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'Replayability' Might Be A Bad Word

Illustration for article titled Replayability Might Be A Bad Word

I wish people would stop using the word "visceral" when they talk about video games. It conveys nothing to me. Writer Ben Abraham is enraged by a different word: "replayability."


In a recent essay his essay he tears into "replayability" a word, he says in a semi-ironically, is "what is fucking wrong with videogames."

He too does not like vague words. He thinks their use should be questioned. An excerpt.

Well, all games are replay-able by definition as a function of their nature as software (with the exception being that game the name of which I forget but which deletes itself if you lose) so usually instead the author means "The game is able to be played again and not have to make all the same choices". But that won't suffice as a proper definition either because even the most on-rails interactive-novel-slash-fiction type experience (think Photopia) can be played again with trivial differences. I highly doubt that's what most people mean when they use the (non) word "replayability".

So how about replayability as: "The ability to play the game again, making different, non-trivial choices". Close, but I'm still not satisfied.

For what defines the line between trivial and non-trivial? Does the presence of 100 templar flags to collect push it over into the "non-trivial"? What if I played this game once when I was twelve but that's eleven years ago now and I totally don't remember it? Does that mean the game possess more of the elusive quality we seem to be calling "replayability"?


Read the whole essay and you too may think twice about whether praising a game for its "replayability" means anything. Can we do better? Can our English language?

"Replayability" is NOT a word, so stop using it idiot! [Ben Abraham's blog]

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It's an intangible non-word for an intangible, objective concept.

I get a lot of enjoyment playing through a game's campaign multiple times just to enjoy the story over again, or to try a new difficulty, or to experience it with friends.

So my measure of "replayability" is a lot more lenient than what most people consider it these days.

Nowadays if it doesn't have 50 endings, vastly branching stories and free-form story progression, it's frowned upon.

I guess growing up in the era of Sierra's Quest games and the like makes me appreciate the things in modern games that a lot of people yawn at.