My video card took up archaeology again, by which I mean it started displaying artifacts. I decided not to try baking it this time, because I didn't trust it anymore. So I bought a new one. My more-knowledgeable friend convinced me to buy a 1gb card that cost around $120. I had been leaning toward that $40 ones, but he used a very convincing argument, answering "yes" when I asked "if I bought this would you think I am stupid?" So now I have what may or may not be a totally badass video card. I'm leaning toward "sorta cool, but let's not get too excited about it" range. But it's still significantly better than the 256mb 8600 gts I was using before it got baked.
I did the only logical thing: I started up the games I've been playing lately, Civ V and Fallout 3, and jacked up the graphics to maximum. Everything is so damn pretty. It should be bursting into song, it looks so good. I cannot believe how good the water looks, how the light and shadows interact to produce works of art, shifting as I walk, shimmering in the smoke and flames. It is a sight to behold.
I can't honestly say it's all that much more fun. It looks nicer, but the gameplay is unchanged. The annoying bits are still annoying and the fun bits are as fun as they were before.
Only on occasion does the game change substantially, in low-light areas in which a loss of detail can mean a total loss of vision, unless of course I bump up the brightness. Atmospherically I can't say it's all that much better, except possibly in the case of Stalker, in which I'd turned off all grass and turned down the visual distance. Ironically, that may have been the better setting, since now the ground is covered in grass. It doesn't feel quite so much like a dead and twisted landscape, seeming more like a run-down neighborhood on a flat land, with slightly more guns than I'm used to. In other words, it went from post-apocalyptic Ukraine to Texas. Though the Ukrainian accent is easier to understand.
The lack of effect is even more noticeable in WoW, which was never known for it's high-end graphics, and which seems to just gain slightly prettier grass and surprisingly good water effects. But at the risk of repeating myself, this is a good thing for WoW. Hardware accessibility is underrated.