In Defence of the All-text RPG

by Eric Kjellman 

Submitted by: (Eric Kjellman)
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"TRUTH is always the strongest argument." --Sophocles

Dangnabbit! I've been watching you children banter back and forth about old school and new school games for long enough! To those of you who think that older games are superior to newer games just because all these newfangled graphics and all this realistic sound just get in the way... you're right! But you don't take this argument to its logical conclusion! Don't you understand that ALL graphics and sound get in the way of purity of plot, story-line, and interactivity?

I have an old Vic-20 computer, and I have a game for it called "The Count." Now THAT, I tell you, is a GAME! It is all text! The horror this game presents is palpable! You walk around a castle, and eventually, after a certain number of turns, it turns dark and a vampire comes and sucks out your blood! How awesome! And then you do it again and again until you can't stand the horror of losing again. How could any game with graphics stack up to this marvel? How can you beat a plot of "wander around a castle looking for a vampire until you die"? How can you beat the interactivity of typing in commands and half of the time having the computer not understand "GET THE WAX CANDLE"? I certainly don't know how. These "modern" menu systems and "Graphical User Interfaces"? HAH!

Now, there are some people--I call each of them a Totally Reason-less Unit of Thorough Half-wittedness (TRUTH)--that I say have it all wrong. What buffoons these guys are. A TRUTH might say, for example, "Since each game system, new and old, has unique capabilities and limitations, a game designer must adapt his games to the system for which they are being produced. If a system has more power for graphics and sound, then games should be adapted to that system, without sacrificing the effort necessary to create a comprehensible user interface and engaging story." Balderdash, says I! So what if a system has more power for graphics and sound? I don't care! I would use that power to have more text! Why, one of my friends was telling me that a CD-ROM used by these recent pieces of gadgetry, "PlayStations," can store over one hundred million words! Think of the depth that could be added to The Count! There could be thousands of rooms with hundreds of objects, and I could spend years trying to come up with the commands to pick up all those objects! My mind is blown just thinking about it! I can't believe people would waste all that space on some cute, pretty little graphics.

Another thing these nitwit TRUTHs often say is, "If graphics and sound can be effectively used to tell a story better, or to create a more engrossing game, then the game designer must not fail in using these capabilities." Well, I certainly don't see how you possibly use graphics and sound to tell a better story. Shucks, if storytellers could use graphics and sound to tell a better story, they'd use pictures, or gestures, or inflect their voice to reflect emotion, or tell their stories to music. They might even do all four, put them on "videotape" and show them to us, with a different person acting out each role in the story. Hah! If people could do that, why don't they? They can't! I remember when my grandmother used to tell us stories every night before bed, in a flat, monotone voice. I still remember some of those stories to this day! Well, at least the parts before I fell asleep.

A TRUTH then tries to weasel his way back into reason by saying, "The use of graphics and sound in a game can only harm it if such use results in deficiencies in plot or user interface." Come on. Don't these people understand that using graphics and sound ALWAYS distracts from the plot and user interface? There is no way graphics can be as touching as text is. Nothing should be allowed to take away from the purity of text. How can you immerse yourself in the story of a game when you have to look at and pay attention to all this distracting picture and noise stuff? I remember just recently one of my friends showed me one of these sickening "Full Motion Videos" that all these new ridiculous games have. This game was called "Final Fantasy VII"... Final? Seven? WHAT?!? Anyway, there was a scene in this "game" that he claimed was "touching," where some teen in a red dress gets stabbed with a ludicrously large sword. Then some bead drops out of her hair, bounces around a few times, and drops into some water. My friend was crying at the end of this scene--why? I don't see any emotion here! I don't hear how this music helps the game any! I say it would have been much better in plain, ordinary text! Take a look at this amazing scene when you lose in The Count.

I see I was put to bed. Its AFternoon & I overslept!
My neck looks BITTEN!
I've turned into A VAMPIRE!
My neck looks BITTEN!

This is just so incredibly awesome! I mean, can't you just feel the holes in your neck? Can't you feel the horror of being turned into a vampire? I sure can! This is so much better than seeing some overblown pictures moving around, or hearing some cheesy music!

It's also funny how a TRUTH might say, "People who have recently started playing RPGs find newer RPGs to be more enthralling because the first games a person plays seem more original and more emotionally touching, whereas people who have been playing RPGs for a longer time find older RPGs to be more appealing, for the same reason." What?!? How dare they tell me that, just because I played The Count first, that's why I think The Count is better than these other modern games! I tell you, The Count is a masterpiece! I played some other games before The Count, and I don't like them better! I remember Pong... and I hated it! And do you remember Pitfall? That game sucked! Pitfall would have been much better if you'd have had something like this:

I'm in a Jungle. There are 3 crocodiles to the east of you.
Obvious Exits: East, West.
I can also see: A vine.
Tell me what to do ? GO EAST

I go east.
My leg looks BITTEN!
I've turned into a crocodile's dinner!
Why didn't I jump?

Hah. Isn't that better? Like I said, though, The Count is a true masterpiece. No one has come up with anything original since then, and all of these newfangled graphics and sounds are just distracting designers... I tell you, if these guys knew what they were doing, they would be working on better ways to present their ideas in text!

So, now I hope you understand the truth, and make the correct conclusion. I know these TRUTHs say, "A system and ALL of its tools must be used in order to create the most engrossing possible game. These tools include graphics, sound, music, plot, good interface design, and any other tools the game designer can bring to bear on the game. Only when ALL of these are used in harmony can a game designer create a truly great game." I, however, say that, just as older graphics and sound are superior to newer graphics and sound, having no graphics and sound at all is superior to older graphics and sound. No other consideration even matters; the only way to have a great game is to put it all in text! Heck, I think I'm going to go over to my Vic-20 right now and play some more of The Count... I'm getting sick of this newfangled overblown Pentium II piece of junk. Give me a real computer and a real game, I say.

A delight to read, this editorial's humor and sarcastic disregard for common sense is an extremely amusing way to highlight the age old debate - even if it is a rather cynical way to say "Be thankful for what you have."

The presentation is top-class, with the adventure snippets being a very nice touch. While there are technically some points where the grammar is suspect, no marks have been taken off on the basis they are deliberate for the tone of the editorial.

All in all, this editorial is a great read, stylishly original in the midst of an age-old debate, and with a sentiment many will share.

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