Journalist Stephen Totilo is wondering what the term “role-playing” really means to the game industry and what games deserve the broad label.
Titles like Spore and LittleBigPlanet allow players to morph into God-like designers of the universe. Music sensations Rock Band and Guitar Hero offer a rock star experience in the living room.
Writing at the MTV Multiplayer blog, Totilo believes that these are better examples of what the term “role-playing game” should mean to gamers than traditional RPGs such as Final Fantasy where you’re not “playing a role.”
Totilo stated about the old explanation of the acronym, “What did anyone ever mean by the term ‘Role Playing Game’? Such games were the ones that made you someone else, that told a story, that, possibly, sprang from Dungeons and Dragons. They weren’t action games. They weren’t racing games. They weren’t flight simulators. An RPG’s lead character would usually have to exhibit some growth, calculated by and expressed with statistics. Fallout was an RPG. Zelda 2 was. So would be Fable and Final Fantasy.”
He feels a better definition is that “to role-play is to become someone else. To role-play effectively is to buy one’s own act and have those around you buy it too.”
“They’re playing the role. They’re living the fantasy,” said Totilo of those who try out the four games he listed as the new-age RPGs. “Compare that to the experience presented by the the games I used to call role-playing games, the Fallout, Fable or Final Fantasy games. Those now seem merely like enjoyable scripts I can orchestrate at a puppetry playhouse. They don’t turn me into someone else with the effectiveness of Spore or Rock Band.”
“The old role-playing games were defined by what I could do and, in theory, who I could be,” he concluded. “Many of them are among the greatest games ever made and they exist in a genre that will hopefully continues to flourish. But their genre name suits a different group of games better, I think.”