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Role Playing? Character Development? You take the term "RPG" too seriously, friend.

by Roger Romer

I'll start this off by saying that I am old. Not old school mind you, but I am an older role playing gamer. I'm 22...not especially old, perhaps, but old enough that when I started, it was back in the 8 bit area, with the first final fantasy, phantasy star, and dragon warior. And its odd to see how big the RPG genre has become. It has become so big, that "RPG" has become a buzzword. Its also interesting to note, that the old school gamers and the new school gamers take that term so seriously now. Role-playing games, at the beggining, didn't really mean you actually played a role in the game, at least no more so then you played the role of mario or megaman. It was just a term, borrowed from the old pen and paper games that the genre was trying to simulate. I was not drawn into the genre by deep stories any more than I was by fantastic graphics. It was the pace of the games that really did it for me. Your success or failure depended on thinking ability and problems solving, as with most games, but it managed to make it so your ability to press buttons as fast as possible didn't factor in. That's what drew me in. Now though, games have evolved. There tend to be actual stories behind the game. I think thats great. However, people now seem to think character development is crucial in RPGs, like it is with a good novel or movie. Well, I beg to differ.

Stories are nice. Its a good thing to have characters you can relate to. But its not neccesary to have character development at all. A game simply isn't a novel, nor a movie, and it shouldn't be. Games are decidedly diffrent from both those media, in that games are interactive. A game can be like a good novel or book. It can be a character driven story, where we throw ourselves into the role of the protaginist, as the events and choices effects us, and we change. However, we have an advantage, in that it is not neccessary. A game can be very much event driven, as much as it is character driven.

For a good example of an event driven RPG, I'll choose my personal favorite 8 bit RPG, capcoms little gem, destiny of an emperor. The characters themselves, Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu, don't develop much at all. Only Liu Bei could be said to have any signifigant development, at even that is barely noticible. Its not the deep characters that draw you into the story. Its the events. The plots, rebellions, betrayals, and attacks keep things moving along. The motivations for the deeds, much as in real life, are left to the imagination and intuition of the observer. The personalitys of the characters, too, are left much to our imagination. The story however, is very complete, and I think perhaps even a match for some of todays games. I felt as good when I finally set China at peace as I did when I killed Kefka, or Sephiroth, or Ultemcia and saved the world.

There's an old saying, that goes "Its not where you go that matters, its how you get there". This seems to have become a mantra for todays RPG gamers. They seem to forget though, that its not the characters in the game to who that applys. The characters are not real. Its the player who has a journey. Sometimes the journey is one made by throwing themselves into the role of a character in the game. Sometimes it isn't. However, an RPG isn't really defined by whether or not you do that. Role playing game is a nice term, but no more meaningful that action or fighting or the name of any other genre. You could say R-type was an RPG, where you role played a space fighter shooting over and over again (and more then likely exploding and reappearing suddenly where you were 5 minutes ago). RPG refers not really to any role playing, but it is a convient label applied to games with a certain type of gaming system. A label leftover from back when it was borrowed from the pen and paper RPG's, which had the type of freedom neccessary to truely role play. So don't take characters or roles so seriously. Enjoy the story, and how YOU get to where you're going. But thats just my opinion. I could be wrong.



[My Comments: It's a well written editorial! What's it doing here? This I could see getting posted on a normal day.]

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