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What the Hell is "Gameplay?"

Old 07-24-02, 02:23 PM
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What the Hell is "Gameplay?"

Everyone (mostly Nintendo fanatics) seems to say how the "gameplay is what's important" and not anything else, but I haven't really heard anyone's definition of "Gameplay"... I have my own ideas about what it means, but I'm curious as to what it means to other people. Because most Nintendo fans will say that the Mario series has amazing gameplay or whatever and it just seems like a typical platformer to me and the "gameplay" - which I assume to be related to the type of game that it is in that you press buttons to make him jump around or shoot fireballs or water or whatever - is really not interesting to me and therefore the statement that it has great gameplay is purely subjective rather than fact. If that's the case, then I don't think saying "Great Gameplay" should be accepted as a valid reason for saying why a game is so great... only because it's based purely on opinion. Now, if people were to say "As a platformer, the Mario games are the best in terms of pacing and how high you can jump and how far you can throw fireballs" I could accept that. It just seems that people compare apples to oranges and say that the Gameplay of Mario is better than the Gameplay of Halo. I'm really not trying to pick a fight, so please don't take my comments as anti-this or pro-that. I'm just looking for everyone's definition of "gameplay" since it's a word that is getting used quite alot and as far as I can tell it doesn't really mean anything.

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Old 07-24-02, 02:39 PM
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Gameplay is just that...how the game plays. It includes such things as control scheme, camera, and level design. In other words, "how fun is this game to play?"

Gameplay is one of three factors in how a video game is put together (at least in terms of "Groucho's Video Game Theory"). The other two are Presentation and Content. Presentation is simple enough: graphics and sound. Content would include the storyline as well as the "feel" of the game:dark and disturbing, cute and cartoony, whatever.

So, if somebody says "Gameplay is the most important thing" that means they value it over Presentation and Content. I think most people on this board fall into that category...not just so-called "Nintendo fanatics."
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Old 07-24-02, 02:42 PM
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But doesn't camera and level design fall under presentation and content respectively in many cases?
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Old 07-24-02, 02:43 PM
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An interesting question to be sure, but one in which answers will most likely be as varied as those regarding graphics or music, simply because it is in fact subjective to each player.

As for my definition, I'm not even sure I'm sure about it. But I think it includes things like control scheme, the number and types of moves available for each character (especially important in a platformer), and whether it is too repetitious. By nature the gameplay will be repetitous, but if it is enjoyable and changes enough throughout the course of the game then it can still be enjoyable.

Also included in my definition are issues such as save points and inventories for games which require one. For example, there is a fine line between challenging and annoying, and some games with their lack of save points travel way over into annoying. Some games have too many and the game become too easy. Likewise, games in which you have an inventory, but it takes too long to navigate menus or the layout is not easily accessible, can become taxing very quickly. Obviously these are extremely subjective comments and are only my opinion.

There are many examples of good and bad gameplay in my opinion, but in an attempt to stay as objective as possible, I'll wait a while before they are mentioned.

One other note: As with everything, there is no existing game in which the gameplay is either hated or loved by every gamer. Also, it is difficult to know what the "majority" of gamers think of a certain game, so I suggest we use our own definitions and not speculate about what whole groups of gamers think about a certain topic, since it is certainly something we can never know (unless all gamers were polled, which seems unlikely).

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Old 07-24-02, 02:53 PM
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Camera: generally, I would put this under "Gameplay" because a crappy camera scheme will affect your play and could even get you killed. This was a common complaint against the Sonic Adventure games.

Level Design: in reality this is 90% Gameplay and 10% content. I want a level that I can finish, but that provides me with a nice challenge along the way. On the other hand, I don't want to go through room after room of crates.
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Old 07-24-02, 02:58 PM
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Good comments... Going off what you said Stoolie, I'd suggest that the word "Gameplay" isn't even needed as it's just an umbrella word that encompasses different things to different people. Perhaps it's just a lazy way for someone to say they like a game's control scheme or the way it's fast paced or how challenging the puzzles are or how smooth the character reacts or whatever. I think if we're going to have fruitful discussions about games, this word should be avoided. I guess that could be seen as nitpicky, and of course nobody has to agree with me - it's just a suggestion really. I'm still curious about what other people think. I'm sure there's a fair amount of people who never really thought about it and like me just said "gameplay" because everyone else was.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:01 PM
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Gameplay is what you do in a game.

Broadly, it's exploring, killing things, collecting things, getting to the end of a level, beating a boss etc.

Specifically, it's things like shooting, jumping, dodging obstacles, etc.

I pretty much agree with what Groucho said.

Gameplay is most important to me because it's whether what you do in the game is fun or not that matters most to me.

Graphics, sound and other stuff are nice and are important to, but can't save a game with poor gameplay.

If a game plays like crap, it doesn't matter how good it looks because I play games to have fun.

