'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 video games".

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]


    'Replayability' is fine as a word to be used by computer game critics. We all know that it means "will you want to come back and play through it again once you've finished the game?" This guy sounds like he's just trying really hard to find something to nitpick for an article, and so he's picked on this one word. And if the word 'replayability' is what he thinks is "fucking wrong with video games" then he obviously doesn't live under the Australian classification system.

    I disagree with his definition of the non-word.

    Replayability refers to whether or not, once you've finished the game, you can go back and play it again, or at least more, without getting bored.

    Different choices plays into this, so does collecting things, trying to beat a previous score, trying to get through the game without killing anyone, or without being spotted etc.

    People use 'replayability' as a means of looking past the fact you can 'finish' the game inside of 8 hours.

    Make a game that is 100+ hours long and no one will care about 'replayability' make a game 8 hours long and people will want to be able to justify playing it some more.

      Agreed. Halo 3 vs Fallout 3, I've only played through Fallout 3 in full once. Still great with lots of good memories but the time commitment is just huge. Halo 3 I've played the single player campaign about 5 times, co-op or higher difficulty etc and stilled enjoyed it each time. I think bungie design their set pieces really well and it keeps me interested. Two different ways to approach single player gaming.

      Nothing wrong with being able to replay a game.

    I don't think that is what is meant (or perhaps should be meant) by the word 'replayability'.
    I think what it simply means is that a game is enjoyable to play more than once, regardless of whether the experience presented by the game is exactly the same or not.
    Game-play that has a lot of depth could be enjoyed multiple times.
    I don't think personally that forking story lines and user choices make me want to play a game more than once.

    Personally, I don't use the term 'replayability', but instead go with 'replay value', which to me defines it better. Is there any value in replaying the game?

    Just having multiple storylines, or a morality system aren't enough for me. I couldn't make it half way through my second play-through of Mass Effect before I got bored. And also 'replay value' doesn't always necessarily mean replaying the entire story through. Sometimes it's just about playing the game after you've done the story. I suppose you could technically argue it's just continuing to play and not replaying, but I still see playing sand-box/open-world games like Saint's Row 2 or Red Dead Redemption after the story is done as replaying, because you've played the game through, and now you're playing it again.

    I've been a long time gamer, and I've never once heard the word 'replayability'. It's always been worded as 'replay value'. Whether or not the author would still hold the same feelings for him, but to me it just seems he's nit-picking over nothing; creating arguments for a discussion that doesn't exist.

    I write reviews and use the word all the time, it's simple and explains to anyone whose played more than two games what I want it to explain.

    That this game is/is not something you're likely going to play through more than once. Obviously its subjective, but so is almost every other part of a review. Replayabiliy doesn't indicate worth or quality, it's just a description, like saying a film is so good you're going to want to watch it over and over again.

    I don't like using 'Replay Value' as Ben suggested because value is too loaded a term.

    I just wish spell checker wouldn't pick it up all the time. :-D

    That whole thing is based of the definition of replayability starting with "The game is able to be played again..." which is where it all falls down. Ususally the word is used to mean "The desire to play the game again..."

    Isn't Kotaku supposed to post, oh, intelligent stuff? This is probably the most poorly written, inane diatribe I've had to suffer through in ages. Some games are fun to play because the experience can be different with each game (say Nethack, or the original Final Fantasy, each offering multiple classes, various challenges, etc) compared to a game that's super linear (the original Final Fantasy IV, your party is always the same at every part in the story no matter how many times you replay it, comes to mind).

    Whining about a word doesn't make it less relevant, it just means you're a stubborn dumbass who is unable to see how languages develop and adapt.

    Everyone whose played games knows what this word means, and if they don't you could explain it in 3 seconds. If you finish a game and a have a strong desire to play again then it has strong replayability. This guy spends too much time reading reviews and not enough time playing games.

    Firstly, and this goes to all word purists, get over yourselves. Languages evolve. You can draw a line in the sand an say that all words conceived after this date do not count.
    Secondly, you will find most cultures have languages that are relevant only within the confines of that culture. I don't understand everything that is said by mechanics, carpenters, quantum theorists and skateboarders and that is okay.
    Thirdly, I think you will find that most gamers will understand that replayability refers to the incentive to play the game again after the credits role. The same criticism can be levelled at the movie industry. I have completed the primary story of Fallout 3 and Fable 2 but I still feel like doing side missions. I have finished Bayonetta, twice now, and yet there are still items to get. The publishers don't see any money from second hand sales so they need to pack in as much as they can to make sure we hold on to our games for as long as possible. I see that as nothing but a good thing. I always look for high-replayability for my purchases.

    Some interesting points mentioned...

    My sticking point though is that while many people have said "we all know what it means" - everyone who has actually tried to define it in their comments has either struggled, or disgreed with someone else's definition.

    What I took out of this artcile and its subsequent comments is that "replayability" as a word doesn't work simply because no one can give a solid definition of what it actually means - "we all know what it means" doesn't quite cut it for me.

    isn't ben abraham australian?

    Are you a practicing etymologist? No? The word doesn't belong to you, it belongs to the people using it. They decide what it means.

    Context of use dictates, in my opinion, that the word means "The ability to achieve satisfaction playing to a predefined finishing point more than once." You can argue with my assessment, but you can't argue with my assessment's ability to address the context of repeated use.

    You can, as you have done, fail to appropriately identify it or describe it. It illustrates the wealth of differences available in the minds of those responding that we choose different and occasionally less effective wording, when attempting to describe the context. It does not make our suggestions less valid, but makes viewable our grasp of the language, and its use.

    One word will never hold an identical meaning between mutual users of that word. Their minds would have to be identical, which is literally impossible on a physical scale. They cannot be interchangeable. We can assume they are equal for hypothetical purposes, but they are observably disparate.

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