Fear And Acceptance – I Got My High-Def TV

To the disappointment of my friend Matt, I received a high-definition TV for my birthday two weeks ago. And I, a staunch defender of the wisdom of gamers not rushing to upgrade their standard definition TVs, can now see for myself what’s really good — and what’s not so good — about gaming on a 40-inch LCD.

Would anyone mind if I interview myself about this topic?

That way I can explain why I still think switching to HD is overrated, even if it has its benefits.

Self, were you wrong when you told so many people these last couple of years that it was okay to play PS3 and Xbox 360 games on a boxy standard-definition TV? Was there actually a good reason to get a high-definition TV to play video games on?

Me: Sure, the games look nicer. But as Epic’s own Mark Rein told me last year, after I complimented him on how good his studio’s “Gears of War” looked on my 29-inch standard-definition TV, high-def TV’s weren’t really that important for showing how good today’s games can look. Where they do help, as he had told me, is in enabling a really big screen to still display crisp graphics. Otherwise, I’ve been seeing gaming’s graphical advances clearly through my old TV for years. “Gears,” “MotorStorm,” “Metal Gear Solid IV” and “Grand Theft Auto IV” all looked phenomenal on my old set. Only their in-game text, optimized for high-def and therefore blurry on my 29-inch, looked bad.

But surely some games look better now on your HD TV?

Had my new TV’s screen been essentially the same size as my old set — rather than almost double it — I don’t think the cost of upgrading TVs would have been worth it.

Me: “Super Stardust HD” does. I can see the detail on the game’s playing field (the big planet) better. “Geometry Wars 2” does. I can see the line-work on each enemy. And, in “Burnout Paradise” I can finally read the text easily and see which friends’ scores I can top. But, speaking of “Burnout,” it already looked amazing when viewed via my old set-up of SD TV and a rudimentary composite-cable (red-yellow-white). I didn’t need an HD set for it to look better, just bigger. Had my new TV’s screen been essentially the same size as my old set — rather than almost double it — I don’t think the cost of upgrading TVs would have been worth it.

Ridiculous. Next thing you’re going to say is that some games look worse on your high-def TV.

Me: You read my mind! “Mercenaries 2” looks worse. Sure, it’s crisper and bigger now that I’m looking at it in 720P on a huge widescreen TV, but video game graphics are still somewhat primitive constructs. All that added clarity and sharpness of picture makes the world of “Mercenaries 2” look fake. A little graininess that the game had in standard definition on my old set has been wiped away, like the dust and haze of atmosphere and light has been evaporated. It’s like I’m viewing a movie set in the wrong conditions. The lighting is off and I can tell those boulders, cars and trees are just props.

Okay, okay. You’re just trying to be consistent. You don’t want to let people like Matt down now that you’ve joined the global elite of HD-owners. Do you want to complain about how bad Wii games look on your TV? That’s something you were worried about, right?

Any Wii owners afraid of switching to HD need not be concerned. The games hold up.

Me: I was indeed worried that Wii games would look bad when stretched out onto a big HD set. But I was wrong. One week ago, I paid $35 for a component cable and plugged my Wii into my HD TV. The results were surprisingly good. A hand-drawn side-scroller like “Wario Land: Shake It” still looked attractive. Some of the text had rough, aliased edges, but the picture held up far, far better than the standard-definition cable signal for the “Daily Show” or ESPN sports programming that Time Warner Cable is channeling to my new set. I’m a big fan of the art direction in the “Metroid Prime” games, but I was certain it wouldn’t compensate for the low resolution of the Wii version’s graphics when viewed on my new TV. I was wrong. While the graphics do have jagged edges and the relative lack of detail in the game’s environments, as compared to Liberty City in “GTA IV,” is apparent, the art direction still shines through and tells my brain that: this game still looks great. Any Wii owners afraid of switching to HD need not be concerned. The games hold up.


Are you at least glad you made the switch? Are you happy?

Me: Yes, I’m very glad. Some games look better — mostly, ironically, the non-3D ones. The Wii games I thought wouldn’t hold up are holding up. I’m a little worried that that “Mercenaries 2” phenomenon will continue and that the artificiality of game graphics will be more apparent to me now. But that’s not much a price to pay.

None at all, considering you didn’t pay for your new TV.

Me: Indeed. My wife got me a great gift. And now I don’t need to get fired (as some said I did). I’m in the HD era!

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