Gameplay and Story: An Ode To The American Junior High School Dance

Gamasutra's first ballad.

The music is loud,
The gymnasium dim.
The streamers gently swaying,
On the basketball rim.

Half-court is empty,
The room is divided.
A stark contrast of fiesta
And fear has presided.

Two groups on each side,
Are backed up to the wall.
Minimum interactions
Make up this Junior High ball.

The same thoughts for everyone,
Not allowing them to groove,
Is, "Should I…" or, "Will he?"
…Make the first move.

Quietly standing adjacent,
And postured to look polite,
Are End User and Publisher,
The chaperones tonight.

These two don’t have
Much in common, it’s true.
But together,
There’s so much they’ve gone through.

Publisher is here
To make sure things get done,
While End User only hopes
Everyone will have fun.

Each chaperone is aware
The beginning is dreadfully slow,
But after a few risks are taken,
Things will eventually flow.

So each one is thinking,
“How will it go this night?
Who will get things rolling
And overcome their fright?"

Just then, a brave soul
Starts toward the other side.
It’s Gameplay who has chosen
To break the divide.

This isn’t a surprise
Since Gameplay is the cool kid,
Always looked up to,
On the development grid.

Who will he ask first? Strategy? Scoring?
Or those twins, Risk & Reward?
But instead, it seems Gameplay
Is approaching someone often ignored.

The usual partners will not be picked.
Not Quests or that slut, Graphics.
Not Co-op or Difficulty. Not even
The hotties, Level Design or Mechanics.

Tonight, a rare choice will be made,
In this building of auditory.
Tonight, Gameplay’s first dancing partner
Will be Story.

A hush falls as Gameplay arrives,
Settles into a confident stance,
Hand reaches out, Story looks up
As Gameplay asks, “May I have this dance?”

Publisher has a suspicious look
And fidgets with concern,
End User’s spirits are up,
“It’s about time Story gets a turn.”

Gameplay and Story take center court
As the music begins,
The rest stay where they are, puzzled,
As well as the twins.

But things do not go
As smoothly as expected,
The pair doesn’t appear
To be conceptually connected.

Gameplay would lead
And guide Story around,
But Story would move
As if to a different sound.

“Not to worry.” Gameplay thinks,
Adjusting the configuration.
“Our chemistry will improve
After some routine iteration.”

But to no avail, Gameplay and Story
Struggle to get it right.
Gameplay would lead but,
Instead of dancing, it’s more like a fight.

Gameplay stops and says “You know,
If you want to the two of us to succeed,
Take note! Please remember,
You are to follow my lead!”

“How can I?” Story replies.
“You act like you know what you’re doing.
But your youth shows, I can tell,
Just by the way you are moving.”

“You step this way,
that way, then switch.
You jostle me around
As if I’m your…slave"

“Let’s get one thing straight
Before you spin me any more.
I’m more mature than you
And capable of knocking you to the floor.”

“So, you might want to rethink
Your confidence and swagger
Because if you don’t get it right
You’ll make us both stagger.”

After much deliberation
And deep mental thought,
Gameplay looks up as if
Finally finding that which he sought.

“I’m supposed to lead,
This everyone knows.
And I realize now, it’s my job
Not to step on your toes.”

Story smiles and is glad
For this revelation.
This will go by a bit smoother now
After a bit more iteration.

Humbled, the cool kid
Takes a different approach
The two move and glide much better,
After Story’s constructive reproach.

The song ends and they stop
Each looking in the other’s eyes
Their lips move closer,
Much to Publisher’s surprise.

Publisher moves in swiftly
But uncertain as he walks,
“Er…excuse me, I think you should focus
On the back of the box.”

Gameplay and Story
Giggle and stare.
Silly grown-ups. It takes them
More time to be aware.

The two return to their friends
To report and exaggerate a little.
As Publisher now stands,
Sheepishly in the middle.

The party continues
More couples take the floor
And soon enough, the gym’s volume
Reaches a quiet roar.

Publisher returns
To the neutral sideline
End User looks suspicious
At Publisher’s odd guideline.

These two don’t have
Much in common, it’s true.
But together,
There’s so much they’ve gone through.

And each one is now thinking,
“Tonight’s first dance was well done.
And the more the two grow together,
The more it will be fun.”

By Matt Allmer

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