I was having a conversation with a friend who I haven't talked to for a while. As usually happens when gaming buddies talk, we eventually got to what games we had been playing recently. My list went something like this: Eve, Kerbal Space Program, Minecraft, Game Dev Tycoon, and Farcry 3. I have played a little bit of Guild Wars 2 and other games, but those games are the ones I spent the most time on. He asked me why I was spending so much time on games with, and I quote, "Terrible graphics?" My answer came down to one thing: Gameplay.
With the exception of Eve, all of those games have good concepts for gameplay. Game Dev Tycoon is probably the weakest of the lot, but the concept is strong and with some work it could be an amazing game. You already know what I think about Kerbal Space Program (I LOVE IT!). Minecraft has been a favorite of mine since beta 1.2, and the Tekkit mod pack for it absolutely rekindled my love for it last year. And as the only AAA high graphical fidelity game on the list, Farcry 3 just has some of the best gun play of any shooter that I have played.
The truth is I have always preferred games with good gameplay over the latest and greatest in graphics. That's why the only games in the Call of Duty series I have ever owned are CoD4 and MW3, and I refuse to play Battlefield 3. They simply haven't made any huge in roads on the gameplay. Games like AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, League of Legends and FTL just interest me way more. They make me want to keep playing them, regardless of what they look like.
Minecraft is the poster child for this. From a technical standpoint, the game looks terrible. However from an aesthetic standpoint, Minecraft nails it. The gameplay is interesting, but not overly complicated. It gives you options in how you want to play. With the addition of hardcore mode, Minecraft also got a way to make loss matter (and that's a draw to anyone who plays a game like Eve). If the gameplay in Minecraft was terrible, it wouldn't be half as successful as it is and Notch wouldn't be a millionaire.
At the end of the day, if a game has good gameplay it fast becomes a classic. It becomes something we will talk about as being one of the defining games of this time, much like Pacman, Mario, Sonic, Metroid, Doom, Wolfenstein, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires and countless others have been in the past. I just hope that more and more developers will realise this and continue to focus on the meat of a game: gameplay.