Extra Punctuation

Role-Playing Games


I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the videogame cataloging system is in dire need of revision. I’m talking about all the different genre titles that define the style of game play: names like “first person shooter,” “strategy,” “beat ’em up.” I really feel that a lot of them are becoming increasingly misnamed. Take “simulation,” for example. Surely every game is a “simulation” of something, whether it be flying a World War 2 fighter plane or finely slicing the buttocks of minotaurs. Same goes for “adventure.” Even more specific names like “shooter” don’t encapsulate the grab-bag of genres most shooters are these days; the word “shooter” could just as easily apply to both Uncharted 2 and Space Invaders.

But the worst of these is “role-playing game,” and the fact that its definition has never been particularly clear doesn’t help. Again, surely every game has you playing a role to a certain extent, but presumably it’s intended to harken back to the old pen-and-paper role-playing games you used to play with your little friends around the kitchen table in your pathetic, idle youth (or pathetic, idle current existence). But those games were about literally taking on a role; by this token the only true video RPGs are ones like Mass Effect or Vampire: Bloodlines that let you make dialogue and action choices that define the nature of your character’s personality, and there are plenty of RPGs that don’t do that.

Okay then, so I guess an RPG is a game where you select from a list of characters at the start, or guide your character down a certain development path, creating individually skilled protagonists who all approach problems with different solutions depending on their specialties. But this could apply equally to both Torchlight and Oblivion, which are still extremely different games. At a pinch, it could also apply to Team Fortress 2. Besides, where exactly does the JRPG fit into all this? The protagonist is always the same (usually an angsty androgynous douchebag) and the story is fixed. Many of them don’t let you pick your own stat bonuses when you level up. They might as well just make the games entirely cutscenes, that’s clearly the direction Final Fantasy wants to go in.

So clearly the solution is to come up with some new genre names so that games can be properly classified. JRPGs, for example, could be easily reclassified as ‘Stupid Gay Rubbish’. And games like Torchlight could be filed under ‘Games Where You Click On Things A Lot’, to go alongside Monkey Island and Windows Minesweeper.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Not much to talk about this week. Let’s just go to the callers.


“FYI: you can just hold the mousebutton down instead of clickspamming to kill enemies”
– sag_ich_nicht, via email

Yes, this was the gist of quite a lot of the Torchlight feedback. Yes, you can certainly hold the mouse button down to keep attacking an enemy, but my concern was about needless energy loss, and keeping the mouse button depressed is still a far worse solution than just clicking once to keep attacking an enemy until they die. If I start attacking someone, I am not going to change my mind half-way through. Maybe if they turned into kittens after taking a certain amount of damage, or if I wanted to break off the attack to block an attack coming from another angle, but Torchlight isn’t that kind of game.

Yes, this is as inconsequential as fuck, but tell that to the people who email me.

“Why does every ‘rpg’ nowadays need a dog?”
– Aleate

That’s a good point. RPGs do seem to be getting increasingly big on pets. Best guess, it’s because World of Warcraft has pets and World of Warcraft goes to work every day on a private jet staffed entirely by hot elf chicks. Perhaps gamers are such manchildren these days that they have difficulty coping with the adversity of RPG dungeons without having a little snuffly friend to give them comfort and unconditional love. Or perhaps it’s an offshoot of the co-op gameplay trend reflected in such games as Gears of War, Resident Evil 5 and Borderlands, but catering to people who don’t like other human beings (i.e. RPG players).

Hey, speaking of Borderlands:

Borderlands, how about it, eh?”
– “some bloke,” via email

I’ve been obstinately not reviewing Borderlands ever since it came out, and I was kind of hoping this fact would slip by unnoticed, but enough people have slipped on it that it probably bears explanation. I played it in single player for a bit and thought it was excrementally boring, but I’d heard it was best played multiplayer. As I have mentioned before in this column I avoid online multiplayer because my brain still works. I did get someone around to play it split-screen, but then we got bored half-way through the lengthy opening tutorial and went out for a pie. So the truth is I haven’t really given it enough of a chance in its proper environment, and with the busy bar-opening and book-writing schedule for this year I’m not sure it ever will have a chance.

Yes, I know all you kids seem to like it. What can I say. Sorry all this free entertainment doesn’t meet your exacting standards.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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