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Sometimes minimalism requires excess.
I took an interest in “minimalist games” the last few months. It started with “Vampire Survivors” a simple Castlevaninia inspired game that turned complex adventures into “automatically killing hordes of monsters.” Soon I discovered games like Gunlocked, 20 Minutes to Die, and more. All of these games too classic ones and stripped them to basics.
I found that these games refreshed me, taking oft overcomplex games and getting to their essence. There’s a time I want to wander through a Vampiric castle, but also sometimes I just want to blow up monsters and go home. Being able to get to one of the core elements of a game was enjoyable and sometimes what I wanted.
“Where were these games earlier,” I wondered. Then it struck me that we needed excess in games – or any media – to know what the minimal is. These games were no different that some light novels, down-to-basics movies, and effective minimalist music.
Excess is the key to minimalism.
“Going big” in a game or media means that you’re going to try many different things. Many may not be needed, not work, or not be the best choices. But by trying many different things, you have a chance to find what matters – then you can strip away all the excess.
Excess also gives one a chance to find the core of a work. The true spirit of a work may not be apparent until you’ve played with a concept through a few iterations. Though the “core” of a game or music may be there, it’s not easy to see – you need to mess with it and add things to find what points you to the heart of a work.
If you’re aiming for the minimal, you may need to look to or create excess.
Maybe you need to learn not from the streamlined but from the overdone, the broad, the excessive to see what lies at the heart. Perhaps you even need to go overboard and elaborate in one of your creations, to see what points back to the heart of what to do. Excess is not just fun, it might be what let’s you do less.
Perhaps there’s a larger dialogue here between more and less. I’m sure I’ll explore it – to excess or to the minimal, depending on my mood.