If you visit a video game site, you’ll be struck by all the beautiful high-definition videos and photos that capture life-like moments. Turn on the TV and game ads will hit you in the face with their large explosions. Walk down the street and . . . you get the picture.
One might think that these ubiquitous fancy graphics and explosions are what defines video games. But you could be forgiven, if you looked only at advertising, for thinking that.
In case you didn’t know, popular games can have simple graphics.
“But wait,” one might say, “you’re talking about games that were popular. You’re talking about the old school.”
I can think of at least two popular indie games that have simple graphics. By indie game I mean a game not produced by a large studio, without a traditional publisher, and it doesn’t look like its mainstream counterparts.
One example of an indie game with simple “graphics” is Zach and Tarn Adams’ Dwarf Fortress. In Dwarf Fortress, a player controls a group of dwarves who try to build — you guessed it — a fortress and survive.
Better yet, check out the pop cultural heavyweight Minecraft. Will you fight monsters or just hit things with a stick all day? Well, you can do both of those things and more in the pixellated world of Minecraft.
Would you believe that these two games are making plenty of money? Of course, everyone knows Minecraft is a success. Microsoft also seems to love it and paid $2.5 billion for it. In addition, The New York Times says Tarn Adams earned $50, 000 from Dwarf Fortress in 2010. That’s not bad.
The Next Big Game?
So we know indie games with simple graphics can do well.
But I wonder what the next major indie game will do to stand out from the rest. I mean, and I say this somewhat facetiously, can developers keep out-doing each other in simplicity?
This would be like a tech striptease where eventually there will be nothing left to strip. Just a black or white box will remain on the TV screen, and maybe a contemporary art museum will mount it on a wall.
But maybe there’s one way to stand out from other games with simple graphics. A developer could make an old school text adventure. You know, the ones were you see nothing but text on the screen. I mean, you can’t get much simpler than only having text.
Also, it would be nice to see a game that focuses primarily on telling a deep story. We all like a good story.
Now, I like games with gorgeous art work and graphics. You probably do too, and that’s why so many games have stunning graphics. But who knows for sure what the next major indie game will look — or read — like?