What makes a role-playing game a role-playing game?

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CJTreader

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#1
Unit somewhat recently, what was and was not a role-playing game seemed quite simple to me: an rpg had to have a coherent, non-linear (in parts at least) story, dialogue options, leveling systems, and an open/hub world. However, in recent years, I've realized that there are a wide variety of definitions, and many of these aren't really clear cut. For instance, Monster Hunter: World recently won the best rpg award at The Game Awards because, I assume, it had some sort of leveling system, but I doubt the Dorito Pope would ever consider Far Cry 5 for that award despite it also having a leveling system. Then there's those on the opposite side of the spectrum who insist Fallout 4 isn't an rpg.

What are your thoughts?
 
#2
an RPG is literally just any sort of game where you can envelope yourself into a character, perceive it as yourself, and form the character as you choose. I dont know where all those incredibly specific defining pieces you listed came from.

for an RPG you need a story that allows you to be involved without specifically having a defined name outside of a title - like being called the Ashen One in dark souls 3, or the Dragonborne is skyrim - and be modified at least slightly by your choice of actions. It can be as linear as it wants or as expansive as it wants.

for gameplay progression you simply need a way to level a set of stats/weapons in a way that you would most preferably see fit your character as you build them. That's it.

the type of world - hub based, open world, or linear - has no effect on whether or not an RPG is an RPG.
Monster Hunter is an RPG, Fallout 4 is an RPG, and Far Cry 5 is an RPG.
 

CJTreader

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Premium Member
#3
an RPG is literally just any sort of game where you can envelope yourself into a character, perceive it as yourself, and form the character as you choose. I dont know where all those incredibly specific defining pieces you listed came from.

for an RPG you need a story that allows you to be involved without specifically having a defined name outside of a title - like being called the Ashen One in dark souls 3, or the Dragonborne is skyrim - and be modified at least slightly by your choice of actions. It can be as linear as it wants or as expansive as it wants.

for gameplay progression you simply need a way to level a set of stats/weapons in a way that you would most preferably see fit your character as you build them. That's it.

the type of world - hub based, open world, or linear - has no effect on whether or not an RPG is an RPG.
Monster Hunter is an RPG, Fallout 4 is an RPG, and Far Cry 5 is an RPG.
Deus Ex Human Revolution and Mankind Divided are both clearly rpgs, and you play a very pre-defined character named Adam Jensen. That would also see Far Cry 5 defined as an rpg while Far Cry 4 wouldn't be despite them being incredibly similar games. That just feels like far too broad and subjective a definition to be useful if you disregard the name thing. Basically every game can be an rpg if you use that.
 
#4
Deus Ex Human Revolution and Mankind Divided are both clearly rpgs, and you play a very pre-defined character named Adam Jensen. That would also see Far Cry 5 defined as an rpg while Far Cry 4 wouldn't be despite them being incredibly similar games. That just feels like far too broad and subjective a definition to be useful if you disregard the name thing. Basically every game can be an rpg if you use that.
Disregarding my point on names - as I can see it was a silly point to make - What you said, along with a re-read of my own previous post, brought up different point I want to make: throwing around the term RPG is such a stupid thing to do, given it's inherently vague defining traits. With them, even outside of my definitions every game can be an RPG,

It's too ambiguous to actually tie down; I don't think anything the market has ever thrown can be called consistent, and I don't think we'll ever have consistency later down the line. Only a broader, loose set of rules to define what actually makes a game fall under said category of X or Y, eventually to subsume everything.

At what point are we going to determine if what the game industry calls an RPG to be true, or if what the consumer calls an RPG to be true? At this point it just feels like the industry is milking the label for sales, given the positive association RPGs have.

TL;DR, the terms altogether are too vague to actually settle on anything, and the fact that a thread like this exists further pushes that point into clarity. It feels like companies are just attaching the term RPG to anything nowadays, so trying to pin down exactly what they mean and their specific definitions is useless.
 

CJTreader

Moderator
Staff member
Premium Member
#5
Disregarding my point on names - as I can see it was a silly point to make - What you said, along with a re-read of my own previous post, brought up different point I want to make: throwing around the term RPG is such a stupid thing to do, given it's inherently vague defining traits. With them, even outside of my definitions every game can be an RPG,

It's too ambiguous to actually tie down; I don't think anything the market has ever thrown can be called consistent, and I don't think we'll ever have consistency later down the line. Only a broader, loose set of rules to define what actually makes a game fall under said category of X or Y, eventually to subsume everything.

At what point are we going to determine if what the game industry calls an RPG to be true, or if what the consumer calls an RPG to be true? At this point it just feels like the industry is milking the label for sales, given the positive association RPGs have.

TL;DR, the terms altogether are too vague to actually settle on anything, and the fact that a thread like this exists further pushes that point into clarity. It feels like companies are just attaching the term RPG to anything nowadays, so trying to pin down exactly what they mean and their specific definitions is useless.
Yeah, it is a very nebulous term. I just think that it isn't doing its job as a descriptor if it's so meaningless, so it should either be abandoned or clarified... It's just annoying when games that have nothing in common are bunched up into one category by games journos and consumers. I don't really care what marketers say..Regardless, this thread was more meant to see what the term means to you all rather than iron out a legit definition.
 

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