Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The limits of gaming

I was recently confronted with a comment on a forum that suggested some stories are easy to adapt to roleplaying games, whereas others are not - implying that there are some stories that are not worth telling through RPGs. Let me unpack this as a comment on how people play games.

First of all, this comment was not made on an indie forum. I think it's safe to assume that the poster prefers to play mainstream games, with D&D probably at the top of the list. With that in mind I would suggest that the kind of play that this person enjoys involves building character stats, levelling up the character WoW-style. So, the appeal of RPGs is the same as the appeal of WoW. When it comes down to it, WoW is the new version of having the top score at the arcade. The characters in WoW can be compared against each other and engage in PvP. Therefore, it should be considered as a competitive game and provides enjoyment for people who like competitive games.

At the heart of a game like D&D is a sense of competitiveness. There is the drive to make one's own character better than the others, to inflict more damage, to neutralise more opponents. All to be done with more power than the other characters. To return to the prompted statement it is apparent that to suggest that a plot cannot be told in RPG actually reveals that this person only thinks of gaming as a competitive activity.

And that's fine, for a certain stable of games. However, it is not the limit of gaming and I'm happy about that. What it shows is that the depths of gaming have not yet been fully explored in Australia. Looks like a good opportunity, if you ask me.
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