Gameplay is the specific way in which players interact with a game, and in particular with video games. Gameplay is the pattern defined through the game rules, connection between player and the game, challenges and overcoming them, plot and player's connection with it. Video game gameplay is distinct from graphics and audio elements.
Arising alongside video game development in the 1980s, the term gameplay was used solely within the context of video games, though now its popularity has begun to see use in the description of other, more traditional, game forms. Generally, gameplay is considered to be the overall experience of playing a video game excluding factors like graphics and sound. Game mechanics, on the other hand, is the sets of rules in a game that are intended to produce an enjoyable gaming experience. Academic discussions tend to favor terms like game mechanics specifically to avoid gameplay since the latter term is too vague.
There are three components to gameplay: "Manipulation rules", defining what the player can do in the game, "Goal Rules", defining the goal of the game, and "Metarules", defining how a game can be tuned or modified. In video games gameplay can be divided into several types. For example, cooperative gameplay involves two or more players playing on a team. Another example is "twitch" gameplay which is based around testing a player's reaction times and precision, maybe in rhythm games or first-person shooters. Various gameplay types are listed below.
Ambiguity in definition
The term gameplay can be quite ambiguous to define, thus it has been differently defined by different authors.
- "A series of interesting choices." -Sid Meier 
- "The structures of player interaction with the game system and with other players in the game."
- "One or more causally linked series of challenges in a simulated environment."
- "A good game is one that you can win by doing the unexpected and making it work."
- "The experience of gameplay is one of interacting with a game design in the performance of cognitive tasks, with a variety of emotions arising from or associated with different elements of motivation, task performance and completion."
- "Gameplay here is seen as the interactive gaming process of the player with the game."
Playability is the ease by which the game can be played or the quantity or duration that a game can be played and is a common measure of the quality of gameplay. Playability evaluative methods target games to improve design while player experience evaluative methods target players to improve gaming." This is not to be confused with the ability to control (or play) characters in multi-character games such as role playing games or fighting games, or factions in real-time strategy games.
Playability is defined as: a set of properties that describe the Player Experience using a specific game system whose main objective is to provide enjoyment and entertainment, by being credible and satisfying, when the player plays alone or in company. Playability is characterized by different attributes and properties to measure the video game player experience.
- Satisfaction: the degree of gratification or pleasure of the player for completing a video game or some aspect of it like: mechanism, graphics, user interface, story, etc. Satisfaction is a highly subjective attribute that provokes a difficult measuring due to player preferences and pleasures having influence in the satisfaction for specific game elements: characters, virtual world, challenges, and so on.
- Learning: the facility to understand and dominate the game system and mechanics (objectives, rules, how to interact with the video game, etc.). The Desktop Systems try to minimize the learning effort, but in video games we can use the learning curve according to the game nature. For example, in one hand, we can demand great initial abilities before to play, or training them harshly in first phases of the game, to help players to understand and dominate all the game rules and resources and they can use them from the beginning of the game. In the other hand, players can learn step by step in a guided way when they need some ability in the video game.
- Efficiency: the necessary time and resources to offer fun and entertainment to players while they achieve the different game objectives and reach the final goal. An efficient video game is able to catch the player's attention from the first instant, and provoke him to continue playing to the end of the game. Efficiency can be analyzed as the correct use of the challenge through the game, the correct structuring of the objectives or the best adaptation of the control to the actions in the game.
- Immersion: the capacity to believe in the video game contents and integrate the player in the virtual game world. The immersion provokes that the player looks involved in the virtual world, becoming part of this and interacting with it because the user perceives the virtual world represented by the video game, with its laws and rules that characterize it. A video game has a good immersion level when it has equilibrium between the proposed challenges and the necessary player abilities to overcome it.
- Motivation: the characteristics that provoke the player to realize concrete actions and persist in them until their culmination. To obtain a high degree of motivation, the game should have a set of resources to ensure the players perseverance in the performed actions to overcome the game challenges. This means, different factors to make sure positive behavior in the interpretation of the game process, focusing the player on the proposed challenges, showing the relevance of the objectives to reach and reward for challenges, promoting the player confidence to face them and the pleasure to achieve them.
- Emotion: the involuntary impulse, originated in response to the stimulus of the video game and induces feelings or unleashes automatic reactions and conducts. The use of emotions in video games help to obtain a best player experience and leads players to different emotional states: happiness, fear, intrigue, curiosity, sadness… using the game challenges, story, aesthetic appearance or the music compositions that are capable of move, affect, to make to smile or to cry to the player. A big success of video games is that they can provoke to players different feelings in a short space of time, some of them hardly obtainable daily in the real world.
