Monday, August 13, 2012

All At Once

"At night you can see the lights sometimes from a passing tanker or trawler. From up on the cliffs they are mundane, but down here they fugue into ambiguity. For instance, I cannot readily tell if they belong above or below the waves. The distinction now seems mundane; why not everything all at once! There's nothing better to do here than indulge in contradictions, whilst waiting for the fabric of life to unravel" - Dear Esther

A notion I can not stand is the idea that in any videogame there are gameplay and non-gameplay elements. I can't stand it when people say they don't mind X as long as it doesn't affect the gameplay. Or when people claim cut scenes are not a part of gameplay. Or when people say that if you make it so you can skip the combat, you are removing the gameplay. Or when a scholar distinguishes between the 'play' elements of a game and the 'non-play' elements of a game.

Such distinctions suggest that gameplay is a thing that only happens when I am pressing buttons. What of the time I stood on a Liberty City street corner for twenty minutes and just watched the day pass? What of the time I cowered on a hill in DayZ and looked at a single barn for half an hour, just looking? What of the time I sat helpless and dumbfounded with a controller in my hand as my character bashed Ryan's face in with a golf club?

Gameplay is more than just the 'interactive bits' where you press buttons. It's a milieu. It's everything. I see no reason to distinguish between cut scenes and combat and story and menus and loading screens as either play or not play when all of them come together to contribute to my experience with a game. Gameplay/non-gameplay elements. The distinction is mundane. Indulge in contradictions! Why not everything all at once!


Kunzelman said...

First off, yes. I agree.

The distinction that the scholars are making, I think, is based around the fact that the very act of play is also the act of negotiating the system of the game. For lots of people, that act of negotiation is the core of the game (and is the very core of the concept of a game.) Gameplay, in these instances, seems to be some rhetorical shorthand--it is the moment where the player is directly "touching" the systems of the game experience.

Zolani Stewart said...

Kunzelman is right. I'm not a fan of the term myself, because every aspect of a game is part of the game, but there is a difference between ideas the player can interact with, and ideas that the player cannot. That distinction is important.