let's say that by narrative you mean story and by gameplay you mean mechanics. you imply that they are hard to synthesize but i find this strange since it's very easy for me to demonstrate that stories are games and thus, mechanical. but i need a sample of a story in order to do that which im too lazy to find right now so maybe another time.
You can argue that a story is a game without interaction. You can also argue that a novel is a movie without visuals and audio, or that paintings are poetry without words. I don't think those are really useful descriptions, though — it's just a way of trivializing the issues at hand. Each of those art forms has a unique way of expressing itself (an artistic "language") which has been developed over several centuries, and, at least in my opinion, what makes each art form interesting is not the similarities to other art forms, but the differences.
My point is that video games have only existed in their current form for less than a century, and that their language is still developing. As such, bringing together a game's story and play mechanics together to create one cohesive meaning is, while theoretically possible, still not something that I feel has been accomplished satisfactorily. Yes, technically, every single game (or, as you argue, every single story) does this in one way or another. You can interpret meaning from just about anything. But from the point of view of a creator
rather than a beholder
, I don't think the problem is quite as trivial as you suggest. I feel like the stance that games let you have infinitely many meanings is a bit of a cop-out; there's potential for more than that. That said, creating game mechanics which are simultaneously intentionally meaningful and entertaining is not necessarily an easy task.
Granted, as Alec pointed out, "encoded" meaning doesn't always have to be present in art, and I agree with him. Again, I'm not saying that this is the only
way to create art, which is why I've avoided trying to define art. I'm just looking at one unique aspect of games (play mechanics) and discussing how it can be used to produce one effect which is commonly discussed in art (meaning). Perhaps that's out of place in this topic, and if that's the case, then I apologize for bringing it up.
Also, thersus, thanks for the link! I'll have to take a look at it once exam season is over. Hopefully Google Translate won't butcher the articles too much.