Take a moment to think about what the term gameplay means. Does it describe the type or genre of a video game? Is it how the player interacts with a game? Or is it the rules that define how the game is played?

Players have varying definitions of gameplay, but most will agree it has to do with their experience with a game. Gameplay is more than the pattern defined through a game’s rules or the interaction of many game elements. It encompasses the entire experience of playing the game, including:

  • the relationship between the player and the game
  • the goals or difficulties the game introduces and how the player overcomes them
  • the plot and the player’s part in it

Gameplay also includes how much a game adheres to or departs from the gameplay formula within its genre. For example, Minecraft, Call of Duty, Portal, and SUPERHOT are all technically first-person shooters, but each has distinct gameplay. Keeping this in mind, we can diversify gameplay into many different types, including the following.


A “coop” game allows players to work together as teammates against one or more non-player character (NPC) opponents.


Asymmetric gameplay usually refers to multiplayer games where the same game is played by two or more groups of players but with different gameplay mechanics. Most notable examples are zombie or survival games in which one team of players tries to survive the monster(s) controlled by other players.


Nonlinear gameplay allows players to choose where they go or what they do next. Their journey branches out like a tree. This free-form system of progression is usually highlighted in open-world games and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).


Games with emergent gameplay have mechanics that change according to the player’s actions. It asks players to make simple decisions that collectively lead to complex situations. Any game in which the narrative of the story changes based on the player’s decision is an example of emergent gameplay.


Click through the slideshow to review the gameplay concepts introduced in this exercise.

When you are done, move on to the next exercise to learn about game mechanics!

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