How does a game qualify as “dense”? An excess of dialogue that fleshes out the plot? Books upon books of lore and mythology that augment the reality and tangibility of the game world? The layered interface and menu system of a hardcore RPG, the sort that allows the player access to any tweak or customization that he can reasonably desire?
While these are all means of providing the player with bounties of important information, they are tactics that are difficult to label as graceful or invisible. (This is not to say they cannot be used effectively. At their best, “hardcore” game staples like dialogue choices and menu navigation become a sort of game-within-a-game, so entrancing and thought-out that they not only reflect but deepen a developer’s vision and a player’s involvement with it.) They are the equivalent of a title card in cinema, or a footnote in literature: tools that can certainly be used with purpose and integrity, but ones that call attention to artifice, to the (sometimes glorious) limitations of a medium. Continue reading