Why the most popular games are the simplest ones

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Many of us love gaming, but if you had to choose what complexity you wanted your game to have, would you opt for something easy or difficult? A lot of us tend to favor simpler games that are easy to follow but still provide us with plenty of entertainment and engagement.

Below, we’ll explore some of the simplest games of all time and why they’re so popular, while also investigating why complex games don’t tend to be our favourites.

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Some of the most popular games on the planet are simple to get your head around – but this doesn’t mean they’re completely basic and require no brain power or thought. Instead, they’re simple to grasp but continue to demand your attention regardless of how long you play them for – because they compel you to want to get better at them.

For example, in the British Museum, the Assyrian carving depicts guards playing the Game of Twenty Squares in order to pass the time. This game was invented over 4,000 years ago but it’s still played today – as are other games that involve shuffling cards, tossing dice and moving pieces around on board games. While these games have seemingly simple objectives, they demand a certain skill level and savviness, which is what makes them so appealing for gamers of all abilities.

And it’s this engaging combination that makes many classic games, like checkers and chess, so enjoyable. Despite having simple, easy-to-follow rules, players are given the option to create their own detailed and altogether intricate scenarios.

With that in mind, let’s take a more in-depth look at some of these games that merge simplicity with complexity and create the perfect balance for gamers.

  1. Go

othello board game black white pieces

This ancient Chinese game has been popular among gamers for around 3,000 years. While A simple game on first glance, Go can involve complex strategic gameplay.

Two players, one with black stones and the other with white sit at opposite sides of a 19-by-19 grid, take it in turns to put stones on intersecting points that are vacant. The winner is the one who claims the most of these points, or by capturing and surrounding more of their opponent’s pieces.

However, it’s these two alternative ways of scoring, and the various tactical and strategic options available, that makes this game a winner. In fact, Go is so complex that no one has been able to create a computer program that simulates the game properly.

  1. Chess

chess pieces on board game images
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No mention of simple-to-understand games would be complete without talking about chess – a game that most schoolchildren will grasp within a few sessions.

On a basic level, it’s very straightforward – you just have to learn where each chess piece can move to. For example, bishops can only move diagonally and the king can only move to one of the squares next to it.

Yet at the same time, there are complex strategies that you can learn and perform to take chess to the next level. Whether you’re looking to play down the left or right hand side of the board, or go on the counter-attack, there are so many different ways to win a game of chess. Even though many believe it to be mathematical-based, some argue that it involves far more psychology.

  1. Dominoes

pile of domino game tile pieces
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The oldest domino set that’s ever been found was in the tomb of Tutankhamen, which means the game goes back as far as 1355 BC.

Modern-day domino sets can be used to play a number of different games, including Muggins, which is popular in the US. Here, the spots on each domino are referred to as ‘pips’ and the first to get to 50 or 100 is the winner.

Equally, even though most people will say dominoes is all about luck, many dominoes enthusiasts will say there is much more to it than that. They develop in-depth strategies using complex maths equations that they calculate in their heads, helping them work out when to play a certain piece.xbox one s controller games

Source: Pexel

Are modern video games too complex?

Now we’ve established that simple, classic games that have a strategic element stand the test of time, let’s explore whether or not modern games are following this pattern.

Some video gaming experts are warning that modern games are becoming far too complex, which is why no ‘classics’ are being made anymore.

Gaming commentator Justin Towell said: “Generally, games made before 2000 are self-contained nuggets of gaming that deliver one idea, or perhaps merge two styles into one. After that, it all gets a bit blurry and that’s the reason we’re not seeing as many all-time classics as we should.”

Another reason some experts have suggested games are over-complicated is because of the trend to want to ‘complete’ a game as quickly as possible before moving on to the next, rather than playing it numerous times with different players and perfecting a strategy over time – as people do with the likes of chess.

Indeed, it might be that developers have become too clever for their own good. Instead of keeping things simple (while allowing for complex thought patterns) they’re going overboard by implementing too many ideas, which means some players are having a lacklustre gaming experience.

young boy playing online chess on laptop
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Classic games are just as popular online

There’s no doubt that gaming isn’t going away. In fact, in some areas it’s growing dramatically. While the digital revolution has certainly seen more new games being created than ever, it’s also made some time-honoured classics more popular, too.

Online gambling, and particularly mobile gambling, has exploded in popularity in recent years – and now accounts for 33% of all gambling in the UK, according to the Gambling Commission. A large driver of this has been the abundance of online slots, which put an exciting, unique spin on the traditional ‘one armed bandit’.

sexy white stud playing video games

Unlike video games that often get too complex and clever for their own good, online slots are easy to follow and play but still require some level of skill to keep them interesting. For example, you have to have a strategy in mind to know how much you want to gamble each time you roll the numbers. Slot games have been compared to backgammon, although both games rely on luck, there are some basic strategies that can be employed. Backgammon is traditionally played against a human opponent, so if both players use the same strategy it will come down to whoever finds luck with the dice, however, if you’re playing online you might find these strategies come in useful. Slot games can also be picked up as and when the player has several minutes, whether that’s on their commute to work, on their lunch break or while they’re watching adverts on TV at night. In stark contrast, complex games, like the video games mentioned previously, require hours of dedication and can’t simply be played on the move, which is part of the charm of online slots.

Some people say ‘the old ones are the best’, which isn’t necessarily true in gaming, where it seems that instead, it’s the most simple that are the best. Straightforward games that are easy to understand and have the option of being played quickly – but with an element of strategy – are the ones that traditionally will be played for many years, and even centuries, to come.