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I'm having trouble finding a good phrasing to describe a component of a system that is too important -- in a sense that it distracts a person from all the other components, that should have been, or were formerly, important aspects of the experience. The case where I'm trying use it is something like this:

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was ______, and that none of the other pieces were important to the gameplay as a result.

Another example, possibly from academia:

We recommend that teachers not offer students extra-credit work during a semester. We have found this to be _____, in that the option routinely distracts students from the main body of work and preparation for exams.

The key thing I'm trying to highlight is that participants in the system become hyper-focused in their attention on this one component, to the detriment of the other parts. (E.g., while the chess example indicates an overpowered piece, that's not what I want to emphasize here; it could also be the result of a super-weakness that becomes the only thing you'd want to attack, say.)

I could also imagine this being used in a work of art: Say, an element of a painting that is too bright or oddly placed. Or a breakout character in a TV show who takes over what was meant to be an ensemble story (i.e., they "may... overtake the other characters in popularity, including the protagonist").

Is there a good word or phrase to indicate this state of being too important, and attracting too much attention?

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  • 5
    There are lots of more specific terms from game design balancing like over-powerful, over-powered, game-breaking. Using one of them would probably be better. (A character could be too important for all kinds of reasons, e.g. being very silly or random or potentially destructive.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 28, 2023 at 16:51
  • 1
    "it was overpowering"
    – ralph.m
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 4:57
  • 3
    I'll emphasize for readers again that, "while this example indicates an overpowered piece, that's not what I want to emphasize here". Commented May 29, 2023 at 5:13
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins In my experience they imply one another. The game revolves around overpowered units, mechanics, or strategies if there are any.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 15:03
  • 2
    Consider Black-Hole , which is "Over-Powering" (not what you want) & "Over-Attracting" (what you want) giving you the Double Benefit !
    – Prem
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 11:51

18 Answers 18

27

We could say it overshadows everything else, or is overshadowing.

2 : to exceed in importance : outweigh

It could also be overemphasized

: to give excessive emphasis to (something)

Or obtrusive

1b : undesirably prominent

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  • I'm selecting this as the answer because it's top-voted and "overshadowing everything else" works perfectly in my actual use-case. Also good options for me are "obtrusive", "overdominant", and "upstaging everything else", among other suggestions. Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 14:51
  • @DanielR.Collins Those are all great suggestions! Made sure to upvote them.
    – Davislor
    Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 15:30
20

Unbalanced or overpowered are typically the terms used in the context where a unit, feature, mechanic, or strategy in a game is overpowering or dominant to the point that it damages the game. The implicit assumption made here is that balance in the game is desirable.

This term is specific to games but when games are involved it will be the most straightforward and easily understood term to use. The terms in other answers are more general but are less accessible and rather awkward if your context is specifically about games.

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    "Overpowered" is the perfect fit for the given context.
    – Zayn
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 14:34
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    ... and exactly what OP said he was not looking for. He wants to describe the undue attention the imbalance attracts, not the imbalance of power itself
    – Roister
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 19:15
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    @Royster In my experience, they are fairly synonymous. Personally, if I wanted to call attention to that I would just say it rather than find trying to find the perfect word that says what i want. I don't think a term is necessary for that. Rephrasing the sentence to say the something like "revolve around", "overwhelm", or "made the other pieces irrelevant to the outcome" would do the trick. I think the follow up OP's phrase in the example was perfectly adequate.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 19:30
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    No offense intended. As I worked my way through the thread, I +1'd the several mentions of overpowered until I saw OP's reminder that this wasn't the focus of his inquiry.
    – Roister
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 19:37
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    @Roister None taken.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 20:41
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There is the term overdominant:

overdominant [adjective]

excessively dominant

  • To begin with, the design aspect is the most striking and arguably remains overdominant. [Times, Sunday Times (2010)]

[Collins]

  • [Steps must be taken to prevent any one] religious or ethnic group being overdominant. Otherwise, we will see a repeat of the unfortunate history of much of the 20th Century ...

