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Gameplay is the specific way in which player
Player (game)
A player of a game is a participant therein. The term 'player' is used with this same meaning both in game theory and in ordinary recreational games....

s interact
Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect...

 with a game
A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements...

, and in particular with video games. Gameplay is the pattern
A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects.These elements repeat in a predictable manner...

 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, or audio elements.


Gameplay is a term used to describe the interactive aspects of game design. An alternative name for gameplay that is finding favor with academics is game mechanics, however, it can be argued that gameplay and game mechanics are different concepts. Gameplay is what distinguishes a game from a non-interactive medium such as a book or film through the interaction with the game by the player. Often the game designer will seek to provide challenges for players through the design of game mechanics that it is hoped to be found entertaining by the player. Key concepts in gameplay design are:
  1. The presence of an environment.
  2. The ability for objects within the environment to change.
  3. Rules governing changes of state of objects—such as position—in response to the state of other objects and/or decisions made by the player.
  4. Player rewards and punishments resulting from changes to the state of the game.
  5. Players being able to manipulate objects or interact with the environment and its objects.


Arising alongside video game development
Game development
Game development is the software development process by which a video game is developed. Development is undertaken by a game developer, which may range from a single person to a large business. Mainstream games are normally funded by a publisher and take several years to develop. Indie games can...

 in the 1980s, gameplay was used solely within the context of video or computer games, though now its popularity has begun to see use in the description of other, more traditional, game forms. Generally, the term gameplay in video game terminology is used to describe the overall experience of playing the game excluding factors like graphics and sound. Game mechanic
Game mechanic
Game mechanics are constructs of rules intended to produce an enjoyable game or gameplay. All games use mechanics; however, theories and styles differ as to their ultimate importance to the game...

s refers to sets of rules in a game that are intended to produce an enjoyable gaming experience. Often academic discussions tend to favor terms like game mechanics specifically to avoid 'gameplay'.

Gameplay types

In video games gameplay can be divided into several types, for example, cooperative gameplay involves cooperation of one or more players, or deathmatch where players compete to kill each other, another example could be "twitch" gameplay which is based around testing a players reaction times and precision, maybe in rhythm games or first-person shooters. Various gameplay types are listed below.
  • Cooperative gameplay
    Cooperative gameplay
    Cooperative gameplay is a feature in video games that allows players to work together as teammates. It is distinct from other multiplayer modes, such as competitive multiplayer modes like player versus player or deathmatch...

  • Deathmatch
    Deathmatch (gaming)
    Deathmatch or Player vs All is a widely-used gameplay mode integrated into many shooter and real-time strategy computer games...

  • Emergent gameplay
    Emergent gameplay
    Emergent gameplay refers to complex situations in video games, board games, or table top role-playing games that emerge from the interaction of relatively simple game mechanics....

  • Hack and slash
    Hack and slash
    Hack and slash or hack and slay, abbreviated H&S or HnS, refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat. "Hack and slash" was originally used to describe an aspect of pen-and-paper role-playing games , carrying over from there to MUDs, MMORPGs, and video games in general...

  • Leveled gameplay
  • Micromanagement
  • Nonlinear gameplay
  • Passive gameplay
  • Twitch gameplay

Ambiguity in definition

The term gameplay can be quite ambiguous to define, thus it has been differently defined by different authors.

For instance:
  • "A series of interesting choices." -Sid Meier
    Sid Meier
    Sidney K. "Sid" Meier is a Canadian programmer and designer of several popular computer strategy games, most notably Civilization. He has won accolades for his contributions to the computer games industry...

  • "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 a term in video gaming jargon
Jargon is terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event. The philosophe Condillac observed in 1782 that "Every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas." As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment he...

 that is used to describe the ease by which the game can be played, or the quantity or duration that a game can be played, in other words, the quality of gameplay. Good playability of a game should also be a prerequisite for evaluating game experience. It has been proposed that "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."


