Why Simple Isn’t Making A Comeback In Gaming – It Never Fell Out Of Grace

Gaming has become insanely complex. We now have the computing power and graphic chips to support games that were unimaginable a decade ago. With all this mouse-power under the hoods of computers, games are now detailed and reasoned to the rim. Multiple plot scenarios are awaiting the player’s decision and reacting in real time. Visually, they are breathtaking, bordering on the looks-real threshold. Give it another decade (probably less though) and computer games will be indistinguishable from film.

Some games require coordination of a pilot, concentration of a sniper and speed of a ninja turtle. In other words, gaming has become pretty demanding. And if we think about it, doesn’t this defy the whole idea of gaming?

Well maybe not ‘the whole idea’, but we can argue that there is a space for a simple gaming experience. Simple is relaxing and rewarding; it let’s you put your brain on ‘auto-pilot’ for a few minutes / hours and enjoy the ride without the need to burn brain juice at a high rate.

In the Beginning Taito Created Space Invaders

The first days of gaming were profoundly simple. Not by choice, simply by the inherent simplicity of the home computer at the time. Space Invaders, one of the earliest computer games, presented the story of the earth being invaded by massive armies of alien warriors and in a heroic act a single earthlink-spaceship had the mission of protecting the earth and saving the future of humanity. It was a riveting story, one that echoed the iconic radio broadcast of Orson Welles War from 1938, War of the Worlds. All this story took place in the player’s head. On the screen, it was the essence of simplicity.


Even as computers and Nvidia evolved, simple has always kept its place of respect, and massive popularity. Some of the most popular games out there are the ones that ignore the computing power available and provide an almost meditative experience. Flappy bird is one, Fruit Ninja another. Super Mario as well never over-complicated the experience and still remains one of the big hitters of all time.

The Bonus In Being Simple

What’s so appealing about simple? It’s just is; like asking what so appealing about ‘beautiful’. It’s the immediacy of it, the no-think mode, the repetition. If you haven’t noticed so far, repetition and simplicity are calming to humans. Maybe even to all mammals. Speaking of mammals, let’s take betting on horse racing as an example.

That’s pretty complicated, if you wish to do it the proper way. You need to know all the horses, take into consideration how they performed recently, which ones are racing on that day, injuries, jockeys etc. It can be described as a stressful experience. Contrary to that, getting a free scratch card online, or buying one at your local grocery store, and spending a few seconds with a coin in hand is just pure, no-worries fun. Not too much preparation work, not risking too much money – simple is fun.

Spin That Slot, Don’t Poke The R

Same can be said about other betting games. Walk into every casino in the world and look at all the Slot Spinners with their buckets of change – they are in their own zone, completely immersed in the experience. It is a small wonder slot machines are the most popular casino game in the world, both in land casinos and the ones online, exactly because it is so simple. No learning curve, just jump right in and go ahead. Surely a skilled and crafty blackjacker can make a lot more money in one night than a slot spinner, not to mention pro poker players.

If you think back about movies, or your own experience at a casino, the highrollers, the ones at the green felt tables, these guys never smile and they all look really, really stressed out. And no wonder. They must keep full concentration, mostly do some calc in the head and they risk huge chunks of money. Now have a look at the slot machine alleys, where someone always wins a free bonus round or golden coins.

Keep It Crafty & In The Game

We can also argue that the cooling effect of ‘simple’ is a recent one. That would be a totally valid argument. Our lives have become so complex and highly technical, and the feeling that sometimes things are overly complicated for no apparent reason hangs in the air. So due the nature of the modern world we thrive for a little piece of simple here and there.

Another thing that’s cool about simple games is the very straightforward feedback you get on your performance. In complex games so many elements are calculated into your score. When the number is presented and updated you can’t know for sure how did ‘the machine’ reached that specific number. But when playing simple it is all so clear: destroying the spaceship, slicing the strawberry, flapping the bird – one defined action per game rewards you with said number for points.

There are other examples of really simple games that are doing exceedingly well. While not all would agree that Minecraft is a simple game, it actually is. It is a single-minded game – you can, not even need, to build stuff out of pixelated cubes. Now before all the Minecrafters out there will jump at me and bite my head off, furious at how I belittle the complexity of the magical Minecraft world, let me say it again – build stuff out of pixelated cubes, and that’s the whole beauty of it. It is not just simple, it is oversimplified, stipped down to bare bones. It is not much different than building castles in the sand, except that no waves can wash away your creation.

The view of the ocean vs. an urban view – which is more relaxing? The sky vs. the earth – which is more exciting? The star-studded skies or the traffic headlight – which is more comforting? The simple ones, all three of them. Even the universe around us lets the simple and clean always triumphs against the sketchy and busy. It is just the way things are, so who are we to argue with the universe? Live long and prosper in simplicity.

This piece of content was written by Johan Larsson, Head of Content for Prime Gaming

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