[Presented here for your amusement, at long last, is my second essay on elegance in game design The Importance of Being Elegant. Well, actually, this is just the introduction to it. The whole thing is much too long to read comfortably in a single blog post, so I have broken it into four parts, and I will post it over the course of the next couple weeks.
I thought that I would start you off easy
The entire essay consists of
- Concerning Aesthetic Content in Games
- The Case for the Prosecution
- The Upside of Elegance]
There is a quality I truly love – a kind of severe elegance. I don’t mean relative elegance, like, say, Hannibal, which has a hell of a lot of rules, but a good rule/complexity ratio. I mean games with a hard, ultrasimple ruleset. Maybe two minutes to explain, maybe, at tops, 4 minutes.
-Thi Nguyen, Intense Elegance
…I feel that ‘fiddly’ shouldnt [sic] be a derogatory term, but rather, its [sic] something that can be very good for a game if done well, and bad if done poorly. Fiddly parts need to be very clear rules-wise, not hard to figure out…
-Alex Rockwell, American style games vs German style games: Fiddly is good.
As these passages show, opinions on whether elegance is an essential quality for a game or not vary widely. Where some see the hallmark of a quality game, others see elegance as a virtual scam — a means to foisting soulless, easy-to-crank-out products onto a public that could be enjoying the rich experience that a good wargame or “American”-style game offers.
While analysis cannot bridge this divide completely, it can help us see elegance in its proper context. Examination of the benefits may help detractors understand — though probably not agree with — the proponents of elegant design, and examination of the drawbacks may help proponents understand why something that they instinctively value is not universally admired.
It may even uncover the importance of being elegant.