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∑ RPG Elements
by Francis Alma
Previously, in past columns of RPGamer editorials, we've noticed certain heated up debates on the perspective on RPGs of "Old Schoolers" vs "New Schoolers". New School RPGamers have their paradigm of what RPGs are, based on what most of them have had as their first RPG experience - FF VII. Meanwhile, Old School RPGamers have their paradigm based on the early RPGs, that go as far as Dragon Warrior I and Final Fantasy I.
On the other hand, more recently, we've seen certain editorials that talk about the 90° (if not 180°) turn Strategy Guides have taken ever since the publication of FF IX's Official Strategy Guide, which is generally considered a rip-off due to the fact that it commonly addresses you to PlayOnline, which is a free resource on the internet for the information you need on beating the game. However, this turn is perceived based on another paradigm of what is called a Strategy Guide, let's say before FF IX's, and now the new paradigm based on FF IX's.
What do these two intellectual battles have in common? If we analyze them enough, we can detect in them the tendency we human beings have of looking at something either as black or white; true or false; correct or incorrect; right or wrong; good or evil... -you get the picture-, forgetting that in the middle of these two extremes, there's a very wide spectrum of conceptions that could find certain balance between the two (just like Cecil found balance with Light and Dark when he became a Paladin, as I also read in a very interesting editorial most recently)...
Based on this premise, we would humbly like to add our two cents, so that, if you will, a bit of light may be shed to both the "we" and "they" parties: A very Wise Man once said that "All Truth is Relatively True", a very interesting quote that we could simply digest as the confirmation of the old saying in Spanish (roughly translated): "In life, nothing is black, nor is anything white. It all depends on the crystal through which one beholds".
What does this have to do with the above mentioned debates? Well, first of all, it has to do with the practice of respect for our fellow-man's opinion, even if we're completely against the other person's point of view; and second, with trying to find a certain spot in the wide spectrum in between the two extremes that may satisfy the most -if not completely- both parties.
Concerning our first argument, a side note to point out would be that one of the reasons conflict normally arises among people is because of the lack of this quite simple principle being applied, normally leading (unfortunately) to very heated debates. Moreover, outside in the so-called "Real World", it may even lead to the shedding of blood just because both parts couldn't reach an agreement of some sort in the middle of their debate...
In an "intelectual battle" as ambiguous and volatile as defining "What is an RPG?" between Old-Schoolers and New-Schoolers, it is very difficult to reach a conclusion with which every single RPGamer may feel satisfied. This is said based on the fact that, as the RPG world has evolved ever since it was born, a lot of different elements have been added in and taken out from different aspects, factors, or, if you may, standards of "how an RPG should be?" paradigms of somewhat different gaming generations. This may (most likely) lead to a battle in which both parties lose, since neither has the "absolute truth" of what an RPG really is. However, if both parts try to find an agreement and try to merge however possible both conceptions, it's quite probable that a conclusion more feasible for everyone may be reached, and a bit of harmony may be established between both parts. Personally, to me RPGs are simply very good games to spend a great time with in terms of entertainment, regardless of what it is conceived to be, based on the elements that conform it. As long as it gives you hours of entertainment and fun, because of what's GOOD in it, not because of its -flaws-... Details concerning the elements an RPG should have, personally, are somewhat way beyond me, because of, like I said, the wide spectrum that there would be concerning the conception of this gaming genre...
Concerning the second argument, I'd like to exemplify it a bit with the subject of RPG Strategy Guides, FAQs, Walkthroughs, and the like. Many people see them as something, in a nutshell, "bad", while others see them not only as "good", but also as "indispensable", as in "you can't play the game without it"... These are also two extremes that will most likely never find an agreement, unless each side looks and analyzes the different arguments the other party has. In my case and in my (and solely my) opinion, Strategy Guides, FAQs, and so on, are nothing more than a tool that may enhance your gaming experience by filling gaps that you can't figure out to fill... It would be kind of a special item to count with in bleak moments However, in the case of walkthroughs, up to some extent, they may be to someone like me (a devoted RPGamer, but with the lack of time to spend endless hours trying to figure out puzzles), like a certain sword is to a Knight, or a certain spell is to a Sorcerer: it's a tool that enhances in many ways the performance and skills, but given the case you don't have it, you could survive, although performance in gaming wouldn't be as "good" as it would be with it. In sum, it would be something interesting to have, but not rather important or urgent to have in order to play an RPG. But again, that's just -my- humble opinion...
Bringing this editorial to a conclusion, I'd like to say that I deepply respect all the positions, points of view, paradigms and ideals of all RPGamers that visit this wonderful site may have, and that one way or the other have to do with the above mentioned subjects. Moreover, it's because of that respect for everyone's opinion, and in the name of justice for everyone, that I encourage all of us to try and consult, rather than "pun away", in a healthy way so that, instead of looking at things either "black" or "white", we could see them, for the least, "gray", or "silver", or however you want (I hope the analogy ilustrates enough my point). If that would happen, I'm quite sure that harmony among RPGamers that belong to either the "we" or the "they" parties, would be assured, and in longer terms, both the RPGworld, and the Real World, would be better places to be and live in. =) Thank you for your time and consideration reading this editorial. I hope it has served its purpose.
"The Earth is but One Country, and Mankind its Citizens"
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