What an interesting question… What is an RPGame? I mean really, what is it? I know it stands for Role Playing Game but when I was asked this question by one of my kids the other day I was stumped when I tried to explain what it was. I mean I know what games I play that are RPGs but trying to answer this basic question of what made them RPGs was oddly difficult.
Dungeons and Dragons(DnD) is an RPG
WAIT!! Don’t run away yet! DnD will help us answer the question, “what is an RPG?”. Don’t worry though this whole post is not going to talk about the table-top RPG Dungeons and Dragons… Although I probably could write this whole post about it, I know some people run away at the thought of DnD assuming that only “nerds” play it. At least I know they used to but DnD is really where the roots of modern RPGs come from. There were other games before DnD, but many believe that it was DnD that really started the push that created this genre. Then the question is, why is DnD an RPG?
Walking In Their Shoes
One of the key elements to RPGs (DnD especially) is the ability to pretend to be or even physically act out the role of another character. This is, for me at least, the main reason I was drawn to RPGs. I love the idea that I can be that other character. I can be that crazy strong barbarian guy with the Huge sword, or the wise old magic user who throws fireballs like they are candy. And that’s when you’re only talking about fantasy RPGs. Move into the future or current time frame and who knows what you can be! Your imagination is literally the only limit! That idea is very appealing to me. For the most part no one could ever be those characters in reality. So, these RPGs give you a way to escape reality. But, that isn’t the only thing that makes a game an RPG.
Progression, It’s a Stat Thing
In almost every RPG I have ever played (even DnD) there is some form of progression. Whether you are leveling up your character to gain more power to devastate your enemies or becoming stronger to protect your allies. There is always some form of progression. There are many people out there that argue that this is what makes a game an RPG. All they want to see is the stats increase and the power level rise. My counter to this is that if all you needed was some form of progression or leveling up then almost every game made today would be considered an RPG. Progression is, however, a very important part of RPGs. It can give the player goals to shoot for like, “Oh, two more fights and I can use that new fireball spell!”… for example. Not that I would ever say that…. Anywho, the progression aspect of a game is a part of what makes a game an RPG it is not the only thing though. We have yet to get to one of, if not the MOST important part of what makes a game an RPG.
Best Story Ever
That’s right, the story. I have heard others say that you can have an RPG without having a story, and I suppose there is some truth to that, but for me it is an integral part of making a game an RPG. There is just something about that story that makes the world feel real and when the world feels real so does that character, and when the character feels real so does the Fireball! And I mean, who wouldn’t want real fireballs, am I right!? But, I digress. In the end, everyone loves a good story. We all watch movies for the story, or TV shows for the story. Heck, we even read crazy blog posts for the story. For as long as human beings have been able to communicate they have been sharing stories.
An RPG is…
So, apparently, I over thought this when my kid asked me what an RPG game is. The answer is basically in the name:
- You are taking on the role of another character in a different world as they are telling you the story of their lives. Showing you their pain, their joy, their triumph, and their failure.
- During this time, you are progressing and gathering more power/strength to defeat your enemies and help your allies. You know, the number junkies
- In the end it is a game, so you can through Fireballs at dragons!
What do you think is required to make a game an RPG? Do you disagree with my assertion that all RPGs should have a story to make the world feel real? Please let me know the answer to these questions and ask any other questions in the comments below. Thanks!