Note: This article contains spoilers for Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Age: Origins
�You can put a 'J' in front of it, but it's not an RPG. You don't make any choices, you don't create a character, you don't live your character... I don't know what those are - adventure games maybe? But they're not RPG's.� - Daniel Erickson, Writing Director (Bioware). Quote Link
The RPG is a strange beast, constantly evolving and changing in the current video game climate. Right now, you would be hard pressed to find a game that does not include some form of RPG elements. However, that is a different subject entirely. What Erickson is referring to here is the JRPG genre in general and questioning the validity of calling these games, specifically Final Fantasy XIII, RPGs. In broader terms we could ask essentially; what is an RPG? A far greater question than could be answered here. If I had the time and resources I could trace the history of the role-playing game from its roots in Dungeons and Dragons style RP games, through its developments across console generations and the current elements associated with an RPG game to try and form a solid definition. Instead, I would like to scale the process down a few degrees and take an analytical approach towards Erickson�s statement to see if I can develop his thoughts any further.
In the broadest terms possible, it can be argued that all games are role-playing games. There is no denying at a basic level this seems inherently true. In the majority of video game experiences we are placed in control of a specific character. We take part in their story and see it to its conclusion. Does that necessarily mean that we are playing
their role though? I would be inclined to disagree.
In these situations we are offered a true, role-playing experience where we can craft our own original characters; shape the events of the story and become fully immersed within a different world. We are not limited, as in Final Fantasy XIII, to the enclosed path of the story and severely pre arranged stages of character development. In the majority of RPGs and games from other genres we lack a degree of control over the characters. We play their roles no more than when we watch Tony Stark, Frodo Baggins or Michael Corleone. We are given the illusion of role-playing but we are simply there; along for the ride.
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