Is Gameplay More Important than Art?

David Jaffe

One of the big things that we all hear game developers talking about these days is an emphasis on narrative and story. They’re looking for better ways to convey emotion, bigger ways to connect with an audience and new avenues to tell their grand tales. But has this come at the price of gameplay? David Jaffe, creator of God of War, thinks so.

In his PAX keynote last weekend, Jaffe spoke at length about the idea that many AAA games these days have sacrificed gameplay and mechanics for the sake of trying to tell a story/act like a movie. He argued that it’s the games like Pac-Man, Tetris and the like that will really stick with us in 50 years’ time, more so than the titles that just play like interactive cut scenes.

Jaffe definitely raises some thoughtful points here. As much as I love a story, I’ve long been unhappy with the way that games handle their stories. And really, even the best story can be undone by boring or rote gameplay. The games with great stories that I remember are the ones that were coupled with great mechanics and a style of play I enjoyed.

What do you guys think of this? Do you agree with Jaffe? Are stories getting in the way of gameplay? Does it need to be an either/or discussion? Go!

Source – Gamasutra

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

7 thoughts on “Is Gameplay More Important than Art?”

  1. There can be both, but if a game has crappy gameplay, but a great story, I won’t keep playing.

    Crappy story, but great gameplay, I will keep playing.

    I want it all.

  2. It all really depends on the game for me. I have a tolerance, so to speak, to games with mediocre gameplay/stories. If one outweighs the other, but only to a certain degree, then I’ll keep playing. But if it depends heavily on the gameplay or story, because the other half is way too weak, then I probably will end up putting it down.

  3. I like a mixture of both, but if I need to lean I’ll lean towards great story. And I’ve learned not to give two shits about what David Jaffe has to say, he’s a hothead that like to start shit and needs to shut his mouth and just make games.

  4. As much as I agree with you Drell Assassin, I wholeheartedly agree with Jaffe here. I’ve been replaying Crysis 2 (Trophy run) and I’m realising just how jarringly bad the story elements are. If you ignore the fact that it’s the most cliché, uninteresting and poorly written story I’ve been privy to in ANY form of entertainment in a LONG time (there is NO hyperbole there whatsoever, I hated it THAT much) and just observe how the story gets in the way of gameplay then it becomes obvious how much of a problem is. I’ve viewed it as a problem for a long time but maybe due to its story it stood out more than usual. Games like Uncharted and Half Life tell a good story AND let you absorb as much or as little as you want without becoming obtrusive. They make you follow the story through quality rather than trap you in Mr Cliché Scientist’s appartment while he tells you Resistance’s and Independance Day’s plotlines but changes “Chimera” (one word: “Tunguska”) to “Ceph fuckers” (seriously, there’s an obscene amount of F-Bombs in that game) and the cold/virus KILLS the Ceph rather than lowers their shields a la Independance Day. I would have prefaced that with a “SPOILERS”, but I’m sure you’ve all seen that film. Uncharted’s cutscenes never overstay their welcome, scripted events and “walk-only-sections” – as I call them – never overstep their boundaries. Half Life 2 never relinquishes your control from you bar, like once or twice in the entire goddam game. Crysis 2 gets in your way at least twice per level. God, Gould and Hargreave are utterly annoying. Crysis 2 most certainly isn’t the only game guilty of story-implemented-poorly-at-the-cost-of-gameplay (it always kicks in between awesome battles and leaves you with a sour taste with regards to that level) but it’s a REALLY bad offender.
    Okay, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Sorry to anyone who read that and thought “What a whiner”, lol.

  5. [quote comment=”17542″]I like a mixture of both, but if I need to lean I’ll lean towards great story. And I’ve learned not to give two shits about what David Jaffe has to say, he’s a hothead that like to start shit and needs to shut his mouth and just make games.[/quote]

    But he’s honest. In a time when most interviews are boring PR speak, Jaffe always speaks his mind. We should applaud that.

  6. First off, in both the keynote and the referenced article, Jaffe lays out some pretty personal stuff, so kudos to him for that.

    I’m firmly of the mindset that story doesn’t have to get in the way of gameplay, and that you can, in fact, have it all. Not that you always have to. Not every game concept or development team has (or needs) the means to craft a great story, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve never felt that Pac-Man is lacking for an interwoven narrative detailing how our dot-craving spheroid protagonist found himself in an infinite maze of gluttony, disembodied souls, and evanescent fruit. Stories can and will get in the way of gameplay, as evidenced by Skuba’s tale of Crysis 2, but they don’t have to.

    What rings hollow to me about Jaffe’s argument is that he seems to endorse a dichotomy where movies should do art and games should do mechanics. In doing so, he implies that games can’t be fully successful vehicles for story (or other “art”) without sacrificing what makes them unique as games, ultimately rendering them forgettable endeavors without lasting value. And I just can’t agree with him there.

  7. I think it depends what I’m expecting from each game. If I go in expecting awesome gameplay but little story (cough: Gears of War) then I’m okay with that. Likewise sometimes I figure a game will be all story and not a lot of visceral gameplay, but that’s okay! I think the new Deus Ex: HR is a good example of gamers expecting both and getting that. If it didn’t have the right amount of either it would have been a disappointment.

    It’s all about expectations. I have no problems with a shitty shooter if I know that going into it. Nothing worse than a game that hypes “A unique and amazing story” which actually revolves around some diluted cliché.

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