The Games People Replay

Toward a Performative Account of “Replayability”

The way in which Fernández-Vara’s comments turn attention back to the player of the game also raises the question of why certain games are repeatedly played by certain players, and furthermore why the games are esteemed for this quality, commonly called “replayability” or “replay value.” In 2010, Ben Abraham posted a polemical entry to his personal blog in which he points out that as pieces of software, games by definition may be played multiple times. He alleges “replayability” is a “non-word … lack[ing] any actual meaningful content,” because while we can understand replayability in a general sense, in individual cases its particulars remain elusive and difficult to quantify. Speculatively, Abraham asks if “replayability” might in fact be used as a “shorthand way to refer to a series of unrelated yet seemingly connected factors that influence whether someone is willing to endure repeat exposure to a game-type experience?” A game may have a branching narrative, multiplayer components, or unlockable content that becomes available as the player reaches certain benchmarks; none of this is a guarantee, however, that any given player will be willing to play the game multiple times. Continue Reading