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A Perfect Short Game (15 Sep 2004)
What does it mean to say that a game is "perfect"? We often assume that perfection means that whatever we're talking about is better than anything else, that all other things of its kind are inferior. And in that case, it's risky to describe anything as perfect, because other people will probably disagree on grounds of personal taste if nothing else. If they like something else better, they'll say the game cannot be perfect, because if it were, they would like it. Perfection, in common parlance, includes being universally approved of.

But I want to discuss a perfect game using a slightly different interpretation of the word. The first definition of "perfect" in my American Heritage Dictionary is, "Lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind." Definition four is, "Completely suited to a particular purpose or situation." Under those terms, I think that Tetris is a perfect twitch game, for reasons that should be pretty obvious: you can neither add, nor take away, anything from Tetris' gameplay without disturbing its elegant simplicity -- even if there are other games you would prefer to play. But it's not Tetris that I want to discuss in this column.

I've been a juror for the Independent Games Festival a couple of times now, and having looked at a heck of a lot of small games, there's only one that I continue to play. Among the finalists in the 2003 IGF was a short-duration space exploration and combat game called Strange Adventures in Infinite Space.
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