For the longest time in gaming, developers and publishers primarily focused on resolution and visual fidelity over FPS as the markers for progress. Each new generation of gaming would introduce prettier visuals and a better resolution, improving immersion and the visual spectacle of playing video games.
In the past few years there has been a noticeable change in the way developers approach development. While visual fidelity still remains a key focus, it would appear more developers are focusing on the importance of performance. We will often see developers discussing an upcoming game and specifically talk about how many frames a second it runs at.
The PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S and the Series X all offer games the ability to run games at up to 120 frames per second, showing how important it is to both developers and the players. Even PC gamers have better access to high-frame gaming now. As the cost of equipment goes down with each new generation, and with high-refresh rate monitors falling in price, more and more gamers are playing at 60, 144 and even 240 fps a second.
What are frames per second?
To understand why a better frame rate might make you a better gamer, you will need to understand what frames per second (FPS) means. FPS is a measurement of how many frames of visual information are sent to the screen in any one second. 60fps means there are 60 images shown in any one second of gaming time.
Developers typically aim for one of two FPS speeds in gaming, 30 or 60fps. Up until this current generation of gaming, 30fps has been the most common speed - although there are exceptions. With the release of the latest generation, more developers seem to be targeting 60fps. When they can't , many at least try to include some sort of performance mode that tries to produce an image close to that.
How does FPS affect gameplay?
This is a bit of a contested topic, as there are some gamers who say they can’t discern between 30fps and 60fps gameplay. It’s only when you see the two side-by-side that you can really notice the difference. This video below from YouTube account WolfGang shows the different frame speeds side-by-side in a number of games.
Visually, a higher FPS will provide a much smoother image. Animations and character movement will feel more realistic, and less like you are watching a video game. In order to take advantage of those additional frames, you'll need a high-refresh rate monitor.
In terms of feel, the experience feels much more responsive at a higher framerate. The higher your FPS is, the more information there is being fed back to you via the screen. This is especially noticeable in games which provide lots of visual feedback or which require faster reactions.
Will it make me a better gamer?
Truthfully, it depends on a number of things. You can’t go and buy a high-end PC and high-refresh rate monitor and suddenly expect to be an Esports level player. It just doesn’t work like that unfortunately.
What you can expect though is a noticeable improvement when playing certain online games. If you’re into playing titles like Valorant, Counter-Strike or Apex Legends, you could expect to see an improvement. It will be most noticeable in your reaction times while playing at a higher FPS. Higher frames can sometimes even let you see an enemy before they see you. We are talking about milliseconds here, but it can sometimes be enough to provide the edge needed.
The competitive gaming scene is built around low-latency, high-frame gaming. This is why many professional players will turn down all visual settings, ensuring the maximum number of frames. Professional players will practise to the point that they can take advantage of those additional frames. Proving it truly can make a difference.
One genre where FPS is king has always been fighting games. In a game where split-seconds inputs can mean the difference between winning and defeat, having those additional frames available is absolutely vital. This is why it comes as no surprise that fighting games have always targeted 60fps gameplay, even as far back as the arcade days.
Running games at a higher frame count won’t suddenly have you accomplishing no-hit Dark Souls runs, but it can provide a marginal improvement to your reaction times in online gaming. It does rely on other elements though, such as a suitable high-refresh rate monitor and having the power to play consistently at higher frames while in online play.