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What makes an RPG -- an RPG?

// Submitted @ 11:24 PM on 04.03.2010




Since the beginning of 2010, several "Trip-A" game titles have come out. Each title has had varying degrees of reactions, and all of them are different in there own way. Without dropping game names, I must ask this question, "So, what actually makes an RPG an RPG?" "What elements, or understanding of the genre in general, make-up what we consider to be a Role Playing Game?" I really think this is a question that needs to be addressed by everyone.

I have gone back and forth on this issue and have had many, many discussions and arguments on-line concerning this difference of opinion. I think that I've come to the deep conclusion that, "this is an subjective question". No different than, "What a makes a good game, good?". One could easily say, "Well.... clearly you have no taste. That's why you think it's good.", as obnoxious as that sounds. But another person could turn around and tell me the very same thing. So, who's right?

I honestly don't know.



For most of last month, I truly believed that many people were "lying to themselves", or making excuses because of the name on the front of the box. I believed that people were seriously trying to convince themselves of "Design Choices" vs. "Real Substance". I laughed at what I considered to be really sad and absurd behavior at not being able to differentiate between a "Classic RPG" and "Wishful Thinking".

But now that some time has passed, I see that maybe that view may have been a little harsh. Who am 'I' to say what a person enjoys and what they don't? If that's what they honestly feel, who am I to judge? I mean, nobody has appointed me as the "RPG Goddess". Determined to get to the heart of the issue, I recently talked to a good friend of mine, who's opinion I value. The two of us have very different taste in games. You could almost say, polar-opposite. I seem to be drawn to wide range of Trip-A titles or indie games, spanning various systems. She like the safe, and but sometimes obscure games -- along with one very popular franchise, which is only on the PS2/PS3.



Now, if she tells me that she is enjoying a particular RPG despite it's flaws, then I have no reason not to believe her. She, like myself, is very opinionated and stubborn. She wouldn't lie about something so trivial. If she likes something, she'll say so. And if not, she'll tell me that as well. I can't say that I understand fully, but I see now that she, like many others, is not suffering from some sort of mass hallucination. They really do like "this particular game", and are not just saying otherwise to cover-up an inner-fanboyism.

Mmm.... so now I have to stop, rethink, and then ask myself a second question? "How much do my personal expectations truly play a part of what I consider to be good?" If personal expectations play a big part, how can one change this? Should a person even bother to try?



If I may relate a story; there was situation regarding the passing of a family member, 2 years ago now. There was a woman there who I'd never met before. I could see that she was very rich and even smelled like money. During the viewing, she came up to me -- not to say, "I'm sorry for your loss" but to inform me how she and "Ron" (who died) often went the opera with her and her husband. "Um... Ok?" She went on and on, about how they had "season tickets every year to the bluh, bluh, bluh opera house, in downtown bluh, bluh, bluh."

Anyway.... stepping over how obnoxious this chick was. I just looked at her as if she was on drugs or something. Had I not been so upset about Ron's passing, I probably would have laughed in her face. Why? Because the "Ron" that I knew watched Aqua Teens Hunger Force, and Venture Bros. He played Mario Party and Zelda on GameCube/DS. He listened to Pink Floyd. He'd watch goofy chick shows, all sorts of silly movies, and would tell funny sex jokes upon occasion. So, what the hell was this snooty b*tch talking about?

Again, I simply looked at her and thought, "Wow! You really didn't "KNOW" him that well did you, honey? So what are you even doing here, and why are you telling me this?" And of course Ron is dead and can't defend himself either way.



Where am I going with this? My point being is, "expectations will burn you every time". I don't doubt that "Ron" went to the opera with little Ms. Stuck-up. Ron liked talking to people and socializing, which was his favorite thing to do, more then anything. But in the case of THIS women, she saw exactly what she wanted to see -- another person/couple, that was stuck-up like she was. That is what she expected to see, even thought that wasn't the truth or the whole story. If she knew the truth.... especially about the Aqua Teens, it would blow her whole world apart to realize that there's more then what you see on the surface.



So how much of this behavior do we bring on ourselves? How much of our own expectations influence the enjoyment of our favorite media? And is it possible, at this point, to bring down these expectations to normal levels? We gamers tend to get so wrapped up in the nuances of what the "Big 3" and every game developer is doing, almost to the exclusion of everything else in our own lives.

How do we gamers recognize the signs of this behavior before it strikes again and consumes us all?!? Like the moffa (or the darkside), "it keeps pulling us back in". For the sake of not ending up like this deeply self-deluded, stuck-up, Ms. Know-it-all, mentioned above I, for one, am going to try. Hope springs eternal, and that's a good place to start.


The two questions that I'll leave you with, my fellow gamers.
1.) What makes an RPG -- an RPG?
2.) Do our expectations influence the enjoyment of gaming?
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