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The Spirit of the RPG

by Mistress Nightshadow 

Have you ever thought about what the humble RPG can teach us? Of its ideals, how we can learn and apply in our real lives in one way or another, even though they could be worlds apart?

One of these ideals is evident in every RPG... No, I'd be wrong there. It is an integral part of what makes an RPG, and without this, the RPG would be severely compromised, if not non-existent.

What could I be possibly be talking about? Is it the battle system, is it the personalized characters? Could what I be talking about be the fantasy worlds that people get whacked into as the background of the RPG?

It is none of the above. This detail is so simple, it seems that it will always go unnoticed, considered a minor detail at best.

What is this? It is the idea of perseverance.

I can see you all mouthing "What the living hell is that person on about?" I'll go into detail about that.

Ever since the first RPG was invented [Being the Paper and Dice] it has ALWAYS promoted this idea. You always had a mission... and you had to overcome obstacles to complete the objective. At first they were simple: Kill the dragon in the cave. Later on, it became much more than an obstacle course... The worlds grew bigger, the objective became less clear cut or in some cases almost impossible to foretell at the beginning, perpetrators were harder and harder to spot, the methods to achieve the objective became more intense, more numerous and much more challenging.

And it wasn't just an extended rough cross-country course either. The obstacles became some sort of mind-maze as well as physical barriers as the RPG developed. Characters developed their own sense of personality, they had to overcome personal fears and shortcomings as well as the rugged obstacle course which was placed in front of them, be it through fate, destiny, luck or by some higher being.

All the heroes and heroines knew that they weren't cut out for the job. They were weak, they were fledglings. Half of them didn't even know what they were about to get themselves into. They knew that they wouldn't just be able to walk up to the front door of the villain's residence, let alone get inside and defeat him or her.

But they all showed one thing that makes them respectable, that makes them who they are. They took up that sword, that bow, that gun when they were needed, and they just kept going no matter what the cost, no matter what odds were against them. They did what they could, wherever they could... they tried to find out what happened, they conquered enemies from the slime to primal fear... to become as strong as they could ever be.

That is the essence of the Experience system, and many other systems similar to it. As the Heroes and Heroines trained, as they did things that sometimes seemed impossible, they did it in the hope that they would be strong enough in both body and mind to meet that final objective... and be strong enough to overcome it.

And they all knew that at one point or another, they may have to make sacrifices. They knew that, but that did not stop them. They were willing to train, they were willing to do whatever possible in order to stop who or whatever they wanted to stop. They fully well knew that some of them would fall along the way. They knew they could be disheartened with the massive and seemingly impossible task ahead of them. They knew they could easily fail at any given time, at any given place.

But when it came down to the crunch, they are the ones who keep going, they are the ones who persevere and proved to the world that they were not willing to give up, that they were going to keep trying no matter what the hell happened, that if they went stumbled, they would try pick themselves up, and they were going to win, or they were going to go down trying, and have no regrets with their decisions.

The RPG Companies of today could arguably be losing the ideals of which the RPG has been based on, with what seems to be less emphasis on what the RPG can promote in it's basic principles to what is considered to be the 'eye-candy': The lovely FMV, the 3D effects, the music to blast you away...

But remember this. Although many games may encourage perseverance [Come on, some games takes YEARS of practice to finish], the RPG is the only one which embraces it as one of it's cores, one of the basic building blocks in the foundation in which the RPG lies. Some embrace this seemingly better than others, some encorporate this idea in different ways, but they all can be seen as RPGs from miles away.

If the RPG does lose its basic foundations due to the RPG companies of today moving away from it, the RPG will either cease to exist in it's form as a medium, or we will recognize that they are not making RPGs anymore, and other companies will be there to continue the ideal of perseverance, as well as the other many ideals which make up an RPG, and we will support them.

And we should all learn the basic message every RPG anyone will ever play, that few other experiences in life will ever teach. Never stop trying for that goal. Although the road may be long, hard and sometimes impossible at times, there WILL be a way. After all, if you went after the last boss and found you weren't strong enough or skilled enough, you would go out into the wilderness and get your characters some more levels up. I'm sure that in real life, that can be done as well, and the RPG is the perfect, yet simple, way of demonstrating that.

This would probably be my first editorial from the Kodak Imaging Centre at the Sydney Olympics! Just because I said I'd be busy, didn't mean I never had any time to write an editorial or two. Well, if you'd like to comment on this, to suggest that the current RPG isn't just fool's gold like some people believe, to point out that RPGs, as with everything else globalised, is corrupted to the core, if you're wondering how I managed to write and type this all at work without getting into trouble, or you're just planning to ring up Kodak and dob me in for lack of work, but want to blackmail me first, send them all to nightshadow_007@angelfire.com.