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Video Game Frame Rate Explained (FPS)

Over the last few years there has been a huge obsession with making games run at 60FPS, but there isn’t a whole lot from the games perspective to explain what it is. What does FPS mean and why is frame rate important for video games. In this guide I will explain what a frame rate is and how it effects video games.

What Is FPS?

I guess this is the most common question to start the topic with. FPS stands for Frames Per Second. It essentially means the amount of images that are displayed in a second in order to build a video. To give a simple example, take it back to the days where movies were stored on film reels. A reel is made up of loads of pictures that make up a video. Each picture will progress the video a little further. Back in the days of film reels, FPS would be partially controlled by how fast the reel was spinning, but would also need to be controlled by how many pictures the source camera was taking in 1 second. For example, if you took 4 pictures of a boat moving across the water over the space of 1 minute and played all 4 in 1 second, it would essentially be 4FPS, but it would not be smooth and would look sped up. So FPS is not only the number of frames per second that are displayed on the TV, but it is also down to the number of frames per second that can be recorded. Video games are obviously not recorded in advance, but this is where the process comes from.

With video games, it is about how many frames the system can generate in one second. Think back to when you drew stick men on the edge of your paper notepad. The more pages you used, the smoother the animation looked. Digital video is the same. A higher FPS will result in a smoother video experience, but since these frames are generated on in real time, you need to have enough power in the GPU to allow for enough frames to be generated in the first place.

Why Is Frame Rate Important In a Game?

Lets say you are playing a game where your character has a sword that is used to kill enemies. When you press the action button on the controller to perform an attack, a swing of the sword takes 2 seconds from start to finish. If you are running at 10 FPS there will be a total of 20 images that make up the animation. This will mean the video will look choppy and bad. More frames, make for a smoother gameplay experience. A high frame rate means that every moment of the animation gets rendered on the screen for the user to see. Lower frame rates mean that some of the animation can get missed and make the experience choppy and feel like slow motion.

A more simple example might be a side scroller where the character runs from left to right. If you have 3 frames, one at the start one at 50% across the screen and another at the end, the animation will look like the character is teleporting. More frames will fill in the gaps.

Can Humans See 60FPS?

This is treading on dangerous ground. Some say that the human eye can’t see past the region of 40FPS meaning that 60FPS is pointless. No one really knows for sure and I sure as hell don’t have the answer. All i know for sure is that 2 games, one 30FPS and one 60FPS the difference is very much noticeable.