Flamebate Friday Debate: What makes an RPG an RPG?

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FFDRPG

The term RPG is thrown around a lot these days – but what exactly is it that makes an RPG an RPG? Spurred on, obviously, by Fallout 4 winning DICE’s RPG of the year ahead of The Witcher 3, a discussion on twitter kicked off around Fallout 4’s merits as an RPG.

According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, an RPG is:

A role-playing game (RPG and sometimes roleplaying game) is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of structured decision-making or character development.

Essentially, a game is a computer RPG if it features player-driven development of a persistent character or characters via the making of consequential choices– and that’s the important bit, I think. That the choices have consequence. To that end, Both the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 are RPGS. As for which is best…well, I’ll leave that to you.

Last Updated: February 19, 2016

Read  Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • So according to that definition Call of Duty is a RPG as well..

    Awesome I love RPG’s then

    • what was it again, press X to mourn or something, lol

      • please nothing that cheesy.. it was to pay respects 😉

        • Next time CoD asks to pay respects, they going ask for credit card details as well

          • Hammersteyn

            Or stroke the shaft

          • lol

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            Then I’ll burn my controller, unless it’s a Deadpool game…because that’s at least expected…

    • AfricanTime

      Like destiny…

    • Captain JJ and his ensigns

      Suddenly I’m less of an RPG fan 😛

    • Darren Peach

      You are not wrong. What made advanced warfare more RPG ish was the unlockable gear and unique weapon variants. BOP3 was a step backwards.

  • Umar

    I agree on that statement as well, so why then, do people still want to argue whether or not Dark Souls is an RPG. The reason that it focuses on combat is absolute doodoo.

  • DragonSpirit009

    Eh there is so many games with twist and turns in them that fitting the game term RPG is kinda hard these days. But to me those terms don’t really apply to me… I just play it no matter what genre it is.

  • Hammersteyn

    The whole issue exists because people dont want Fallout to eclipse Witcher as the better game and vice a versa. Both are excellent games and playing just one is doing yourself a disservice

    • Umar

      LOL While this is a good topic though, people seem to get real emotional over Witcher 3.

      • But the Witcher 3 was something, it just felt right to play, never felt like I should stop playing, where with fallout 4, Ive stopped awhile ago without finishing the game

        • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

          I played both games broken! I think they should all be nice and share :p

          • Hammersteyn

            Same here. Both had problems. I got bored of minute man quests in Fallout and with Witcher it was chasing down yet another question mark on the map

          • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

            Finished Bos, Institute and Railroad, for sum reason I couldnt finish Minuteman. Even though I planned my Save games properly. Good to hear it wasnt that great.

            Speaking of Witcher I discovered all question marks on the main map, when I go to the Island I shat myself and decided to give up. Was way too much.

          • Witcher3 side quests are mostly fun, has some really decent ones

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            That’s the thing though, the side quests were unbelievable, every single one was done in so much detail that it was like playing a little added game inside this massive yet beautifully crafted world, yet, hunting down all of those question marks, especially the Skellige ones, drove me mad…

          • Im not usually a competionist, but I finished all the side quests before I got the main one just not to miss out or fail a quest because of story progression

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            Yep!! I did the same!

          • Original Heretic

            Had the same issue! Just couldn’t do all those island questions marks.

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            That’s the issue with open world games, if the place is littered with said question marks, especially the ones in Skellige, you get tired of having to sit on a boat(the slowest form of transport in the game) just to reach those areas… Whereas having repeated quests have absolutely no value to add to the game whatsoever, yet everyone goes mal crazy about how much fun it is…

          • Captain JJ and his ensigns

            I tend to agree with you.

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            Great minds man, great minds…

          • Pariah

            Well in the case of Fallout 4, everyone played it broken… 😛

      • Hammersteyn

        Because Geralt portrays the second coming of RPG games. Because Witcher started on PC and is now sullied by peasants that has joined the party. I think the master race is pissed because some struggle to understand just what the big deal is.

      • Pariah

        And yet I’ll never play it because the first 2 bored me plenty. To be fair, the same is probably true for Fallout 4.

        • ElimiNathan

          Do it. I played Witcher 2 and hated it. Witcher 3 is amazing

          • Pariah

            No thanks. 🙂

    • Jan Prins

      My word! I now know why my life is so empty and devoid of meaning! I have only briefly played either game!

