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How do you define RPGs in video games?

edited August 2010 in Everything Else
I know the podcast went into much depth about how to define an RPG at the gaming table but it only slightly touched it from the video game perspective. After giving it some thought, I don't think there is a true RPG in video game form. I think they all break down to the closest approximation to a real RPG but video games seem to fall woefully short of the mark. What are the thoughts of yous guys about this topic?


  • Are we talking about games where you role play or games where you level up? Using the terms TRPG and CRPG would help.
  • edited August 2010
    For me, an RPG video game is a game where you have control over who you are and what you do, unlike other games where you're forced to do what you're told to advance.
    Post edited by Pegu on
  • For me, an RPG video game is a game where you have control over who you are and what you do, unlike other games where you're forced to do what you're told to advance.
    So Grand Theft Auto is an RPG?
  • You don't really have control over who you are in Grand Theft Auto. Your actions when you're in control and the characters' actions in cutscenes and conversations are often completely dissonant with each other. If that weren't true I don't know if I would have too much of a problem calling GTA games role playing games, besides the fact that your actions are relatively limited.
  • edited August 2010
    With a loose enough definition, yes. It has quests, exploration and apparently San Andreas has leveling. (I've only played GTA IV) It also has some choices to make that affect the game. (Do I wanna kill this guy?) A more specific definition that includes a point system for choosing character traits would not really fit GTA. (Or maybe it would in San Andreas, I don't know.)
    Post edited by Pegu on
  • If there's two kinds of RPG's in the world the numbers-filled kill-a-thons like D&D and the "kissing games" a la Burning Wheel, the past thirty years of video gaming have focused on replicating the former, rather than the latter. Creating a game that has authentic, lasting choices involved almost always fall a little short: you may have a choice of going East or West in the beginning of the game, but if you want to "beat the game" and reach the satisfying conclusion, you have to follow the path Westward (See Fable, Elders Scrolls, Fallout). Designing a game that would accept any choice offered and respond to it like a story-loving, human GM would is almost impossible, and the final product would probably not be nearly as satisfying as us nerds may envision.

    So, the VRPG genre focuses on the traits of TTRPG's that would be easy to replicate: they have a storyline, they have leveling up and choice in attributes, they have RPG-like combat mechanics (I hit you! Now you hit me! Now he heals me! Oh, it's my turn to hit you?). Choice definitely isn't a distinguishing trait of a VRPG, though. You are forced to progress through a specific storyline just as much as Mario is forced to reach the flag at the end of the level. Sure, you could spend some time killing goblins/space zombies/innocent civilians, but Mario could also spend all of his time jumping up and down on a platform. You're both just as "forced" to reach the goal.

    So, to put it simply, a VRPG is not a Storytelling game, it's a D&D clone with a very rigid, very unimaginative, not particularly talkative DM who can do math in his head ridiculously quickly. Something that "borrows from the genre" like San Andreas doesn't do so enough to be considered an RPG; it's more dominantly an action game. Really, I think the biggest qualification for a game that's a pure RPG is how combat/conflict is resolved. The more heavily the combat draws from stats, the more likely it is an actual RPG. San Andreas may not be an RPG because crappy stats won't impede you from beating the game as long as you're skillful; in Final Fantasy, it doesn't matter how "skilled" you are, your party won't be able to beat Gigantos if you're level 5 (Unless you're absurdly lucky).
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