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Complexity Killed the Game- Why Simple is Often Best

The old saying “curiosity killed the cat” might be true in everyday life, but when it comes to the tech world and gaming the more accurate expression is: “Complexity killed the cat”. Although software developers are creative souls with a passion for intricate storylines and detail, the reality is that a game with too many moving parts can bomb.


FlickrFriday: Keep it Simple.” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by elPadawan

For example, there’s no denying that Mass Effect 2 and Alien: Isolation were extremely impressive games from a technical and aesthetic perspective. However, when it comes to video sequences, missions and auxiliary options, the average player was often left scratching their head. Indeed, as user and gamer “jlucio” pointed out in a forum post: “they had lots of useless info”.

This “useless info” left “jlucio” feeling that “games these days are too complicated” and that classics such as the original Tomb Raider were “much simpler but equally hard.” Essentially, what we have here is a case of modern gamers wanting a more direct approach from software developers. Fortunately, that’s something we’re now starting to see in the mobile gaming arena. Simple premises are often the most engaging and players appear to be welcoming a return to this ideal with open arms.

iGaming Gives Classic Concepts a Subtle Tweak


Indie Slot Machine” (CC BY 2.0) by Knothingz

For example, when we look towards mobile iGaming, apps now contribute to a large portion of the industry’s $41 billion value. Taking tried-and-tested casino games and giving them a subtle tweak seems to be working wonders for the leading operators.

Indeed, on the one hand you’ve got reworked versions of classic games like Rocket Bowl inside In this case, Bonus Bowling allows players to fling balls down the lane and win prizes based on the number of pins they knock down. Similarly, at a site like Caesars Casino the Monopoly board game has been transformed into a 5-reel, 20-line slot machine.

However, it’s not just the re-imagining of classic games where the virtual casino industry has found beauty in simplicity. Inside 32Red players will not only find more than 350 games (282 of which are slots), but also some subtle twists on old ideas. One of the most popular slots inside the 32Red mobile casino site at the moment is Terminator 2. Aside from offering six-figure jackpots and 243 ways to win, the game is simple to play. Much like the one-arm bandits you’d find in bars around the world, it only involves two moves: insert some credits and pull the lever. For operators like 32Red, this tried-and-tested format is all they really need to engage players. Overcomplicating the process with a myriad of levels, in-game options and unclear rules would kill the core aspect of the game and, therefore, its appeal.

Naturally, to ensure modern audiences are attracted to what is essentially a classic game (i.e.  a slot machine), the developer, Microgaming, has made subtle improvements over the years. Indeed, when you compare the 2016 game to early online slots, you’ll now find a lot more visual effects. Thanks to licensing deals, games like Terminator 2 can use video clips from the movie to create a more entertaining product that doesn’t affect the overall flow of the game.

Don’t Stray Too Far from Our Competitive Desires

Competition” (CC BY 2.0) by ChrisL_AK

If we move beyond the iGaming industry, probably the most obvious example of a mobile gaming striking the right chord between simplicity and entertainment is Angry Birds. Rovio Entertainment’s original game was released in 2009 and inspired by puzzle games such as Crush the Castle. Thanks to its sketch-style aesthetics and a single aim – knock down the angry birds – it has become one of the most popular mobile games of all time.

Today, with more than 12 million downloads from the iOS store alone, the Angry Birds franchise is worth well in excess of $150 million. Why? Well, the answer is easy: it’s simple! Although modern devices are more powerful and, therefore, capable of running highly complex games, the fact remains that we love something that’s easy to grasp yet tricky to master. When you look back at games like Pong or Space Invaders, the reason these games were a hit is because their core idea was engaging and appealing to our competitive sides.

Looks Aren’t Everything

Modern games often obscure the fundamental goal of a game which then results in players losing touch with the competitive aspect they crave. Yes, the new Mass Effect might be set to look fantastic when it’s released, but each time a player is forced to complete an obscure mini-mission it distracts them from their main objective.

In contrast, Terminator 2 and Angry Birds stick to the basics so that the players don’t ever stray too far from the main aim of the game. In essence, complexity means too much gets lost in translation and when this happens players tend to switch off. However, when the message is clear and the environment is beautifully simple, it’s easy to see why players are more willing to play time and time again.

Carl Williams

It is time gaming journalism takes its rightful place as proper sources and not fanboys giving free advertising. If you wish to support writers like Carl please use the links below.

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