Less is More in These Video Games

Designer Robert Morris once said that “simplicity of form is not necessarily simplicity of experience.” I found this especially pertinent to the simple, yet stunning game play of both PixelJunk Eden and NightSky.

In PixelJunk Eden, a player controls Grimp as he jumps and swings across plant life to activate seeds in the different gardens. Multi-media artist Baiyon’s (Tomohisa Kuramitsu) work inspired the game, and the visual aesthetics of the gardens remain relatively simple. The color-schemes of each present various shades of a color such as pink or blue against a background of different values of black and white. The use of specific colors contributes significantly to the emotional aspects of game play. The audio compromises minimalist house and techno music with the occasional frog ribbit created by a synthesizer sound effect. This modest approach encourages a player to create his own interpretation of the play environment. With a combination of mesmerizing music and organic shapes, the game provides a tranquil experience.

Another game that lends an opportunity for quiet contemplation is Nicalis‘ (Nicklas Nygren) NightSky. A player guides a glowing crystal sphere through various worlds including picturesque mountains and fields of softly swaying grass. A player must complete puzzles and challenges—use physics to push a few blocks to fill a gap, knock over a piece of wood to create a bridge, or launch the crystal over an abyss—but she never encounters any mortal enemies, bosses, or graphic violence. Plus, experimental jazz musician Chris Schlarb’s ambient soundtrack melds beautifully with the sunset and gently blowing leafs in the background.

Some contemporary game designers like Rudolf Kremers advocate for minimal video games. And in a fast-paced society, a playful and relaxing video game experience is a welcome respite.