It has been quite a while since I wrote something for you guys. I found my lucky burst of inspiration today for the first time in what feels like forever though. Interestingly enough, today I'll be using an older article I wrote a few months back as a jumping point to discuss the issue at hand today: could a game exist that has both simple and complex gameplay? Let's be frank. Games themselves are works of art, no matter what people say. It takes some time and dedication to find out ways to create innovations that get people to enjoy something. Sadly, I feel that games nowadays are not as great as they used to be, purely because they just don't have the proper mix of complexity and simplicity, but that is a whole different topic on its own. I'll open up with some examples on this. The easiest example to consider is Pokémon. Love it or hate it, the franchise is a great example of how a game can be both simple yet amazingly complex. But what defines complexity? What do we consider simple? To you and me, we could have vastly different definitions of the word. I like to think of simplicity as being a system that greater than 95% of the population could handle and enjoy, and then complexity as a concept that can get the majority of people to think outside of the box to work with. Anyway, back to Pokémon. I mentioned earlier that I would be taking an older article I wrote a few months back as a way to talk about this, and indeed I will here. Pokémon is a simple game. The plot is easy to comprehend, as most of the titles are aimed to children, teaching about issues at a very broad level, oftentimes jading out most older gamers with its simplicity and rather naïve approach to the story. Some critics even considered the recent Pokémon X and Y story lines weak enough for a five year old to have concocted. The game play mechanics are often simple, with the player operating as a trainer seeking to become a "Pokémon Master" and collecting. At the root, the game involves collecting creatures and getting these creatures strong enough to achieve success in battle, yes? You also are moving on a grid (multi-directional in the newest titles), going to predetermined destinations. However, the gameplay is extremely complex as well, or, rather, it could be so depending on how you look at it. Go to a community like Smogon University, which specializes in the analytics of team making and how each creature could possibly synergize with one another. In essence, you have an infinite number of combinations that could be used. Oftentimes, with the Pokémon tournaments that occur, the winners are those that concocted the most novel strategy based on the limitations of the game environment. You can read my analysis on the franchise here. Going by my previous definitions of simplicity and complexity, Pokémon falls into each as adults and children alike play the game, but it is complex enough for people to truly think outside of the box and achieve success. Let's look at a simpler example. How about chess? With chess, you get a set of units that operate in the limitations of the rules of chess. You get some units that can only go forward one pace on the board, some that can traverse the board in a specific direction, others having a more free movement, but in the end you can only move once per turn. This offers unlimited possibilities for strategy and a large set of situations that each piece could be faced with. How would you react in a scenario such as this? I could go into another example, like Super Smash Bros. You can move in a few directions, you can attack. Yet, at the same time, each character has specific sets and weaknesses that need to be accounted for in each match, and each character should be able to anticipate situations in the environment depending on the terrain the battle is taking place on. The rule of simplicity and complexity for Super Smash Bros. could also be applied to the entire fighting genre. Everyone can button mash a controller. You can do it, I could do it. It does take a certain amount of skill to be able to generate a specific set of commands to execute a particular set of skills though. What about characterization of characters in video games and the media though? Can something be portrayed simply? With complexity? Maybe even both? Simple characters exist on their own. Pokémon won't win any points in this battle today as the character's complexity is simply a projection of the experiences the player subjects the character to. The player could fill in the experiences of the character. Look at Link in The Legend of Zelda franchise. Link is named Link to serve as the "link" (pun intended) between the player's experience and a projection of how Link does things in Hyrule. Mario serves to save the princess. These types of characters do not really get fleshed out. They also exist in the form of NPC characters, that often enjoy a degree of stagnance, often not changing their lines, or rarely deviating in the case of certain scenarios to feel more organic and alive. Do complex characters exist? Certainly. Look at Game of Thrones, almost all of the characters have a degree of complexity to them, operating in their world due to a series of adverse circumstances. Unfortunately the lines for simplicity and complexity together become blurred, and start to base themselves on how each person individually thinks. For instance, I could see Frozen's Elsa as a character who presents herself as a simple deuteragonist character, the colder elder sibling, but later evolves into a very complex character who comes off to the viewer as a troubled woman trying to find her way. I like characters and characteristics that share simple elements yet at the same time require that thought out of the box to be able to understand them. IN video gaming, we could consider Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden as both simple and complex (of course, this is based on what I have experienced playing the character thus far). He's a killing machine that is given a bit more humanism in the failed Ninja Gaiden 3 game, often making the player feel a bit of remorse in his killings (to me that shouldn't exist in the franchise, but even so!). At the end of the day, though, do we favor simplicity and complexity in gameplay/characterization as coexisting? It depends on your definition of the two terms. People can say that complexity creates a less accessible environment, but at the same time you need just the right amount of complexity to give a game or character that necessary depth. Again, that gray line that I love playing with needs to be drawn. When is it too much or too little? Do you like complex games that will utterly bamboozle you? Do you like games to be a simple experience that doesn't require a lot of thinking? Let me know your thoughts.