Non-existent gameplay

(Huge apologies to PC Gamer, I started this and realised after 5 minutes there was already a Devil’s Advocate on it.)

Reviewers frequently use the word “gameplay” when describing a game. What is gameplay? The act of doing something, or interacting with something, in the game. But gameplay is practically non-existent. All that exists in a game is aesthetics.. you know, the look of the game, the sound of the game. What’s the difference in Counter Strike between shooting a desert eagle at somebody, and shooting an USP at someone? That is, taking out all aesthetics. One thing; the amount of damage the person on the other side of the barrel receives. You could replace the desert eagle with a shotgun, and the difference would be the same.

So how do game designers trick us into thinking that there is gameplay, that the difference between firing two types of pistols is that they are both real in the game, that the difference is the same as in firing two pistols in real life? Designers throw on a massive amount of things to trick us. Recoil, magazine capacity, bullet pentration, reload speed, silencers, different firing modes, visuals, sounds etc. make the pixels actually feel like guns, rather than abstract chunks of metal in the bottom-right hand corner of our screens that take hitpoints of another bunch of pixels, which is a character.

Everything in Counter Strike is interchangeable with Day of Defeat. They’re actually exactly the same game, but with a very large amount of very minor aesthetic adjustments. A M16 turns into a BAR, and suddenly everyone’s buying both. In essence, a M16 is the same as a BAR, it’s just that they’re aesthetically different. A terrorist turns into a Nazi, with exactly the same movement speed, health, armour, and suddenly everyone applauds the model design.

So what exactly is the point of this? We’ve established that gameplay doesn’t truly exist, that every time we shoot a fully-animated-with-ragdoll-physics Nazi it could be the same as shooting a peice of paper, and we’ve established that all games in a genre are essentially the same game.

There is one thing that is actually unique to game, that being the story. So please, developers, stop focusing on the aesthetics, and start focusing on the story, the characters, add some truly unique gameplay into it. Mirror’s Edge did exactly that, while also tossing on aesthetic changes to the stock FPS game.

Oh, and this goes to the videogames journalists out there also. Stop lauding games for their gameplay, realise it’s all aesthetics, and write about that instead.

Once again, apologies to PCG.

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2 Responses to “Non-existent gameplay”

  1. peterd102 Says:

    Is Rock Paper Scissors the same as Supreme Commnader? Its the same basic principle but amplified many times.

    Plus the Gameplay might be the same, but the experience is different. There is atmosphere and many minor changes that mean whilst Day of Defeat and Counterstike are the same basic template the two have a different feel.

    Its like a BMW to a mercedes. Both the same basic thing (a german car) but with two different approaches and style ( eg/ handeling or Poweeeerrrr).

    I hope that analogy cleared things up. This comment is actually a devils advocate to a devils advocate, because I think Graphics can only enchance, its like polishing a turd without a good storyline, but when you get them both the results are tremendos.

    Sore was cute and pretty, yet I soon got bored of that and it. The storyline and gameplay of Call of Juarez however kept me racing through it like it was a brilliant book.

  2. But at what point will graphics become so advanced we stop caring? I hope that day comes, because it means devs will have to switch to actual interesting design.

    The only exception is Valve, who place equal importance on both tech (like the cinematic effects of L4D) and beautiful design and story (HL2 and TF2).

    In fact Valve seem to be the only people putting out truly unique gameplay (Portal, Grav gun). And yes, I am a Valve fanboy.

    @Peter,

    No, rock paper shotgun is the same as Supreme Commander.

    This post can become incredibly obsolete at the points you made, so I’m going to choose to acknowledge the validity of them and also ignore them. Mmmkay?

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