Thursday, June 15, 2017

What's in an RPG

Are men imitating beasts?
Are beasts imitating men?
Sometimes video game acronyms can be pretty confusing.  "RPG" is usually shorthand for "Role-Playing Game," but can also mean "Rocket Propelled Grenade."  Add a capital "T" to the front and sometimes it's a "Tactical Role-Playing Game," such as Shining Force, Vandal Hearts and Fire Emblem.  Then again the "T" could stand for "Tabletop Role-Playing Game," which is the one people play with paper, pencils and dice.  I've also seen CRPG written a lot which is supposed to mean "Computer Role-Playing Game."  The opposite of this is, for some reason, "JRPG" or "Japanese Role-Playing Game."  Japanese because it's made in Japan...or is it?

I recently watched a Giant Bomb Quick Look of Cosmic Star Heroine, and while the game wasn't made by a Japanese development team it sure tries to look like it was.  Of course, this brought up a semantics argument.  I didn't bother to get involved in the comment section mostly because I don't think there's really many meaningful distinctions that can be made between the two subgenres anymore.

Back in the 8 and 16-bit era the Japanese video game industry was making RPGs pretty much exclusively for the console market.  Western developers, not wanting to compete directly made their own RPGs available on home computers.  There were some overall aesthetic differences.  I'm not going to get into them primarily because Extra Credits did an excellent three-part series on Youtube about it awhile back (link to part 1 here).  Recently, I feel like whatever distinctions there were though have become blurred to to such a degree that it's hard to point to any definitive differences.  Case-in-point, western made RPGs come out on consoles just as much as the PC these days.  This has lead a few people on the internet to start throwing around the term "WRPG," or "Western Role-Playing Game."  Personally, I don't see the point in splitting stylistic hairs like this when we have more useful terms that can be attached to the front of "RPG" such as "turn-based," "open-world" or even simply "action," all of which do a good job of informing someone as to how the game is played.

I guess if you have some deep-seated love/hate of anime then there might still be some small worth in distinguishing between eastern and western made RPGs, but in my mind the usage of genre terms really should evolve with the times.  Sadly, that would require people to change their way of viewing and thinking as well.  It's a problem that goes far beyond video games and this blog so I'll end things here.

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