Monday, April 22, 2013

Role Playing Game – My Definition

Subtitle: Why I still say Mass Effect isn’t one.

Okay. So before I get into my rant about my subtitle, my position on the game hasn’t changed in the 3 years since I made my original post, we’re going to have a friendly chat about Role Playing Games.

I could give you the Wikipedia article or even for a definition. But those are standard, almost textbook definitions that we come to expect. The phrase “role playing game” speaks for itself. It’s a game in which you play a role of a character. From its theatre and tabletop origins, RPG is a staple of video games. Our fondest recollection of anything associated with an RPG would be Japanese RPG’s: Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Xenosaga, and Dragon Quest. These games helped define the genre into what we see it today.

When we think of RPG a few elements come to mind. Character customization (typically with stats such as strength, dexterity, and magic), developing your own story, random battles, side-quests galore, and annoying sidekicks. As video games have evolved over the years, RPG’s have been one of the few genre’s that have held their ground by sticking to their traditions. Graphics and gameplay have changed, but the core of RPG’s still remains. And if RPG sales are any indication via Dragon Quest, we buy that sh*t up. RPG’s have a staying power, a consistency that allow it to grow without changing the core values. 

RPG’s are our safe-haven with video games We look to them for innovation, story-telling, creative aspects of gaming that we have difficulty finding everywhere else. The fore-front of technology? RPG’s have it. Unique story-telling devices intertwined with unique game-play? RPG. Increasingly complicated, overwhelming, yet stunning character creation? Role playing games.

Another aspect we associate RPG’s with: self-satisfaction. Who really needs to get to level 99 these days when you can complete most games in 10-15 hours? Well if you want to get this one sword that will kill this one, super hard dragon, that drops this really rare item that makes you close to invincible, but not really, then you’ll do it. Because we all do it. We want that stupid little item. We wanted that item before there was an achievement system; it was for our own personal satisfaction knowing that we completed a journey few others are willing to embark on. Even now when I think about Final Fantasy 13 I forget that they implemented Achievements and Trophies. I was going to complete everything in that game regardless of what an achievement directed me to do. It was for me, so that I could fully comprehend the story, the realm that these characters were in. You don’t get that feeling in other games. With a shooter, you need to have a goal provided to you, else you find your motivation lacking. Or faith. It’s disturbing. (Rest in peace RichardLeParmentier.) Action, fighting, even flight simulators need distinctive goals and the birth of the Trophy/Achievement system helped spur desires to game longer just to get that new point unlocked. RPG’s never had this, and they still don’t need them. Anyone who truly Role-Play’s knows, possibly feels it in their bones, that they are going to explore everything. No person, no computer will ever dictate their actions. That’s the heart of a role-player.

“So based on everything you said, Mass Effect is an RPG.”

Nope. It’s not. By my logic, every game can be an RPG. What it boils down to is the heart of the gamer and how they play. Mass Effect can be an RPG. But it can also be a shooter. It can be an action/adventure title. It can be a strategy. Or a horror game. It can be a puzzle game. Hell if you really want to push it, a really bad vehicle simulation game (because seriously, fudge the Mako). The game is whatever you want it to be. Mass Effect is how you interpret it. I don’t see it as an RPG. I see it as more than an RPG. Just as Call of Duty could very easily fall into vehicle simulation or a sports game.

Mind blowing. I just called CoD a sports game.

But it’s true. How you play the game is how you interpret it. When we start breaking things down into genres, we remove the game from what it’s meant to be: a game. Let the player carve their own path and decide for themselves what type of game it is. Grand Theft Auto is a fantastic driving game, and RPG, and shooter, and action/adventure, and puzzle, and quest-monger.

My gift to you, a week late and a hundred+ years too early, Commander Shepard. Your game isn’t an RPG. It’s more than that. Enjoy!

(Originally posted 4/19/13.)


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

We ask that you please do not include any offensive, sexist, or derogatory language - otherwise your comment will be removed.