  • Jan Prins

    So… The Ultimate role playing game is The Sims then? Because the amount of choices I have to make in that game to progress…

    First time I thought about it like that…

  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    What makes a good RPG, that’d be a stable trigger that pushes through the conductive cone, to push onto the conductor, which would then in turn compress the detonator, which would ignite the explosives set next to the inner layer of the body, causing the desired effect of a remote explosion, sometimes, made at a safe distance…

    • Captain JJ and his ensigns

      Well, that makes it a standard RPG. 😛

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        HAHAHA!

    • Hammersteyn

      But what about a JRPG?

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        That’d be the Dud…

    • BakedBagel

      “sometimes at a safe distance”

      There is always the one, that will not go that safe distance.

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        There are also those that get permanent blow waved hair-doos by standing directly behind said individuals, also, ones that can’t aim properly…

  • Spathi

    “..it really, really isn’t. An adventure game is Tomb Raider – a BIG difference”

    I lolled..

    Anyway, everyone is WRONG!!! What makes an RPG is either one of two things present in a game:

    1) Character progression – stats, skills, talents, etc
    2) Choices that alter the game story or progression.

    If a game has either one or both of the above, it can be stated that the game is a RPG, or is a game with RPG elements present. It all depends on the prevalence of those elements, and the other elements in a specific game.

    SUCK IT!

    • Captain JJ and his ensigns

      I agree with you on this.

    • Pariah

      So Binding of Isaac is an RPG by this definition… K.

      • Captain JJ and his ensigns

        The character progression is a must though in an RPG for me.
        Without that it’s just a shooter or a 3rd person adventure

        • Pariah

          Binding of Isaac actually has both of those things he mentioned.

          • Spathi

            Serious question, in what genre would you place Binding of Isaac? Don’t you think it has RPG elements present, because I definitely think so.

          • Pariah

            It’s a rogue-lite, but I don’t consider it an RPG at all. It has RPG elements, but it isn’t an RPG. Its a randomly generated dungeon crawler rogue-lite with RPG elements.

          • Spathi

            Well, I do agree with you. And it falls nicely within my definition of a RPG above 😛

            To quote a wise man:

            “If a game has either one or both of the above, it can be stated that the game is a RPG, or is a game with RPG elements present. It all depends on the prevalence of those elements, and the other elements in a specific game.”

          • Pariah

            I hate you. Not really. But you’re right and I didn’t fully read. So this egg on my face hates you too.

            XD

          • Spathi

            I’m just being an asshole due to it being FFD 😀

          • Pariah

            Oh yeah? Well. Well……. Well… You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny…

            *sulks*

          • Captain JJ and his ensigns

            Never played that actually

      • Spathi

        Read again… K.

    • miaau

      Diablo 2? Did not ” Choices that alter the game story or progression.”

      Was it an RPG? or just a hack n slash action game (glorious game) with character traits and skill?

      • Spathi

        But it has character progression. It’s an or, not an and.

        Edit: To answer your question, I believe it is an action game and RPG in equal measures, thus an action RPG!

        • miaau

          which is exactly what they called it. hmm… Complicated question: What is an RPG? (game, not launcher of missiles)

  • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

    New “PC” genre labels for games from now on – “RPG……possibly?”

  • Pariah

    For me the most important thing that essentially makes a game an RPG is if it feels like you’re living as someone else and playing through their story. Character development, stats, etc. don’t matter. Are you playing the ROLE of that character? Is it a story? Does it feel like you’re making choices and living in their world, as them? Yes? It’s an RPG.

  • The Sten

    They are both action Adventure with RPG elements.

  • Guild

    I agree with Geoff. RPG as I know it was pen and paper Dungeon and Dragons. You relied on the roll of dice and chance, kept track of your stats and progression and entered into a dialogue with the Dungeon Master where choices had consequences. Pretty much like Baldurs Gate. Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 are adventure games with RPG elements.

    • miaau

      Enough said, thanks.

      Problem is, if you have never played pen and paper Advanced D&D (D&D sucked), then you simply will not get this.

      • Jan Prins

        I never played that. Rodney Seale told me I’ll be summoning demons by the end of the night if I played D&D…

        • miaau

          Yeah, but no. Sad. Also, the same people that said that banned My Little Pony (Satanic), Smurfs (they went to Pappa smurf with their problems, not God). My mother had a friend who, in the 80’s worked in government censorship (what was the department’s name? Was it just the Film and Publications board?) in SA. Yeah.

