What Makes an RPG?: Semantics and Game Reviews

categories.jpg I stumbled on an interesting review of The Witcher, a PC RPG (or is it?). The reviewer started off by throwing out his opinion on what makes an RPG ("Games in which you create a role and then act out that character in the gameworld. Without the freedom to come up with your own virtual identity, what you're really talking about are adventure games with a few RPG trimmings."), something that got picked up by the nice people at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I can't think of any games I've played and loved where I started from scratch; then again, I'm not a PC gamer, and by this definition all those RPGs I have on my game shelf are mislabeled. RPS says that the categories are purely historical in nature:

Which leads to me my take on the RPG, at least in terms of daily use. "RPG" is a purely historical thing. In the same way "Spartan" doesn't mean "From Sparta" any more, but rather a set of values and beliefs (i.e. Less pillows and bedclothes. Less fancy clothes. Sit-ups now, probably), "RPG" is completely divorced from the meaning of the words. It just means "mechanics derived from D&D" and even games which fulfil the aims of RPGs better than 99% of RPGs (i.e. Elite) aren't. Any attempts to push it further than that is deliberate perversion and demagoguery on the part of the developer.

Which I'd tend to agree with. All categories, game or otherwise, are created for purposes of quick sorting. Key word: created. What do the Kotakuites out there think? Do these categories even matter? And who gets to decide what is - or isn't - X genre, and how?

The Witcher [Eurogamer via Rock, Paper, Shotgun]


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