"Doth thou desire the power? My fist is the divine breath! Blossom, o fallen seed, and draw upon thy hidden powers!!"
— Grahf, Xenogears
RPGs don't exist in a void. Every game is inspired by its predecessors; few fail to leave any impression on their players. Every game, no matter how wretched or mediocre, is consumed and digested into imagination soup. The great ones invite imitation, inspire art, and spawn memes. The less lucky serve as object lessons and spawn memes. Games stay with us because they're stories. They're playgrounds. They're a chance to explore a fiction and build something within it according to the boundaries set by the creators. Then imagination takes hold and breaks down the boundaries. Thinking about one game inevitably opens the floodgates to other parts of life. Books inspired by RPGs were covered in a previous feature. This time it's a chance to check in on shows, games, and comics that are not RPGs, but draw direct inspiration from them.
It's easy for something to draw on general RPG inspiration, but doing it in a way where the end result is recognizably RPG-like is more difficult. Educational pedagogy and the business world are hot and bothered over gamification. At its most banal, the concept involves slapping experience points and badges on mundane activities in order to turn participation into a game. Buying eggs earns you Purchaser Points, which allow you to declare yourself the Archmage of Albumen or the Ovoid Oneiromancer (5% off on your birthday.) Kill 20 Homework Goblins in a semester and you get an A+. It's possibile to squeeze positive juice from these lemons, but it takes care.
It's the same within video games. Just because something's like an RPG doesn't mean it's worth further examination. On the other hand, any game out there that doesn't have some level of RPG-like elements is missing out on some great stuff: character advancement, engaging storylines, screaming plague mummies. Among SNES-era RPG fans, the idea of the genre war was strong. Sensitive, educated gamers played RPGs; knuckle-dragging goons played fighting games. Games that are inspired by RPGs are everywhere these days, so the delicate flowers of yesteryear must have won — but at what cost?
The RPGamer staff have compiled a bevy of non-RPG experiences that explore how RPGs influenced their creators. Some of these non-RPG items are intended for those deeply versed in gaming lore. Others provide insight to a more general audience. Dungeons and Dragons and MMORPGs often get the short end of the empathy stick when presented to general audiences, but the examples we've found are solid enjoyment. Pour a drink and take a gander at some non-video games that use the language of the RPG as inspiration.
On with the show! »