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Games in three dimensions

Can we classify games in three dimensions, where X is simplicity/complexity, Y is high accessibility/low accessibility, and Z is casual or asynch / immersive or real-time?


March 19, 2010

1 Min Read

 cartesian coordinate 3D graph example

image by WillowW, GNU FDL


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!

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