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Author Topic: Are RPGs an ineffective medium for communicating a story?  (Read 592 times)
Humbert Humbert
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« on: December 30, 2012, 08:40:06 PM »

RPG is the acronym of "role-playing game", no? It is used to denote a game with a focus on narrative, and yet RPGs produce some of the worst, most convoluted and shallow stories on the video game market. Often times I play an RPG not to experience its plot, but for the various gameplay systems and opportunities for statistical growth/customization that it affords. Out of almost any other genre, the RPG is most commonly the one that tries to detract players from its narrative by incorporating side quests, hidden collectibles, special conditions, and the dreaded "grind". Its mechanics are typically employed to distract us and artificially extend our play time, usually at the cost of derailing the plot.

So then why do we even refer to this specific genre as role playing games anymore? With titles like Journey, Silent Hill, The Unfinished Swan, Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, The Walking Dead, etc. offering much more in the way of dense characters, metaphors, and plot lines why is the RPG even referred to as such? And I'm not suggesting that RPGs haven't produced some of the best video game plots as well - rather, I think these stories stand on their own merits rather than being uplifted by the mechanics associated with role playing games.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 02:46:06 AM by Humbert Humbert » Logged
Aeolus
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2012, 05:24:09 AM »

Man, go play Xenoblade. Sure it has the same sidequest issues that any RPG has but at least they're being given to you by almost Majora Mask level NPCs (i.e. named characters with schedules and routes). Nier also has an interesting plot and sidequests that existed to fulfill the late Cavia's need to actively troll the player.

Really, if there's a case that should be made about the lackluster stories in RPGs it's a case that will plague any 'creative' medium in that most will simply phone it in with heavy reliance on cliches, tropes, parlor tricks, and sex/violence/profanity.
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Ranadiel
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2012, 09:17:17 AM »

So then why do we even refer to this specific genre as role playing games anymore?

Because RPG as currently used by the game industry(and my personal preferred use of the term) refers to mechanics that are derived on some level from tabletop RPG mechanics such as levels, stats, etc. Could there perhaps be a better name for this genre? Perhaps, but it is unlikely its use will ever really change because publishers are going to use the term that people are familiar.

I'm not sure what you are talking about regarding side quests detracting from the plot. Well done side quests better define the world by introducing additional characters, exploring characters, or explaining concepts, so I would hardly consider them to "detract from the narrative." Hidden collectibles are hardly unique to RPGs and have certainly become more common in non-RPGs with the advent of trophies/achievements. L.A. Noire for example has at least three sets of hidden collectibles. RPGs may have them more often simply because the developers play to their base.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2013, 09:54:19 AM by Ranadiel » Logged
MeshGearFox
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2012, 09:58:13 AM »

Yes.
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2012, 06:09:11 PM »

the RPG is most commonly the one that tries to detract players from its narrative by incorporating side quests, hidden collectibles, special conditions, and the dreaded "grind". Its mechanics are typically employed to distract us and artificially extend our play time, usually at the cost of derailing the plot.

Rarely has an RPG ever detracted me from it's narrative through the items listed; who knows, perhaps I've been fortunate to not encounter a game that has cheated me out of an experience? You'll have to go into greater depth to defend this. An interesting thought nevertheless...
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