We’ve got a bullet to bite here folks, and it’s not a pretty one. It’s the big elephant in the room, and it’s only going to hurt us if we don’t look at it.
We’ve been seeing a great deal of “Nothing Is Sacred” posts on RPGs, demonizing this aspect or this mechanic, to the point that it seems like RPGs in general are in deep doo-doo. I think this is part of a bigger problem.
At the end of the day, there are basically three (3) genres of videogames.
1) Action: Anything requiring twitch reflexes.
2) Strategy: Anything not based on reflexes, but instead on your decisions dictating the proceedings on the screen.
3) Like strategy, but a problem that tests the thinking abilities of the player. They can be mathematical or logistical.
Every game can be classified as one of these things. Once we start doing this, and stop using stupid names like “stylish action shooter,” and, “tactical hack n’ slash top-down rhythm fighter,” we’ll all be able to stop arguing about what genre and game or game isn’t and start arguing about what matters: whether or not the game is actually good.
Take “RPGs”. An RPG is a role-playing game, one where you determine the actions of your character based on their specific characterization which you have created, operating within a discrete, rule oriented world. So pretty much everything we call an RPG is not an RPG, it is a strategy game. Real RPGs would be table-top games, like Dungeons and Dragons, Exalted, and Vampire: The Masquerade.
And there’s the rub, over two decades of “RPGs” and look at how much evolution has actually occurred within them (protip: not much). Lately, we’ve gotten these things called “action-RPGs” which are action games with menus cluttering up the place. And while we’re on the subject, saying it’s the stats that make “RPGs” is a moot point, all games have stats, “RPGs” just let you see them more clearly.
Does it come down to the format? The ability to actually program a game to actually function like a real RPG would take a huge amount of time and a rethinking of our current (mis)understanding of genres. People probably wouldn’t even call it an RPG, because they’ve been so inundated with the labeling.
There’s the elephant people. I’m not suggesting you should stop liking whatever games you like, but game players as a whole need to step it up and stop letting themselves be dazzled by this terminology. Final Fantasy XIII is coming out next year, and SquareEnix intends to pull a fast one on everyone with their “RPG.” Don’t let them fool you.