If a game looks like crap (but not to the point that it affects gameplay with poor frame rates, clipping etc.), it can still be enjoyed if the gameplay is good and it's fun to play. For example, old NES and Genesis games look like crap buy todays standards, but they are still fun to play IMO.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:02 PM
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Originally posted by Groucho
Camera: generally, I would put this under "Gameplay" because a crappy camera scheme will affect your play and could even get you killed. This was a common complaint against the Sonic Adventure games.

Level Design: in reality this is 90% Gameplay and 10% content. I want a level that I can finish, but that provides me with a nice challenge along the way. On the other hand, I don't want to go through room after room of crates.
Both of these issues depend entirely on the type of game you're playing though... as with FPS games, the camera is controlled by you because it's your viewpoint. So the fact that it's a First person shooter by nature means that the camera has either everything to do with the "gameplay" or nothing to do with it depending on how you look at it. As for Level Design - in FPS games, the levels are almost always part of the story which is content. In platformers I can see how level design contributes to the "gameplay" (if we're going on your definition for purposes of having this discussion with you ), but other than that it's not really. Adventure games too - the level design is all content. I don't think the word "gameplay" can mean the same thing across all different genres of games which is why I'm bringing this issue up.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:04 PM
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I don't see why we need to stop using the term Gameplay. It's not confusing at all. If person A says "I won't be picking up Mario Sunshine because the graphics are terrible" and person B says "I will be picking up because for me Gameplay is my top priority" I think everybody knows what both people are saying.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:07 PM
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Originally posted by Josh Hinkle
I pretty much agree with what Groucho said.

Gameplay is most important to me because it's whether what you do in the game is fun or not that matters most to me.
Yeah - this is one point Groucho made that I particularly agree with... if the game is fun or not is most certainly important. Maybe we should just say whether or not a game is fun to play rather than saying the gameplay is good or bad. No? I mean, do you see any reason to keep the word around? That aside, I think your definition of gameplay is very simple and direct and makes sense. "Gameplay is what you do in a game." That I can understand... it just seems that everyone may think that, but like Groucho and I are discussing - when posed the question, definitions may vary as to what is or is not considered gameplay.

Sorry - this discussion is really interesting so far...
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Old 07-24-02, 03:07 PM
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Originally posted by Trigger
I don't think the word "gameplay" can mean the same thing across all different genres of games which is why I'm bringing this issue up.
It doesn't need to mean the same thing across all genres. The fact that different genres have different gameplay is what makes the genres different.

Gameplay is simply what you do in a game.

The gameplay in a platformer revolves around jumping, killing and avoiding enemies and obstacles, and collecting things in most cases.

In a typical FPS the gameplay revolves around killing enemies before they kill you, and completing various objectives.

In a typical RPG the gameplay revolves around exploring the world, talking to people to figure out where to go next, leveling up your characters, etc.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:08 PM
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Originally posted by Trigger
I don't think the word "gameplay" can mean the same thing across all different genres of games which is why I'm bringing this issue up.
You're absolutely correct. When I say "Halo has great gameplay!" it means something very different than "Tetris Worlds has great gameplay!" I think everybody knows that. Obviously, Madden 2003 doesn't have better "level design" than Madden 2002.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:10 PM
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Originally posted by Groucho
I don't see why we need to stop using the term Gameplay. It's not confusing at all. If person A says "I won't be picking up Mario Sunshine because the graphics are terrible" and person B says "I will be picking up because for me Gameplay is my top priority" I think everybody knows what both people are saying.
Yeah, but if someone says "I will be picking it up because Gameplay is my top priority" - I just think back to when I've played Mario games and I think to myself "If gameplay is important to that person, why would he want to pick up that game?" and then that makes me wonder if I just have a wrong definition of what gameplay means or just a different definition from this person and then I post a thread titled "What the hell is gameplay?" But yeah - I think everyone kinda knows what each other means, but I think there are better ways to express it. No biggie. Like I said, I didn't want to pick a fight.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:11 PM
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Originally posted by Trigger
Maybe we should just say whether or not a game is fun to play rather than saying the gameplay is good or bad. No? I mean, do you see any reason to keep the word around?
Why is one preferable to the other? It's just semantics, no? It's just easier to type "Jax and Dexter has good gameplay" over "In my opinion, Jax and Dexter is fun for me to play."
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Old 07-24-02, 03:13 PM
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Originally posted by Groucho
You're absolutely correct. When I say "Halo has great gameplay!" it means something very different than "Tetris Worlds has great gameplay!" I think everybody knows that. Obviously, Madden 2003 doesn't have better "level design" than Madden 2002.
Well, so are we working towards a universal definition of what "Gameplay" means? I think everyone kinda knows what people mean when they say that, but not exactly... I mean - if you all are married to the word, I'm not gonna try to get it removed from the general vocabulary. I'm just wondering if we can get a simple definition or at least encourage people to expand their comments beyond "this game has great gameplay"... Maybe I'm just developing a pet peeve for the word in general cuz I see it so often.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:17 PM
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Originally posted by Groucho
Why is one preferable to the other? It's just semantics, no? It's just easier to type "Jax and Dexter has good gameplay" over "In my opinion, Jax and Dexter is fun for me to play."
You're right - it is entirely semantics... but I think saying something is fun to play sounds like a subjective opinion that can be taken with a grain of salt as well as stand as a testimony to the quality of the game depending on how you feel about the person saying it... saying something has great gameplay sounds to me more like someone is stating a fact rather than an opinion and it's a little deceiving... plus, I don't know if they mean it has great gameplay because it's fun or because it's scary or because it's repetitive or because it's perverted or whatever. I'm all for being more descriptive and people tend to use "gameplay" as a word to encompass a great number of other descriptive adjectives.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:18 PM
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Well Trigger, you're not really questioning the meaning of the term "gameplay" so much as the idea of "good gameplay" or "fun gameplay."

