steel that miraculously cleansed themselves after chopping open some monsters guts (which I imagined too), but that was just me.

Now let us jump forward in time, a little, to when we finally got some graphic capability in monitors and computers. With the advent of color monitors and more system memory, we started seeing games that game us both static and animated 2D images for our games. No longer did we have to imagine that sword as it was displayed for us in somewhat glorious graphics for us to behold. Unfortunately, the graphics sucked compared to today's standards and while we marveled at what computers could now do, we were still conjuring up all the details of our heroic battles in our minds. Farewell evil doer, but can you other baddies stop for a moment while I pull that still beating heart off my sword?

Now let's jump to the graphics of today. Even the mid-range cards of both NVIDIA and AMD will produce high resolution graphics that include shading, shadows, tessellation, various types of texture mapping, anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and a lot more. Today, the developer of a game can create models and textures to show us exactly what that sword looks like in all its glory. But is that really better? Do we really need to see our screens splattered with every little detail and nuance of what we've done?

I can't help but feel that in video games and movies, the current trend to spoon feed us with every little detail has supplanted, or at least attempted, to take from us the one thing that makes all entertainment great. Our imaginations. As a gamer, programmer and tech geek, I am thrilled by some of the imagery that is being released in modern titles, but it seems that the developers of the games have forgotten that what really makes an experience special is how we perceive it in our own minds.

No, I don't want to return to 2 bit graphics, but sometimes I miss the old days when the thrill of playing a game was not what it gave me in terms of graphics, but what how it left me to my own imagination to create the virtual world in which I was playing. As always, your comments are appreciated.

Sorry for being a little late with my editorial, I hope you all enjoyed your weekend.