After a great talk on simplicity vs. complexity in game design at MIT's GAMBIT Lab by Andrew Grant, I'm left thinking about how otherwise I'd think about a scale against which you could classify a game.
During the talk, I came up with three dimensions:
- simplicity vs. complexity
simple game examples: go or Pong
complex game examples: Eve Online or interactive improvised storytelling games
- accessibility vs not so much
accessible: Farmville or Fable
not so much: ancient miniatures (lead figuring wargame) or Ikaruga
- asynch/casual vs. synchronous - real time - immersive
asynch/casual: Trevian or Farmville
synchronous, etc.: Red Baron, any RTS, Guitar Hero
Many games bridge these. One player may approach virtual worlds as a synchronous social game. Another may throw up a window in Second Life for the music stream from a live performer, and not even pay attention. Civilization is asynch by mechanics -- it's turn based -- but many players adopt an immersive marathon style in playing it -- and it's designed for that too.
This isn't a hard taxonomy, so much as a tool for mulling over. Where do your mechanics fall? Do your players have the same experience or want the same experience as you designed?
No answers, always more questions!