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How to Save the World... Without Saving the World


It's a cliché really, but one that is so clearly evident that pointing it out seems to be a cliché as well. Yet here I go anyways: Why are most RPGs pre-occupied with saving the world?

Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to save the world. What's an RPG but a chance for something truly heroic, something truly epic and fantastic? And if ever you're about to about to embark upon a 40+ hour journey, saving the world looks like a pretty good reason to do so.

But let's face it, aren't RPGs a little childish in their interpretation of what it means to "save the world." Aren't they a little too literal? The world isn't always in danger of being obliterated, hit by a meteor, conquered by a maniac, or overrun by new age retro hippies. Life isn't quite that exciting. Yet there are people in real life who have been accused of being out to save the world, so what's the deal with them?

The difference here is that in real life, saving the world is interpreted to encompass so many endeavors that, if you think about it, are still epic and exotic compared to the normal scope of our lives. Some people save the world by joining the Peace Corps. Some people save the world by dedicating years to activism for everything from saving the environment to eliminating racism. And I'm sure you've heard a speech somewhere about "personal" heroes, "everyday" heroes, teachers, parents, mentors and grandma. In real life, this is what "saving the world" means.

So why is it that RPGs still insist on a literal interpretation? Why must there always be a megalomaniac around the corner who can only be defeated by violence? As we can see in real life, there's so much more to saving the world than saving the world!

So in games where we "save the world," why can't that mean saving the rainforest? What about saving the next victim of a serial killer? Why not save the world one kid at a time by helping a teen escape inner city gang warfare? And you can never go wrong with a chick flick, save the world of Bridget Jones and strike a blow for single British women everywhere!

That's why it's a little disappointing that so many games about saving the world are about exactly that. Why don't we ever see games about fan site staffers who don't get enough fan editorials to keep the editorial section going? Their dedication in running an independent non-profit lively fansite for years out of their own pockets... that qualifies as heroic in my book!

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