[Hansard, 11 Jan 2018]

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    +1 I do like this. Interesting that the prior sentence in the Times article is, "At others, one element — usually the music — overpowers or distracts." Commented May 28, 2023 at 23:49
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    I feel like "dominant" or "dominating" would be more appropriate in most cases. "Overdominant" sounds like one of those made up words to me. It sort of implies some level of dominance is not only acceptable, but desirable and this is not the case most of the time.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 1:24
  • 1
    @DKNguyen ‚ Where do you get the idea that dominance is not acceptable or desirable “most of the time”? Commented May 29, 2023 at 16:14
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    @DKNguyen I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. If I eat, say, chocolate ice cream, the flavors of chocolate and cream are certainly going to be dominant (as opposed to, say, the flavor of salt), and that's certainly going to be desirable. Likewise, if I listen to a recording of a solo piano piece, the sound of the piano is going to be dominant (as opposed to the sound of the player breathing), and that's certainly desirable as well. If someone said "in my chess variant, the super-queen is dominant," that wouldn't sound like it's necessarily a bad thing to me. Commented May 29, 2023 at 16:33
  • @TinfoilHat Usually you want a balance of things, whether it be game, flavours, or sounds.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 18:13
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We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere — but we found that it was a distraction.

While this doesn’t mean too important (nor is it an adjective*), misdirected attention is what results:

distraction, n.
2. a. The drawing away (of the mind or thoughts) from one point or course to another; diversion of the mind or attention. Usually in adverse sense; less commonly = diversion, relaxation (as in French).
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

* distracting is the adjective form.

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    "The key thing I'm trying to highlight is that the user/players of the system become hyper-focused in their attention on this one component, to the detriment of the other pieces." Seems like they are distracted. +1
    – Kirt
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 2:23
7

As an adverb, modifying important:

Inordinately
in a way or to a degree that goes beyond proper or reasonable limits; immoderately or excessively

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was inordinately important, and that none of the other pieces mattered to the gameplay as a result.


As an adjective, modifying gameplay:

Disruptive
disrupting or tending to disrupt some process, activity, condition, etc. : causing or tending to cause disruption

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was disruptive to the gameplay, and that none of the other pieces mattered any longer.


As an adjective:

Absorbing
fully taking one's attention : ENGROSSING, CONSUMING< ENTHRALLING

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was too absorbing of the players' attentions, and that the other pieces no longer mattered in play.


Specifically within the realm of competitive game theory:

dominates the Meta
In essence, a "meta" in gaming terminology is a generally agreed upon strategy by the community. Said strategy is considered to be the most optimal way to win/ has the best performance at a specific task. Some people have defined meta as an acronym [sic actually a backronym] meaning “most effective tactics available”. Metas have shaped the way we look at traditional and contemporary online gaming and have had an insanely large impact on the industry, particularly in esports. Metas can include anything, from picking a specific character, to playing in a certain way. They guide and shape the way games are played.

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that using her dominated the meta and what you did with other pieces no longer mattered.

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  • The phrase "[the super-queen] became the meta" doesn't sound right to me. The phrase "the current meta" refers to whatever strategies are popular at the current time. A strategy can involve a piece, but a strategy can't be a piece. You could say that "the super-queen immediately became [too important] in the meta," but then we still have to decide what term to use for "too important," putting us back at square one. Commented May 29, 2023 at 16:09
  • @TannerSwett Point taken. Edited.
    – Kirt
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 16:23
6

(v) preponderate

also

(adj) preponderant

to be more important or larger in size or number than other people or things in a group:

Cambridge

to be larger, more important or more powerful than someone or something else

MacMillan


In context:

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was preponderant, and that none of the other pieces were important to the gameplay as a result.

0
2

Perhaps concentrating on the effect that the special part of the system has on the user/players, we might consider using one of these terms:

fixation

a preoccupation with one subject, issue, etc.; obsession

hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is an intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses consciousness on a subject, topic, or task. In some individuals, various subjects or topics may also include daydreams, concepts, fiction, the imagination, and other objects of the mind. Hyperfocus on a certain subject can cause side-tracking away from assigned or important tasks.