- Socialization: the degree of the set of game attributes, elements and resources that promote the social factor of the game experience in group. This kind of experience provokes appreciating the video game in a different way, thanks to the relations that are established with other players or with other characters of the game that help the player to resolve jointly the game challenges in a collaborative, competitive or cooperative way. The game socialization allows players to have a totally different game experience when they play with other persons and promote new social relationships thank to the interaction among them. In addition to this, socialization also is present at how the social connections that we have are projected with the group in the characters of the video game and context in which the game is realized. For example, choosing the player to be connected or to share something, interacting, obtaining information, asking for help, or negotiating for some items, and how our influence with the other character is positive or negative to achieve the game objectives. To promote the social factor it is advisable to develop new shared challenges that help players to integrate and being satisfied with the new game rules and objectives, creating a set of collective emotions where players (or characters) encourage and motivate themselves to overcome the collective challenges
The playability analysis is a very complex process due to the different point of view to analyze the different part of video game architecture. Each facet allows us to identify the different playability's attributes and properties affected by the different elements of video game architecture. The playability's facets are:
- Intrinsic Playability: the playability based on the own video game nature and how it is shown by the player. It is strongly related to the GamePlay and Game Mechanic. In this facet we can analyze the video game design implementation especially video game rules, goals, objectives, rhythm and other design mechanics.
- Mechanical Playability: the video game quality as a software system. It is related to the Game Engine, with special emphasis, for example, in the fluency of the movie scenes, correct lights, shadows and rendering, sound and music, graphics motions, character personality implementation and communication systems in a multiplayer video game.
- Interactive Playability: player interaction and video game user interface development, for example interaction dialog and game controls. This playability is easily visible in the Game Interface.
- Artistic Playability: the quality of the video game arts and aesthetics in the game elements: visual graphics, sound effects, music and melodies, storyline and storytelling and how these elements are shown in the video game.
- Intrapersonal Playability or Personal Playability: the individual vision, perception, and feelings that the video game produces in each player when they play the game. It has a highly subjective value.
- Interpersonal Playability or Social Playability: the group consciousness and different user perceptions when the player plays with other player in a competitive, cooperative or collaborative way.
Finally, the "global" playability of a video game will be deduced through each attribute value in the different playability's facets. It is crucial to improve the playability in the different facets to guarantee the best player experience when the player plays the video game.
- Game development and Game design
- Game mechanics
- Interaction design
- Play (activity)
- Time-keeping systems in games
- Video game genres
- Lindley, Craig (June 24–26, 2004). "Narrative, Game Play, and Alternative Time Structures for Virtual Environments". In Göbel, Stefan. Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment: Proceedings of TIDSE 2004. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 3105. Darmstadt, Germany: Springer. pp. 183–194. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-27797-2_25. ISBN 978-3-540-22283-5.
.. gameplay gestalt, understood as a pattern of interaction with the game system." ("A gestalt may be understood as a configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts."); ".. In general, it [game play gestalt] is a particular way of thinking about the game state from the perspective of a player, together with a pattern of repetitive perceptual, cognitive, and motor operations. A particular gameplay gestalt could be unique to a person, a game, or even a playing occasion. Unique game play gestalts can also be identified across games, game genres, and players.
- Salen, Katie; Zimmerman, Eric (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-262-24045-1.
Game play is the formalized interaction that occurs when players follow the rules of a game and experience its system through play.
- Lindley, Craig; Nacke, Lennart; Sennersten, Charlotte (November 3–5, 2008). Dissecting Play – Investigating the Cognitive and Emotional Motivations and Affects of Computer Gameplay. Proceedings of CGAMES 08. Wolverhampton, UK: University of Wolverhampton. ISBN 978-0-9549016-6-0.
The experience of gameplay is one of interacting with a game design in the performance of cognitive tasks, with a variety of emotions arising from or associated with different elements of motivation, task performance and completion
- Tavinor, Grant (October 5, 2009). The Art of Videogames. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-8788-6.
[T]he interactive involvement typically associated with videogames, that is, the activities that occur when one plays a videogame.
- Egenfeldt-Nielson, Simon; Smith, Jonas Heide; Tosca, Susana Pajares (February 19, 2008). Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-97721-0.
In line with the common use of the term, we will define gameplay as: the game dynamics emerging from the interplay between rules and game geography.
- Laramée, François Dominic (June 15, 2002). Game Design Perspectives. Charles River Media. ISBN 978-1-58450-090-2.
- Adams, Ernest; Rollings, Andrew (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on game design. New Riders Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59273-001-8.
One or more casually linked series of challenges in a simulated environment"; "Gameplay is the result of a large number of contributing elements. .. gameplay is not a singular entity. It is a combination of many elements, a synergy that emerges from the inclusion of certain factors. .. The gameplay emerges from the interaction among these elements, ..
- Adams, Ernest (September 23, 2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-168747-9.
.. defined gameplay as consisting of the challenges and actions that a game offers: challenges for the player to overcome and actions that let her overcome them. .. [T]he essence of gameplay remains the relationship between the challenges and the actions available to surmount them.
- Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11, Revised ed.). Oxford University Press, USA. August 11, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-954841-5.
gameplay (in a computer game) the plot and the way the game is played, as distinct from the graphics and sound effects
- Oxland, Kevin (2004). Gameplay and design. Addison Wesley. ISBN 978-0-321-20467-7.
