Picture the scene. The lava lamps are bubbling away in the corner. There’s some of that hot new ‘Prawn Cocktail’ stuff for dinner. Dad’s just got home from work with an immaculately groomed mullet, clutching a Magnavox Odyssey under his arm. It’s time to Pong. The quintessential video game, the simple paddle and ball face-off was enough to keep competitive players entertained for hours, bouncing a ball into the wee hours of a 70's morn.
Fast forward to now, and we’ve got the likes of DOTA 2. Aside from early editions of Flight Simulator, this is one of the most incomprehensible games for new players in existence. If someone you know who’s never played video games asks you where to start, and you point them in DOTA 2’s direction, chances are you’d frighten them off for life.
For most of us here on GD, who’ve grown up on a diet of games, picking up the latest game seems like a breeze. Take a step back and think about it though, and it’s anything but. We’ve just built up years of innate knowledge. We know the right trigger should accelerate. We know left click should fire a gun. Imagine knowing none of this and heading into games nowadays, where everything’s context sensitive and entire genres can be switched mid-level. "'A''s jump but if you're by a ladder it climbs it, and if you hold it down you run, but tap it twice for a double jump."
A great example is Batman: Arkham Knight; or any Arkham game for that matter. It’s a fluid, incredible game when you know what you’re doing, but the sheer number of actions and controls is bewildering to all but the most ardent gamers. Picking it up it feels simple in our hands, but to people looking in it’s baffling - a big barrier to entry that means they may never want to start gaming. And don't even get me started on Metal Gear Solid. It's probably one of my favourite franchises of all time, but even in the realm of gamers its controls are completely awkward and obtuse, liking it's deliberately standing against the norm.
Anyway, my mind started going down the track of games being too complicated because, well, plenty are, but also because I’d become enslaved to the simple delights of Rocket League. Here everything is stripped bare; it’s a car that goes forwards and backwards, boosts and jumps. It would be playable on a NES controller. I guess in a way it’s six-player Pong. But its inherent simplicity belies greater depths. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rocket League has deeper gameplay than The Witcher 3, for example, but the latter disguises all of this in layers and layers of obfuscation. Quests and potions and oils and spells don’t really mean a great deal at the end of the day; the moment to moment combat is remarkably simple, but it's bogged down by complex, unnecessary systems that are overcome by the remarkably rich storytelling.
My point being games are, on the whole, getting more complicated, but is that a good thing for the gaming industry? Is our clamouring for complexity freezing out other players? Are kids raised on a diet of Angry Birds and touch screens even going to know what to do once a gamepad is in their hands? We want to know what you think about complex games!