So, modifying the example a bit:

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was a point of (fixation/hyperfocus), and that none of the other pieces were important to the gameplay as a result.

2

dwarf

v. To make something seem small by comparison.

This year’s budget dwarfs all previous ones.

In your example:

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it dwarfed the other pieces.

1

What about the word: Critical/most critical?

In the context of networks and complex systems, such things or "nodes" are called "critical nodes". These may be a very important substation of a power grid, or an important cult leader in a society, whose failure/death has a great impact on the network. As far as I am aware, it can be used alternatively for both "too important" as well as "weak spot". "Crucial", as well as linchpin are also possible alternatives.

This flower is critical for the beauty of this painting.

This flower is crucial for the beauty of this painting.

... but we found that it was a linchpin, and that none of the other pieces were important to the gameplay as a result.

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Not mentioned yet and possibly more appropriate than the other suggested words depending on context: overcentralizing.

This word doesn't necessarily imply that the new chess piece is overpowered, but its mere presence warps the game around it. Dealing with the piece becomes an overriding priority for all players; if it's a deck-building game then players might include multiple counters for that piece simply because of how common/dangerous/overcentralizing it is. Everyone must have a plan when confronted with that piece, or they just flat out lose.

1
1

Another option: upstaging.

upstage

to take people's attention away from someone and make them listen to or look at you instead

This would nicely fill in the examples with the phrase "upstaging the other parts".

1
  • upstage works quite well for the idea you're looking for. But is doesn’t at all fit in the blanks of your question. ? We found this to be upstage/upstaged/upstaging (not good). Try We found that the super-queen/movie star/train wreck upstaged everything. Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 1:30
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Whilst overpowered doesn't seem to fit the bill, "overpowering" might. It brings to my mind thoughts of adding too much of a strong ingredient to a dish and having it spoil the flavour.

1

In the contexts you provide, "stifling" works pretty well although it does not perfectly match your paraphrase. With an explicit object of comparison you could also use "devalue" or "encroach upon".

In the context of designing a game or rule set, you can also use "unbalanced". While this literally does not indicate whether an item is over- or underrelevant, in actual usage "unbalanced" is either applied to the entire framework or to the element that is overweight.

1

It's tricky to find a word there refers to this somewhat incorrect amount of attention.

You can say the thing is distractive.

When the focus is on it being unbalanced (which is another gameplay-specific choice), then you can say that something is disproportionate to the rest of the system.

And though it's less ideal for your second example of academics — you can say that such a thing is unsporting.

Less common to a system, you can say it's galling. I mention this mostly out of context: good word in theory, bad for the context of a 'system' like a game. Things with agency are generally what can be 'galling'

1

When something introduced to solve or mitigate a problem/situation goes overboard and becomes a (bigger) problem in its own right, it can be termed overkill.

We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere -- but we found that it was overkill, and that none of the other pieces were important to the gameplay as a result.

We recommend that teachers not offer students extra-credit work during a semester. We have found this to be overkill, in that the option routinely distracts students from the main body of work and preparation for exams

Google dictionary:

overkill
noun

  1. excessive use, treatment, or action.
    "animators now face a dilemma of technology overkill"
  2. the amount by which destruction or the capacity for destruction exceeds what is necessary.
    "the existing nuclear overkill"
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We tried adding a new super-queen to our variant chess game that could move anywhere. But we found that its strategic criticality made it too engrossing for players and that none of the other pieces attained their potential to the gameplay as a result.

0

An additional option is to replace 'too important' with 'too influential'.

...but we found that it was too influential, and that none of the other pieces were important to the gameplay as a result.

I think it is slightly more layman than some of the other suggestions for better or worse, but in both provided examples, the influence of the referenced component is the issue.

0

I don't know if a phrase would fit your search, but I would propose that the examples were too heavily/disproportionately weighted or that they were given too much weight.

It seems to fit both the context of chess piece and extra credit.

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