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Beautiful simplicity

Michael Abbott writes:

"I've been reflecting on this notion of beautiful simplicity a lot lately, provoked by a minor convergence of events: the lively response to my post about Spore; my own experience with the game as I continue to progress through it; and Leigh Alexander's most recent post which questions game reviewers' assumptions about complexity and depth. Here's a snippet from that essay:

I have noticed lately that the primary reason some major titles -- Spore, for example -- have suffered in reviews is because they lack complexity in certain areas of the design; "complexity" is often substituted for "depth."... I wonder, from what perspective are reviewers judging complexity, in the broader sense? Are we talking about controls, the sophistication of the game mechanics, the game's length, its plot, characters, what? ... It's got me wondering -- why has simplicity become a dirty word, and why does an absence of complexity seem to translate automatically, in reviews, to a lack of depth?

I remember with some fondness a time when many of the very best computer games could be described as exercises in unintuitive complexity. These games were often brutally difficult, not because the core gameplay was too hard, but because the interface or navigation tools or feedback system (or all of these) were baroque by today's standards. I have a big soft spot in my heart for Nethack, but have to say I'm not pining for the days of its termcap interface and keyboard map."

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