This article was published on: 4/9/2010
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The concept of simplicity is something that is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world. As technology advances exponentially our minds are preoccupied with more and more information. So it’s increasingly imperative that when you have people’s attention, your message is clear and concise. The tolerance for mixed messaging is diminishing rapidly in our society. If you’re introducing something new to the public i.e. a new brand or franchise you better make damn sure you know what it is and what it stands for.
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful. [..]The simplest way of achieving simplicity is through thoughtful reduction”.
Fully aware that I’ve thrown a lot of quotes out there I’ll say in my defence that all of them emphasise the point that when we talk about simplicity, it’s about a process. Simplicity without thoughtful process leads to the label of ‘simple’ but in the derogatory sense. It’s an important distinction to make.
In my experience of developing games nothing is more important than iteration. It’s a process of distillation much like a fine whisky. There is no room for preciousness or an unhealthy sense of clinginess to ideas and designs. As a designer you have to root yourself deep in the player’s mindset and understand their intentions when playing your game. What can you strip away to purify the experience for them? The experience is king and removing boundaries to get to what is meaningful is critical, as is deciding which to keep, to accentuate meaning. As Einstein said: “as simple as possible, but not simpler”.
Of course understanding player intent and what is meaningful to the game experience means understanding what the core function or brief of your game design is. With a strong central pillar everything can stem from that and be informed by it. Without this backbone your game will fall apart like jelly. This goes for any design not just games, the more mixed your intent, the less impact it will accomplish. The process of simplicity can help us all cut to what is meaningful….or as Triple T would say “CONDENSE the NONSENSE”.