Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
14 February 2006
A (mostly) useless noun: gameplay
Ever notice how we all talk about gameplay as if it were obvious what we mean? Like the intro to the GameSpot review of Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure:
Getting Up builds a cohesive and entertaining world without sacrificing gameplay, resulting in a really great overall package.

The Good: Great storyline with interesting character development; quality dialogue and voice acting; amazing soundtrack; really strong gameplay; great-looking graffiti.
What exactly should I take away from the statement that gameplay hasn't been sacrificed and that it has really strong gameplay? For crying out loud, they even assign a number to gameplay in the ratings. Getting Up got an 8 for gameplay which means...?

Look, even I've used words like "great gameplay" right here on Curmudgeon Gamer. Here's the one instance of "great gameplay". I'm not going to begrudge someone saying that a game has great gameplay, but it strikes me as a word that falls far short of what it's trying to convey. When used to describe a driving game or a football game, it has meaning because most readers will have some context. But for a game like Getting Up or Castlevania or Katamari Damacy, what good is it to talk about the gameplay when many readers will not know a priori what that means?

If I tell you that Kuru Kuru Kururin has great gameplay that will keep you engrossed for hours, does that really tell you anything? I'd guess not. (For the curious: Kuru Kuru Kururin.)

Commenting on a game's gameplay in the abstract appears to convey about as much as "I enjoyed the input/output feedback loop". We've got to be able to say something more than that, and say it so that "normals" (as opposed to habitual videogame players) will actually be informed and perhaps even curious to learn more.

I guess this goes back to finding a different way to review games, or simply a better set of nouns, verbs, and adjectives for games. Heck, GamePolitics recently suggested an even bigger break with existing terminology. I know people were blogging recently about a new system for describing games, although I don't have the link, and even then I thought that was for analysis and not necessarily for consumption by the Common Man.
--Matt Matthews at 23:08
Comment [ 3 ]

Comments on this post:

I've been saying this on message boards for years, and no one will listen to me. They define gameplay as some sort of composite noun that includes rules, mechanics, control systems...things we already have good nouns for, thank you very much. To my mind, "gameplay" is as nebulous a term for understanding a game as "fun".

Then again, I hate the word graphics, too.

By Blogger Troy Goodfellow, at 15 February, 2006 07:45  

That movie had great acting! That food was delicious! That painting is so beautiful! That song rocks! Dancing about architecture.

By Blogger YY, at 15 February, 2006 16:47  

The word is difficult to pin down, I believe, because gameplay can be different things in different games, and indeed sometimes the game resides mostly outside the software itself.

The difficulty involved in defining it does not mean the word is useless, however, just like the word "time" is actually quite difficult to put into words in an unambiguous way.

I need some time to think about this one, hmm.

By Blogger JohnH, at 15 February, 2006 19:03  

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