Gameplay is Meaningless?

Do you think the word gameplay is bad because it’s redundant or meaningless? When people talk about books, they don’t say bookread because everyone knows you read a book. Similarly, everyone knows a game must be played, so the term gameplay is pointless. Of course, nowadays, games have many different sections with wildly varying mechanics, as well as things like cutscenes and QTEs, so maybe the word makes sense.

Come on, don’t play coy, you know the answer I’m going to give to this.

The term gameplay isn’t meaningless, in the same way the word “cinematography” isn’t meaningless, or saying a book is “well written” isn’t meaningless. People use the term gameplay to refer to the interactive segment of the media work, as opposed to the music, visuals, story, etc. People use the word cinematography to refer to the composition of the shots as opposed to the plot, writing, acting, etc. People use the phrase, “well written” to refer to the method of writing used to render the plot elements in distinction from what those elements are.

The distinction is even more clear in the case of gameplay than these other terms. There wasn’t a parallel evolution of language across these mediums allowing for perfectly equivalent terms across all three, in part because the mediums are different, with games being a hybrid medium, or perhaps more accurately, a medium that requires communication through other mediums. Video games are a hybrid medium consisting of visuals, sounds, and optionally stories, games in a true sense don’t need all these things, but they typically need tools to facilitate them.

Nonetheless; come off it, there needs to be a word to describe the interactive challenging portion of a media work. If you don’t have a word encompassing that whole part, but still more specific than referring to the whole work, then you make communication way more difficult than it needs to be.

I recall icyclam’s argument that a better word than gameplay is “mechanic” and it’s retarded, because mechanic is way more specific, and gameplay can be used to refer to phenomena that result from mechanics, rather than just the mechanics themselves, not that icyclam EVER cared about whether the mechanics were good, as should be evidenced by his abstainence from specifically referring to them ever.

It’s of massive convenience to our language to be able to say things like, “gameplay consists of,” “The gameplay is good/bad,” “There isn’t enough gameplay instead of cutscenes,” “this form of gameplay continues for 3 hours,”

If you substitute the word mechanic here, notably the meaning of these sentence fragments changes, same for whatever other word you may choose.

Gameplay communicates a specific thing that we have a common understanding of, which is distinct from the words around it. We can communicate similar differentiations in other mediums (“It’s a good story, but poorly written” “The actors do a nice job, and it’s a good script to a good plot, but the cinematography is horrible”), even if we don’t have the same equivalency in terms over there. This is not a dispensible word.

But at the same time, what if I said that just as when you press a button, there is an animation, similarly, when you press buttons for 30 mins, there is also an animation (that ‘animation’ being a cutscene)? What is the difference between a quick animation for one button press vs. a longer animation for a series of button presses?

Iteration time. I’ve been watching people give talks on modern board game design versus old fashioned board game design for a while. One of the big things that most modern board games do is they have everyone take their turn simultaneously instead of each person individually take a turn, forcing everyone else at the table to wait. To cut down on this, in games where people still do go back and forth, frequently to cut down on people taking forever with their turn, the actions people will be allowed to perform are split up into tiny bits so it goes back and forth really quickly.

The decision happens at the point you make it. The gameplay happens at the point of decisionmaking. The more frequent these are, the more you’re playing, the less you’re watching. Below a certain threshold, the iteration time is negligible.

If you have a quicktime event, you have a really really simple system, pass/fail. It’s a reaction test basically. It’s the minigame played in sonic generations or unleashed when you jump off one of those ramps that has you press buttons to do poses in sequence before you land to get ring power. Except between each button press is a cutscene. There’s no decisions being made, just press or not press. The game state is no more complicated than that, and they stick extra stuff inbetween for cinematic effect. It should be obvious what I mean when I say, there isn’t much gameplay going on.

The difference is, shorter iteration times get you to the point that actually matters faster. This is primarily a user experience thing, but that doesn’t make it unimportant.

re: gameplay. I actually don’t think clam’s article on the topic is any good, partly for the reasons you mentioned, but also because he uses other terms like “gamer”, which can be criticized in the same manner. What is a gamer? Do we have moviers or bookers? Why aren’t people who play sports or board games or card games considered gamers? But who cares about any of that, I’m too busy being the most hardcore gamer in the world. That said, I think the criticism of the use of gameplay is valid. I hadn’t considered terms like cinematography, that is some pretty good critical thinking skill you’ve got. I guess the problem is no one adheres to a consistent definition of gameplay. How would you define it? I would say it’s all of the systems and mechanics, how they interact with each other, and how the player manipulates them. Rules are a byproduct of interactions, so I didn’t mention that term. Also, is core gameplay proper? E.g. Bayonetta has shooting and driving segments, but the core gameplay is beating things up. Make sense?

Usually people say film buff or bookworm, though I haven’t heard anyone say those in like a decade.

I’ve seen gamblers referred to as gamers before. And tabletop roleplayers are frequently called gamers. Both D’arbys are referred to as gamers in Jojo. People who play sports are athletes.

I don’t know why the term gamer stuck so hard. Mark Ceb would argue it’s a really successful marketing thing that only took off maybe a decade and a half ago. He might be right on that. I don’t really know why gamer for video games is something that seems so natural or why it became such a big part of so many people’s lives. Maybe it speaks to the efficacy of the medium to hold engagement?

Your definition of gameplay seems reasonable enough, but it should also have the definition as the active segment of time during a game, so we can have phrases like, “gameplay resumes”. And probably whatever other definitions would fit the various phrases I tossed out during the answer this is replying to, since all are in common use.

I think core gameplay is proper, because it’s possible to have segments of mechanics that are interrelated within those segments but totally separate from one another, and choosing one as core only seems natural. It’s in common parlance already and it’s not a big stretch.


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