Mass Effect and Fallout are both under RPGs on this webpage.
I’m sorry, but these
are not the same genre as these
first and third-person shooters do not preclude interactive storytelling, dialogue trees, and…
Yes that’s what the words “Role Playing Game” mean by themselves, but there’s a context-sensitive definition that has been built up since the NES that automatically brings to mind games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Earthbound. Plus, if that’s the only definition we have for “Role Playing Game” then that means every game where you control a character is a role playing game, and that’s not very helpful categorization.
Also: Is it right to label a game based on the parts of it that do not affect its gameplay?
Is the point of video game genres not to sort games based on how they play? Because that would be news to me.
Obviously it would be ideal to be able to categorize games at a granular level, so you can look for certain gameplay types with certain other things, like graphics or story, but we’re not quite there yet.
I see your point, though I still disagree with some of it.
About labeling games based on parts of it that do not affect gameplay - I agree, but I disagree with your examples. I think the heavy emphasis on story weighs more than the different systems used. For instance, I don’t really think of Fallout 3 as a shooter - I think of it far more in line with the Elder Scrolls series, particularly Skyrim, which I would definitely classify as RPGs. I would put the Dragon Age series in there, too. Mass Effect, I feel, is perhaps further on the spectrum in terms of emphasis on combat, but in the same vein. The emphasis in both Fallout 3 and Mass Effect is really not the shooting - whereas, for instance, I would definitely classify the Halo series as FPSs (FPSes?) because of the emphasis on combat over story (though the story is pretty damn incredible too).
I think of it this way - how much would you get out of a game like Fallout 3 or Mass Effect while completely ignoring the story and role-playing aspects? I would argue that it wouldn’t be much. The story is very important to the gameplay. In Halo, on the other hand, the story is secondary to the gameplay.
I’m not sure I feel that the other games you mentioned - EarthBound, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger - are any more influenced by the fact that they tell stories than by their other gameplay aspects. This may be because I am not as familiar with those games (apart from Earthbound). However, I also think that video games are, by and large, continuing to move towards telling and exploring stories in general (while still usually being classified as entertainment) - and so I think the genres we currently use are going to continue to morph, stretch, and grow.
I guess my question is why do the games you mention count as RPGs, but the other ones do not - especially if, as you mention, interactive storytelling, dialogue trees, and inventory management do not automatically make something an RPG. What does make a game an RPG? What’s different about the ones you mentioned that make them a genre unto themselves? I’m certainly not saying that they aren’t different from games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3, because they are, but I’m not really seeing the granularity of the division that makes them not-RPGs as opposed to the others.
What defines an RPG, if not the heavy emphasis on story and character as explored by the protagonist (particularly when you consider reaction/consequence trees and branching story paths)? If the answer is solely based on a set of systems that have been classified in the past as constituting an RPG, but which are nullified by the presence of other elements, then I would argue that we need to reconsider the use of the term to define a genre - because of the inherent meaning of the words role-playing game.
The things is, The games I brought up as “RPGs”… aren’t really RPGs if you use the actual definition of the them. Today, RPG has a double-meaning: A game like Final Fantasy, Earthbound, Paper Mario, etc (i.e.: a Game that has turn-based combat, rather than real time, and typically incorporate a leveling system, though that’s not necessary (probably could have mentioned that sooner), and a game like Mass Effect, Fallout, or Skyrim (i.e.: a game where you play a fundamental role in the way the game progresses).
Obviously, the latter truly represents a Role-Playing Game. So what’s the problem? It’s twofold: One, the old, not-technically-RPGs have been called RPGs for almost 30 years, and Two, there really isn’t another good name for them, gameplay-wise. Turn Based Game is inaccurate— the games are only turn based during battle —, and Turn Based Combat Game is way too wordy and long.
On the other hand, games like Mass Effect, Skyrim, Fallout, yada yada have only “recently” begun to use the term “RPG” properly. It’s confusing for people who know RPGs as “games with turn-based combat”. Also, they have other genres they can be listed as. Mass Effect could be classified as a Third Person Shooter, Skyrim could be classified as a First-Person Adventure, and Fallout could be classified as an FPS. Yes, these are all purely gampleay related categorizations, but think of it this way:
If you went to the store looking for a game like Final Fantasy or Paper Mario or whatever, and you saw that the box for a game like Mass Effect said “RPG”, and you bought it, you would soon find out that what you bought was not, in fact, a game with turn-based combat, and no matter how good the story was, if you didn’t like Third-Person Shooters, you probably wouldn’t enjoy the game.
But, say, if a guy came in looking for a fun Third-Person Shooter to play, and he saw that Mass Effect was labeled as a Third-Person Shooter, and he bought it, then he’d bring it home, start playing it, and get exactly what he wanted, AND get an awesome story to boot! Maybe he wouldn’t enjoy the long cutscenes at first, but eventually he might warm up to it, and hey, if he got Mass Effect 3, he’d also get the awesome multiplayer!
that last paragraph was two whole sentences
I entirely agree with you. I think this is truly the heart of it: do we continue down the road of using terminology that is familiar to established gamers who know the history, but can also be confusing to newcomers and is arguably irrelevant to what it’s actually talking about/possibly obsolete in its current form? Or do we potentially make things confusing and possibly wordy for everyone while we try to find a system that actually makes sense?
I just think that if the only reason we’re calling games-that-have-previously-been-classified-as-RPGs “RPGs” is that we’ve done it for however many years, and some people might be confused if it’s changed … that’s not actually a very good reason, especially if the current system doesn’t actually make sense if you analyse it, plus you’re dealing with massive new and continuing growth in your consumer base as well as significant forward momentum and changes on many other levels.
Personally, I solve the problem when recommending games, or exploring for myself, by referring to ‘older-style’/historically-called-RPGs as “turn-based RPGs”, which I don’t find to be too wordy, and which I definitely find turns people’s light-bulbs on - especially if they are current, knowledgeable gamers, because it both evokes that particular long-standing genre and excludes the newer wave of RPGs. Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I (personally) don’t immediately think of solely turn-based RPGs when I hear the term “RPG”. I’m far more likely to think of non-turn-based RPGs, and that’s basically just because of my gaming history. So I’m not actually sure how universal that familiarity is. I suspect it might vary largely, depending on demographics and geography.
Honestly, like I said before, genres are morphing and combining and changing. Part of it’s technology-based change, part of it is socially-based change, part of it is video games continuing their evolution as an art form as well as entertainment. I suspect the entire genre and classification system needs an overhaul. There are so many games that just aren’t easily classifiable with the current accepted system, and then what do you do when you’re in PNP or EB or wherever and you’re looking for a game? Honestly, I don’t really look for new games in retail stores, because there’s just not enough information. I’m far more likely to look for reviews online or maybe even a Let’s Play, just to see what kind of a game it is beyond the press description and the handful of genre/content tags on the back, because those really don’t give you much. For instance - I only started playing Mass Effect because J put the controller in my hand and said “you will like this”. I had heard of it before but had only heard it described as a shooter - which doesn’t appeal to me.
As a side note, I also think that adhering to a system simply because it has previously been the norm sets a dangerous cultural precedent - not to say that classifying turn-based combat games with rich stories as RPGs is going to bring anyone to tears, but just the general culture of “it’s always been this way so we shouldn’t/can’t/don’t want to change it”. Video games are a relatively new art form, and have gone through enormous changes in their first few decades, but the industry/art form is growing incredibly quickly and at an exponential rate, and things are going to change, and that’s probably okay. Again, this is a far more generalized observation than solely the question of genre classification, but you get my point, I think.