thread: 2012-03-19 : If it isn't an RPG, is it still an RPG?

On 2012-03-21, Julia wrote:

Werewolf (also called Mafia) is one of my favorite games. A few years ago I made a Werewolf scenario to play at dinner at JiffyCon. It's set in a ninth century mead hall in an unnamed Nordic country. If you're curious, it's here. I'd call it—the thing I just linked, a roleplaying game. I wrote it to function as one. I'd probably call the thing it's based on (Mafia) roleplaying playable, but that would be splitting hairs..

Vincent, did you ever complete the thread of discussion where you defined the elements of a RPG, then said you think you can design games that encompass your favorite things about rpgs, but never never defined those things? What exactly is that direction you're going?

Discussions of taxonomy are almost always ridiculous and useless unless all those in the discussion are able to agree that taxonomy, even in science, is subjective. Linnaeus classifying humans as primates pissed a lot of people off, especially theologians, who saw putting humans in the same category as apes as a threat to humanity's place above animals in the Great Chain of Being. Sounds a little familiar.

Roleplaying games had no significant place in my life until six years ago. Roleplaying as an activity did at certain points (nursing school, diversity trainings at work, team building exercises at school and work, my SCA phase, etc.), and sometimes those roleplaying experiences had a game feel. But roleplaying games as a hobby like knitting is a hobby? Six years. I bring this up to illustrate that my lack of gamer baggage (and lack of rpg experience early in life) influences what I classify as a roleplaying game. I don't really understand RPG's traditional place in the Great Chain of Games and Pastimes.

Say I add an element to a RPG makes it look less like the living fossils RPG's and more like, say, mystery theater. As the creator and user, I claim the right to declare my game is still an rpg. Hybridization and cross pollination encourage diversity. They are necessary parts of evolution and survival of any species. It should be expected that RPGs created in 2012 will share core attributes with the first commercial RPGs, and it should be expected that they'll take on attributes of other related activities. Survival of the species.

Then you get the hybrizidation that's propelled by the environment, which includes the place, time, and inhabitants/audience (non-gamers, fans of other activities, to name a few). As a newbie to RPGs, naturally I bring my lack of experience with RPGs, and my wealth of experience and knowledge of other things to play and design. Kitsune and Zashiki Warashi are more interesting to me than elves and orcs. I know more card games than I do dice games. Growing up, people in my social and cultural circles didn't play RPG's. We acted in plays, played other games, read comics, told stories. Guess what I'm going to bring the the table when I play and design role-playing games?

Adding elements to RPGs that make them more accessible, interesting, more like other forms of art, literature, theater, board/card/dice games is not new. I think this is the piece I really don't understand in gamer vs. non-gamer and RPG vs. non-RPG discussions. Is hybridization really all that controversial and heretical? Do people really think innovation is just starting to happen in game design? Is it that in some corners of the internet, personal taste gets mistaken for canon?


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