Perfection in Simplicity – My Revised Motto (and how to apply it)!

Copy of Black and Beige Simple Minimalist Sweets Circle Logo 1 Perfection in Simplicity 8211 My Revised Motto and how to apply it

I’ve had a motto for many years, dating back to my clan-running gaming days:

‘Simplicity is Perfection.’

It was intended as a philosophy for my gaming clan and also for my martial arts. The full quote was ‘Simplicity is Perfection, but perfection is never simple.’

It meant that we needed to strip back all the rubbish and keep it simple, be it tactics in Call of Duty, martial arts techniques, or even my day-to-day work as a web designer.

A Change Cometh

Now, many years later, I realize this wasn’t really the right way to phrase the motto. It implies that there can be no perfection in complexity, which is, of course, not true. Read More ...

Learning From Games: Space Invaders – Simplicitas est Perfectum

To this day, Space Invaders is one of my all-time favourite games.  Born the same year as me (1978), it is a classic in every sense of the word.

What I love is the simplicity, There is no heavy backstory, there is no complicated power-up system, no fancy boss battles or in-game purchases!

The instructions whole scene was set in one line of the four lines of instructions.

Game ends when players “Laser Bases” are all hit by invaders missiles or when invaders overun the base.

Simple as that! In one line of text, you know everything you been to know. You control a laser base and you need to defend it from the invaders. You quickly learn that there are some building you can hide under, but they can be destroyed and that from time to time a bonus can be had from hitting the mothership style alien.

Simplicitas est Perfectum

So what’s the point of this? Well, exactly what I said Simplicitas est perfectum, Simplicity is perfection. Space Invaders has been going for 40 years, pretty much unchanged, and is simple as simple can be. It has no real-time multiplay but manages to be social by way of nothing more than 3 letters on a leaderboard. It has no complex onboarding, yet is easy to play within seconds. The gameplay does not change with each play, but it still forces you to evolve and learn new strategies.

Simple Changes

You can also learn from how a simple design can be radically changed with simple mechanic changes.

I recently saw an interesting spin on the formula in an arcade near me. You sat in a chair with a challenger besides you, shooting into the screen at the Invaders. One simple change to the formula made it look really fresh.

In your gamification designs, look to see what you can do to make it more simple. What can you strip away without losing the core of the design, but that can make that core shine through more brightly. Does it need that extra points or upgrades system (Force Arena, I’m looking at you)? Do you need to have ten mechanics where one will do? Can those ten be combined into one, more streamlined and elegant mechanic?

As they say, KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.

Should I Start Defining the Game Elements Now?

When you get going with gamification, it can be really really exciting. You are creating engaging solution using game elements and ideas, how cool is that??

But when do you start to define what elements, mechanics, game design ideas and so on?

It is really tempting to do it after the very first conversation with a client. They have told you what they want and you have an idea. A few mechanics here, a narrative and bingo – you have the solution.

But whoa there, do you really have the solution? What was the problem you where trying to solve? The client told you what they wanted, but did you discover what they needed?

It is fine to start to outline what could be done before you see the full picture, but defining mechanics and elements before you actually know what the core of the problem is will lead to a solution that needs to be shoehorned into the problem.

Remember to ask the right questions and to keep digging, even as you begin your designs. Never stop asking what, why, what and how!

And always make sure you can answer the question “Why am I adding gamification” long before you define the mechanics!!

So, when do you start defining the mechanics etc? When you are sure you know what the problem you are trying to solve is.

The Trouble With Types

Player Types and User Types, I’m not gonna lie, I love ’em. I imagine that is obvious considering I have spent so long making my own!

However, it’s time for a bit of a tidy up of misconceptions about types –  a misconception my love of them may even have helped to perpetuate.


Bartle has 4 Player Types

Actually, he has 8. He realised there were limitations and duality in his 4 types, so he created a set of 8 that accounted for this.

Everyone is Just One Type

No matter what model or taxonomy you use, the likelihood is this is just not true. We probably display all types in our personality, just in different amounts and in different contexts (more on that in a moment)

Your Type is Your Type and That’s It

A good example of how wrong this is comes from Bartle’s own player types. He demonstrates that over time players change their types. So for instance, they may come in as a Griefer (part of the killer pair), but over time evolve into a Friend type, based on their experiences in the system.

Your type also changes depending on the context. So in an MMO game, you may be an explorer, but in an FPS you may head more towards an Achiever.

This is also important to consider when people take surveys related to types. The survey often shows a snapshot of their time and their current experiences and interests, it is not a full or true representation of how they will behave in a gamified system that encourages exploration vs one that is focused on achievement.

More Responses / People Makes a Type Survey More Reliable

Sort of true. People often quote the number of users who have taken the Bartle test, to show how valid the results are. It is important to remember two things about that. First, Bartle didn’t create the test and second, those results had no influence in the design of the types. He created his through observation and interview and for a very specific set of people – MMO players.

Creating a reliable test is a long process that requires a great deal of iteration and research. If you base everything in a very specific group of people, for example, students, then your test may well be statistically reliable, but only for students! You need to test with a much larger and more varied group of people to get truely reliable tests.

Types are Useless

You could be forgiven for thinking that given some of the above, types are useless. They have come under significant criticism over the years. People are complex and many do not like the idea that you want to just label them as a single type – and rightly so. Types are there to inform designers of different perspectives to consider when building solutions. That is why I am so keen on using my types as lenses rather than rigid design frameworks.


Types are great, they help designers appraise their solutions from different angles and can advise them on how to approach design for certain groups of people. However, they are not a magic bullet, they are not an equation for success. They are just one tool in a massive tool kit and should not be seen as a way to a quick win. Use them with care and they will love you back!

4 Simple Questions To Transform Your Gamification Implementation

It is simple to jump to solutioneering as soon as you feel you have a problem that needs fixing. However, taking a step back and asking 4 simple questions can save you time and money in the long run.

  1.  “What is the problem”
  2.   “Why do we need to fix it”
  3.   “What needs to change to fix it”
  4.   “How do we do that”

What is the problem?

First, you need to explore What you are wanting to change. This is the easy bit and is likely to change, but it is a start. Be as specific as you can, but be open minded as you explore further!

Most people already have this in mind when they first go to someone asking for gamification.

Why do we need to fix it?

I have spoken about this in the past, but it is so important that I like to bring it up from time to time. Read More ...

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