How We Play Games… (Part 1) [Performance]

Music.

My dad is a bit of a music enthusiast. I’ve often heard him tell an anecdote of how unfortunate the human experience of a high-quality sound system is. The line goes a bit like this: Essentially, a person could listen to a beat up old alarm clock radio for their entire lives, and never know that the system is ‘bad.’ On the contrary, they would more than likely assume that it is ‘good.’ However, if that same person were to be exposed to higher-quality system for any extended length of time, they would not necessary be ‘impressed’ by that high-quality system while hearing it. On the contrary the affect is that the person can no longer listen to their alarm clock radio without the impression that it is ‘bad’ or in some way ‘inferior’ to what they are used to.

Better music.

I tend to agree with my dad on that front. Granted, I’m not much of a music-fanatic – but I have a tendency to be off-put by laptop speakers and poor car systems, after being brought up in a house that had a higher (though I imagine not ‘highest’) quality sound system in it.

My dad’s anecdote came to mind recently because I was able to finally get my gaming rig set up this weekend. Recently, the gaming that I’ve been doing has been done on the laptop I got for school. It’s a good machine [my laptop] but it can’t compare to the desktop I built myself for the purpose of playing competitive-level WoW.

Fortunately, my experience of my gaming rigs is actually quite the opposite from my father’s music experience.

I hardly noticed the inferiority of my laptop while gaming. There were times where I got slightly frustrated with the frame rate (in particular the time I foolishly opted to play SWOTR while my computer was running a virus scan), and I also became slightly frustrated with my laptop’s unfathomable design that on occasion will register the bottom of my palms resting below the keyboard as a 3rd mouse-click.

Aside from those minor set-backs though, I was pleased. Then I hooked up my gaming rig.

The difference was not only immediately noticeable, but also made my gaming experience that much more enjoyable. Playing some of the games I had tried on my laptop, where parts of the game seemed a bit choppy on my laptop, they instantly seemed that much smoother.

It looks prettier too

I can’t help but feel that this way that we experience games has given rise (at least in part) to mobile gaming. Our phones are getting better all the time – BUT – a phone cannot compete with a desktop in the area of performance. But here’s the thing – we don’t really mind. If you can get a game to chug along well enough that the experience of the user doesn’t noticeably suffer, the ‘fun’ or ‘engagement’ of the user is the only thing on their mind. The result is that we can play a game on our phones or our DS’s – or even our old consoles and still enjoy them without thinking immediately “I can’t believe how bad this is.”

That’s not to say that old games don’t always feel ‘old.’ They often do, but I would suggest this is due more to dated User Interfaces than to decreased performance. As an example, take Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis (one of my personal favorites). There is minimal ‘user interface’ that exists in this game. You never (that I can recall) have to choose options from a menu, and the only commands you can give Sonic are: “run this way”, “run that way”, “jump”, “duck”, “look up”, and “spin”. I can still play this game and be entirely engaged. The game runs smoothly and I never feel like I’m “wrestling the UI” to play the game.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Awesomeness.

On the other hand, take the original Fallout. I bought this game about a year ago on a sale from Steam. I couldn’t wait to play this game. I WANTED very badly to like it. Unfortunately, the game (originally released in 1997) had aged very poorly. After the first hour, I felt myself wrestling so hard with the dated user interface that not only was I not having fun, I just didn’t want to play the game after it’s first hour.

Fallout

This UI just doesn’t work for me…

That’s my take on general performance in games: better performance is a plus, but poor performance (provided it isn’t so poor that it affects the gameplay) doesn’t hurt. The real thing that matters to the gamer is the content of your game as well as how they experience (the user interface) that gameplay.

Continuing on the theme of human experience of games, tomorrow I want to investigate the time spent on games, as well as the gaming habits we as humans develop.

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About Pantherra

Computer Science student with a desire for a career in Game Development or Software Engineering.
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