.. gameplay is the components that make up a rewarding, absorbing, challenging experience that compels player to return for more .. [Gameplay] does not come from a great visual character, not does it come from state-of-art technology and beautifully rendered art.
- Kierkegaard, Alex (2012). Videogame Culture: Volume 1.
- Frasca, G (2003). "Simulation versus narrative: introduction to ludology". The Videogame Theory Reader: 221.
- Rollings, Andrew; Morris, Dave (1999). Game Architecture and Design. Coriolis Group Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-57610-425-5.
- Björk, Staffan; Holopainen, Jussi (2005). Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN 978-1-58450-354-5.
- Adams, Ernest; Rollings, Andrew (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on game design. New Riders Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59273-001-8.
- Rollings, Andrew; Morris, Dave (2000). Game Architecture and Design. New Riders Games. ISBN 978-0-7357-1363-5.
- Nacke, Lennart E.; Drachen, Anders; Kuikkaniemi, Kai; Niesenhaus, Joerg; Korhonen, Hannu; van den Hoogen, Wouter; Poels, Karolien; IJsselsteijn, Wijnand; et al. (September 1, 2009). "Playability and Player Experience Research" (PDF). Proceedings of DiGRA 2009: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory.
playability is the evaluative process directed toward games, whereas player experience is directed toward players. More precisely, playability methods evaluate games to improve design, whereas player experience methods evaluate players to improve gaming.(p.1)
- Usability First: Usability Glossary: playability Archived 2009-10-18 at the Wayback Machine
- González Sánchez, J. L.; Gutiérrez Vela, F.L.; Montero Simarro, F.; Padilla-Zea, N. (31 Aug 2012). "Playability: analysing user experience in video games". Behaviour & Information Technology. 31 (10): 1033–1054. doi:10.1080/0144929X.2012.710648.
- Stanford Ontology Library Video game's Elements Ontology: A video game's elements ontology by González Sánchez, J. L. and Gutiérrez Vela, F. L. University of Granada, Spain.
Further reading on playability
- Desurvire, H., Caplan, M., & Toth, J. A. (2004). Using heuristics to evaluate the playability of games. CHI '04 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, Vienna, Austria. doi:10.1145/985921.986102
- Fabricatore, C., Nussbaum, M., & Rosas, R. (2002). Playability in video games: a qualitative design model. Human-Computer Interaction, 17(4), 311-368. doi:10.1207/S15327051HCI1704_1
- Jegers, K. (2008). Investigating the Applicability of Usability and Playability Heuristics for Evaluation of Pervasive Games. Internet and Web Applications and Services, 2008. ICIW '08.
- Korhonen, H., & Koivisto, E. M. I. (2006). Playability heuristics for mobile games. In Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Helsinki, Finland, September 12–15, 2006). MobileHCI '06, vol. 159. ACM, New York, NY, 9-16. doi: 10.1145/1152215.1152218
- Korhonen H., Koivisto E.M.I. (2007). Playability Heuristics for Mobile Multi-player Games. In proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts, DIMEA 2007, ACM Press (2007), pp. 28–35. Perth, Australia. doi: 10.1145/1306813.1306828
- Nacke, L. (2009). From Playability to a Hierarchical Game Usability Model. In Proceedings of the 2009 Conference on Future Play on @ GDC Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, May 12–13, 2009). FuturePlay '09. ACM, New York, NY, 11-12. doi: 10.1145/1639601.1639609
- Nacke, L. E., Drachen, A., Kuikkaniemi, K., Niesenhaus, J., Korhonen, H. J., Hoogen, W. M. v. d., et al. (2009). Playability and Player Experience Research. Proceedings of DiGRA 2009: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory, London, UK. (online slides)
- Järvinen, A., Heliö, S. and Mäyrä, F. Communication and Community in Digital Entertainment Services. Prestudy Research Report, Hypermedia Laboratory, University of Tampere, Tampere, 2002.
- González Sánchez, J. L., Zea, N. P., & Gutiérrez, F. L. (2009). From Usability to Playability: Introduction to Player-Centred Video Game Development Process. Proceedings of First International Conference, HCD 2009 (Held as Part of HCI International), San Diego, CA, USA. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-02806-9_9
- González Sánchez, J. L., Zea, N. P., & Gutiérrez, F. L. (2009). Playability: How to Identify the Player Experience in a Video Game. Proceedings of INTERACT 2009: 12th IFIP TC 13 International Conference, Uppsala, Sweden, August 24–28, 2009. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-03655-2_39
- González Sánchez, J. L., Montero, F., Padilla Zea, N., Gutiérrez, F. L. "Playability as Extension of Quality in Use in Video Games". Proceedings of 2nd International Workshop on the Interplay between Usability Evaluation and Software Development (I-USED), paper number 6.Uppsala, Sweden, 24 August (2009)<