Gameplay is cut and dry. It's basically what you do in the game.

For your mario example, the gameplay in mario sunshine will be running, jumping, using the water pack to do stuff, collecting coins, and completing objectives to get shines.

Everyone can agree on that.

To you that isn't fun gameplay (nor the whole series). That's fine, whether gameplay is "good" or not is subjective and varies from person to person.

So it's not the term gameplay that's causing you problems per se, but the concept of good gameplay.

Good gameplay can't be defined, because it is simply an opinion.

Saying a game has good gameplay, is an opinion that is synonomous with saying "I think the game is fun to play."
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Old 07-24-02, 03:21 PM
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Generally when somebody talks about "Gameplay" it's in response to another comment. I remember when Nintendo first unveiled the cel-shaded look for the next Zelda game. People in this forum (and elsewhere) came out and said "Because of the way this game looks, I will not be buying it." Others said "Well, I may not like the look but I buy games for the Gameplay so I will pick it up if it is solid in that department."

I agree that if somebody posts a "review" of a game that consists nothing of "Good gameplay!" it's completely meaningless.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:24 PM
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Exactly, groucho.

I don't think I've ever seen a review that just said "good gameplay."

It's a term used usually when someone is bashing the graphics or something of a game. Some one counters with "I just care about gameplay," because in their opinion it is what you do in a game that makes the game fun, not how it looks.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:24 PM
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I don't think that's it, Josh... I have issue with good gameplay or bad gameplay or fun gameplay - what's so good about it? What's so bad about it? What's so fun about it? Don't be lazy and just say the "gameplay" is this or that, tell me specifically what you like or dislike about a game. Or don't... I'm just saying. Anyway - the common thread among these comments is the word 'gameplay" and that's the word I'm taking issue with. Some games you control a character, some games you control armies, some games you move blocks or shapes around, and some games have no characters or objects to move but they just require you to think. I don't know.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:25 PM
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Great topic!

I equate gameplay to how I feel playing the game. The word 'gameplay' is more subjective than objective to me, and I think when people say a game has great gameplay they mean that they have fun when they play that game. But, I think people like to use the word 'gameplay' rather than word 'fun' because it makes the person who is using the word seem more sophisticated or intelligent. I think people can break down what they like about a game objectively, but people can disagree about those things as well. Sometimes people have fun playing a game, but can't put into words why they have fun playing it. Having fun is what it's all about.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:27 PM
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Like I said above, the term gameplay isn't usually used in a review.

If I'm giving my opinion on something, I'll go into detail of why I like or dislike it, as do most people.

Good gameplay is usually just a counter to people bashing a game for it's graphics or what not.

This doesn't require a full review. It just requires saying "I don't care about the graphics, I care about the gameplay, and this game is fun to play."
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Old 07-24-02, 03:27 PM
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Originally posted by Josh Hinkle
Exactly, groucho.

I don't think I've ever seen a review that just said "good gameplay."

It's a term used usually when someone is bashing the graphics or something of a game. Some one counters with "I just care about gameplay," because in their opinion it is what you do in a game that makes the game fun, not how it looks.
Well, maybe someone considers the fact that Mario uses cartoony characters as part of the gameplay and he doesn't like it, so when that person says - "I don't like cutesy graphics" and the other person replies "well I just care about the gameplay" the other person scratches his head and goes "wha??"
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Old 07-24-02, 03:30 PM
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Cutesy characters can't fit into my definition of gameplay.

Gameplay is what you do in a game, end of story.

Character design fall into the content category.

And disliking a game for it's content is perfectly valid.
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Old 07-24-02, 03:33 PM
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Originally posted by Josh Hinkle
Character design fall into the content category.
Correcto-mundo! Unreal Tournament plays exactly the same whether I skin my character as "Homer Simpson" or as "Nude Woman."
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