What is Gameplay?

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December 4, 2012 by Devin

I have been playing The Walking Dead game a lot lately. It has one of the best storylines that I have seen in any form of media, bar none, and I completely understand why many are calling it their game of the year.

There is some debate on this, though. One of the commenters I saw on the game mentioned it had a great storyline but weak gameplay. The Walking Dead is an adventure game with a heavy emphasis on dialogue, meaning that most of the game is spent watching cutscenes and talking to other characters. There are puzzles, but the puzzles are not that complicated. There are action segments, but these are not that involved or difficult. It seems many people equate the puzzles and action scenes as the gameplay and the cutscenes as something else.

In most games, this distinction is acceptable. You could skip all the cutscenes in Halo and still be able to beat every level.

Listening to Cortana: optional

However, there are many games that the cutscenes are part of the gameplay. In Bioware games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, the player remains an active participant, and the choices there affect the other parts of the game. The Walking Dead does this better than any other game I have seen, as the cutscenes affect the player in the same way that the player affects the story. I found that the choices I made were often dependent what I saw in the cutscenes. I was convinced one character was useless, but the slightest intonation in his voice made me reconsider and ultimately keep him around.

To compare, I want to look at one of the industry’s top games: Half-Life 2. In that game, there are no cutscenes, but there are certainly areas without gameplay. There are sections where the player cannot do anything but listen to the people talking in the room. Is this really gameplay just because the game sticks to a first-person perspective? These may not be cutscenes, but they are functional cutscenes.

To say that The Walking Dead has bad gameplay is faulty if one is only looking at the action scenes and puzzle elements. Sure, those are the only traditional gameplay sections, but limiting the definition of gameplay to only that which seems like other games is too restricting.

The difficulty in The Walking Dead does not come from getting through the game, but getting through while still holding a high opinion of yourself.

It is my belief that The Walking Dead has a great story and great gameplay, and the reason is that the game makes the difference between those two elements as small as possible.

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