Weekly Time Waster(s): Glorg and Momiga

We've covered one-button games in previous weeks, but designers have really taken to the minimalist constraint (we're guessing it's because they're honing their skills for iPhone and mobile products). This week we've got two more one-finger wonders and if you think you're too good for that, Mr. Tenfingers, borrow a friend's laptop and play 'em both at the same time.

Glorg tries to reduce the genre of the top-down adventure/RPG (a genre that's too often over-cluttered with ridiculous commands) to the one-button format. It's cute. It's cartoony. And it cuts to the chase: walk, explore, battle, loot. You do need something resembling reflexes to continue winning battles, but there's not much in the way of strategy. The levels are all procedurally generated, meaning that they are randomly built from simple programmed rules and that you never play the same game twice. Not knowing what's going to be next keeps the game interesting and the weapons, which include a stabby pencil, a giant Q-tip, and an orange-clove whip, add to the playfulness of it all.

Compared to the familiarity and instructiveness of Glorg, Momiga is like a game created by some alien race making fun of us. The name is shorthand for "Most Minimalist Game:" one button, one pixel, one sound, no instructions. It's kind of like Pong without paddles being played on a TV that's hung from a tree and being beaten like a piñata. Well ... not quite, but you do begin to lose your frame of reference watching this pixel move across the screen. The goal is simple: Get the pixel to the other side without hitting the top or the bottom of the black playing field. Each time you succeed you "advance" up to the next "level." Hitting the button causes some sort of movement action in the pixel, and this movement is specific to each level. Figuring out what exactly it's doing -- and how to control it -- is the essence of the game. And of course, since we're talking minimalism, once you complete the game, you're supposed to go back and do it in as few clicks as possible. It's a game that impresses more on the purity of design and experience than anything else, and it's worth playing in order to counterbalance the man-years that have been spent playing the newest and greatest ultra-realistic war games.

There's much to admire in one-button games and not just in the creativity that goes into their design. The uncanny feeling of knowing you're only doing a trivial physical task, coupled with the enjoyment that results, helps to foster a better and more critical awareness of what makes a game a game and what makes entertainment entertaining. Or at least that's what we were thinking after staring at an almost entirely black screen for 10 minutes.

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David Feil
Contact: David Feil