    • Pariah

      That’s D&D, one pretty hardcore aspect of RPGs.

      But its not the only way to RPG

  • Commander Admiral Chief

    I don’t care.

    I just want KoTOR 3

    So stop debating, and get this game in my life!

    • Jan Prins

      But we are all Master Debators!

    • Pariah

      This

    • Guild

      What happened to XCOM 2? You finish it and bored already?

      • Commander Admiral Chief

        K3 needs to be on the future watchlist so I can be happy something awesome is going to be in my future

  • miaau

    The definition of RPG is loose enough, however, to include Need For Speed Most Wanted.

  • Original Heretic

    I always figured that if a game allowed you to level up and choose new things, it had RPG elements to it. Even Borderlands has those elements.

    But if you want to get all true and get down to the bare bones and try and say that chracter choices influence the outcome of the game, no digital game (PC, console, whatever), is ever really going to be a true RPG, since all those outcomes are there fro the start, hard-wired into the game. You can unlock an alternate ending, but you’re never truly going to change the game or have the freedom that those in the pen & paper classic would have.

    • Spathi

      Don’t be so sure. Skynet is coming. We’ll all be NPCs in a survival RPG!

      • Original Heretic

        It’s already here!

  • Lardus-For the Chimichangas!

    I want decisions that matter. I want my character to grow. I want my squad and interaction to matter and grow. I do not want the end to be pre-determined (like DA:I felt). Some games pull it off wonderfully (like ME if you waited for extended cut). Some lack a bit in some departments while being better in others – does not mean one game is a “true RPG” and the other isn’t. The Mass Effect trilogy has thus far been my best/favourite RPG series. Just wish we could get an awesome one in the Warhammer 40K universe.

    • konfab

      You can have an upvote.

  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    Do RPGs have to have DRM? Or…

    • Spathi

      Are you trying to summons Ryanza?

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        I’m sure he’ll drop in without me performing the whole ritual…

  • Ghost In The Rift

    Best Example ill ever use for a RPG, KOTOR, that’s all, i’m done.

    • miaau

      Neverwinter nights. Baldurs Gate. Yes, and Kotor.

      Pools of Radiance. Curze of the Azure bonds. Played those two on computer AND was dungeon master for the adventures, with my friends. Choices mattered there. Real implications.

  • Darren Peach

    My girlfriend likes to wear leather and high heel steel tipped boots in the beroom…… that is a rpg…..

  • Darren Peach

    Can anyone remember a game called Rogue on pc ?

  • This does not make sense than because Wolfenstein would be a RPG just because of the one choice you get in the game.

    I propose we add degrees of RPGness.

    For instance. Mass Effect 1 is a full on RPG. Mass Effect 2 is an Action RPG and Mass Effect 3 is an Action game since your choices don’t matter. 🙂

    • konfab

      I will exterminate you like I exterminated Mordin.

  • Dane

    An RPG is a game that plays itself so long as you complete the objectives.

  • Gardos

    FIFA is the ultimate RPG. (but seriously, they should make some proper sports RPGs)

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Whoever said F4 isn’t an RPG? Both it & W3 are, they just approach the genre differently. The main thing for me is how the game merges the story with all the mechanics like char creation, stats, leveling, etc – the mechanics all contribute to your playing the story. If the story’s just something that happens in the background while you’re clicking on stuff, like Diablo, Borderlands or Dark Souls, then it’s not an RPG as far as I’m concerned. They can call themselves RPGs because they use some of the mechanics if they want to, but that’s like winning a participation trophy.

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    Sigh Nick…

    I think I need to start trolling you again. It’s clear you need me. I will be your compass! I will be your guiding light! For far too long you’ve been left in the dark.

  • Mark Treloar

    This is how you RPG

  • konfab

    I view RPG games as a spectrum, you have games that have RPG mechanics but little player choice (Stick of Truth), player choice but little RPG mechanics (Fallout New Vegas), RPG mechanics and lots of player choice (Dragon Age:Origins, Kotor), little player choice and little RPG mechanics (Far Cry Blood Dragon)

    In the end, picking the “best” RPG is like trying to pick your favorite colour under a sodium light.

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