The term "playable" may also be used to refer to objects in the gameplay that can be controlled by the player.

Playability can be 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 when the player plays alone or in company".

The definition of Playability can be based on Quality in Use. Playability represents "the degree in which specific player achieve specific game goals with effectiveness, efficiency, flexibility, security and, especially, satisfaction in a playable context of use".

It can be ascribed to characters in role playing games or fighting game
Fighting game
Fighting game is a video game genre where the player controls an on-screen character and engages in close combat with an opponent. These characters tend to be of equal power and fight matches consisting of several rounds, which take place in an arena. Players must master techniques such as...

s, and to factions in real-time strategy
Real-time strategy
Real-time strategy is a sub-genre of strategy video game which does not progress incrementally in turns. Brett Sperry is credited with coining the term to market Dune II....

 games. Various antonym
In lexical semantics, opposites are words that lie in an inherently incompatible binary relationship as in the opposite pairs male : female, long : short, up : down, and precede : follow. The notion of incompatibility here refers to the fact that one word in an opposite pair entails that it is not...

s include unplayable, static and non-playable character
Non-player character
A non-player character , sometimes known as a non-person character or non-playable character, in a game is any fictional character not controlled by a player. In electronic games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer through artificial intelligence...

. The term features often in previews, review
A review is an evaluation of a publication, a product or a service, such as a movie , video game, musical composition , book ; a piece of hardware like a car, home appliance, or computer; or an event or performance, such as a live music concert, a play, musical theater show or dance show...

s and other critical discussions of games. In those places, whether a certain object will be able to be controlled by the player or not is of interest. A large amount of playable objects can enhance gameplay by supplying the player with a large amount of possibilities. Similarly, a game where there is a large amount of non-playable characters may be less immersive. Playability can also be used to describe a games fun factor and ease of play and it can be used as a factor for games to be rated, either by reviewers and critics or by players themselves.

Playability's attributes

Playability is characterized by different attributes and properties to measure the video game player experience
  • Satisfaction: it is the degree of gratification or pleasure of the player for a complete video game of some aspect of it like: mechanism, graphics, user interface, story, etc. Satisfaction is a high subjective attribute that provokes a difficult measuring due to the player preferences and pleasures have influence in the satisfaction for specific game elements: characters, virtual word, challenges, and so on.
  • Learning: It is identifies as 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: It is defined as 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 attention from the first instant, and provoke him continuing 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: It is 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 got equilibrium between the proposed challenges and the necessary player abilities to overcome it.
  • Motivation: It is defined as the characteristics that provoke to 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: It is 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: It is 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 to 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

Playability's facets

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: It is the playability based on the own video game nature and how it is showed 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: It is 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: It is associated with 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: This facet shows 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 showed in the video game.
  • Intrapersonal Playability: Or Personal Playability. It shows the individual vision, perception and feelings that the video game produces in each player when they play the game. It has a high subjective value.
  • Interpersonal Playability: Or Social Playability. It shows 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.

See also

  • Game development
    Game development
    Game development is the software development process by which a video game is developed. Development is undertaken by a game developer, which may range from a single person to a large business. Mainstream games are normally funded by a publisher and take several years to develop. Indie games can...

     and Game design
    Game design
    Game design, a subset of game development, is the process of designing the content and rules of a game in the pre-production stage and design of gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters during production stage. The term is also used to describe both the game design embodied in a game as...

  • Game mechanics
  • Interaction design
    Interaction design
    In design, human–computer interaction, and software development, interaction design, often abbreviated IxD, is "the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services." Like many other design fields interaction design also has an interest in form but its main...

  • Play (activity)
    Play (activity)
    Play is a term employed in ethology and psychology to describe to a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment...

  • Time-keeping systems in games
    Time-keeping systems in games
    In video and other games, the passage of time must be handled in a way that players find fair and easy to understand. This is usually done in one of two ways:-Real-time:...

  • Video game genres

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.