Minimalist, Middle Ground and Sandbox Schools of Thought

From a video game design point of view, I can actually categories the games that I play into three different categories: minimalist, middle ground and sandbox. Minimalist games tend to be perceived as simple, but truly, these are the ones that are easy to play (the rules are clear cut), but prove to be really hard to master. Such games include stuff like Tetris, Chess and even games like Flower.

Middle ground games tend to inject a little more versatility, and yet the player will always know that he is bound by invisible boundaries and are linear in nature. FPS games such as Call of Duty and Killzone are games that offer up plenty of action with goals in mind, be it a boss fight, reaching checkpoints, finishing at the top of the leaderboard or capturing an enemy base’s flag.

It’s the last category that fascinates me the most. Don’t let the term fool you, these sandbox games tend to be really vast and expansive and allow players to do one major thing, which is to create their own stories. Such games include Red Dead Redemption, inFAMOUS, Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto are all in this category, and with the exception of the latter (I haven’t really played it), all of them are my favourites.

I’ve been playing a little bit of Deus Ex: Human Evolution lately, and I can’t help but be impressed as the game has all the makings of a sandbox game. I’ve only gone through the first mission and already there are so many choices at the behest of the player but it’s even more linear than say….inFAMOUS. I’ll give the game some more time before coming to a conclusion (sand box or middle ground), but in the mean time, Deus Ex is looking more and more like Game of the Year kind of material 🙂

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