548 The Simplicity Complexity Scale, Vol. 1

by Foster Douglas on July 1, 2016

Every game lands somewhere on this scale, whether they know it or not. in Vol. 1, we’ll first define the terms Simplicity and Complexity in order to get a solid framework for the scale. In future volumes, we’ll illustrate some examples of it and analyze its importance in game design.

To start our definition of these two terms, let’s first determine what these two things are not. Simplicity isn’t a moniker for “easy,” “minimal,” “boring,” “bland,” and so on. The scale is defining the game design specifically, not any of the resulting reactions or emotions the player has while playing. And so likewise, Complexity does not mean “difficult,” “complicated,” or “obtuse.” We’re talking here about the core of the game’s interactivity and design only, a (hopefully) purposeful choice by the designers and developers.

These are hard terms to define in this context without forcing them into little perfectly labeled boxes. One measure that I like to consider that contributes to a game’s S/C is its learnability. This can mean a lot of things, whether it comes from the game’s interface design, a well-made tutorial, smart typography or color usage, and so on. Whether something is easily learnable isn’t inherently a positive thing though, there are countless examples of games that are extremely Complex (and so as a result are more difficult to learn) but are wonderfully satisfying to play once learned. Conversely, there are games that let us jump into them with an immediate understanding of the system’s Simplicity, and those can be just as valuable of experiences.

To be clear, this is not a scale of “difficulty.” One cannot simply slap Easy, Normal, and Hard options on their game to achieve a full range of the S/C scale. Difficulty and Simplicity/Complexity may sometimes be correlated, but the two are not causal.

So which is better? Well, everything in life should be in balance, right? Maybe not necessarily in this case, though. Often a game should very deliberately consider its intended audience to best tailor its game’s design on the S/C scale. We’ll talk about some specific examples of all of this in the upcoming Vol. 2!

[ Today I Was Playing: Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited ]

#game-opinion, #game-theory