So… where is the gameplay?

Where’s the gameplay?

After much thought, and a quick trip to the supermarket, I’ve decided to name the blog: “Where’s the Gameplay?”. Daft name, huh? :)

This was based on an anecdote from my lecturer about pitching games. Apparently after seeing a games pitch, the first thing a lot of publishers ask is: “Where’s the gameplay? I want to see the gameplay” — usually because a good deal of games pitched to them would only emphasise story and setting, but not the meat and potatoes – the gameplay. Apparently this is such a problem that there are stories of developers trying to pass off prerendered videos (and once even a Powerpoint presentation) as working game prototypes.

So over the years, groups in our class pitched a lot of games to each other, and “Where’s the gameplay!?” became a sort of mantra among the more cynical of us (and sometimes a running joke). It might sound obvious, but some people could talk for over twenty minutes without explaining just what the player was expected to do in the game. At all. Many times, after further probing, we’d discover that the ‘gameplay’ was in fact, just a collection of minigames, with no real substance. I’ll say this for nothing – it’s hard enough to make one kick-ass game, let alone a bunch of them.

A lot of people just fell into the trap of style over substance: – pitching (and sometimes developing) non-games. The same thing happens in modding. A cool film comes out, and a bunch of people try to make a mod about it, even though the subject material and settings are completely innappropriate for gaming and gameplay. It’s not just modders though — look at commercial games like Little Britain: The Computer Game that retails for £20, and I wonder if it’s a bigger problem than people think.

Anyway, without getting into a rant about licensed games; here’s the thing: if you’re in the business of making games, or you’re thinking about getting into the business of making games — at any level — gameplay should be on the forefront of your mind. Always. It’s too easy to get distracted or unfocused by things like features, characters, stories, immersion, USPs & hooks, weapons, physics, interactivity, visual style, and all that. Gameplay is king. So there. :)

Hence ask yourself: “Where’s the gameplay?”

Oh, and if you have to ask what ‘gameplay’ is — you’ll never know. ;)