by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Today’s piece concerns a question I’ve received a few times: Why do I play RPGs? What made me start playing them, and why do I keep playing them after all these years? This is a really good question, and I figured I would take it up today. I have a lot of acquaintances that either don’t get, or don’t understand why I love RPGs so much, and why I’d rather play games that are 15-25 years old instead of trying the latest, greatest multiplayer shooter/what have you. That’s fine, though! Not everyone has to play the same stuff, but why do I play RPGs? Let’s start with why I started in the first place.
Why I started playing RPGs:
Back when I first got a Nintendo Entertainment System, RPGs were not popular quite yet. My first games are classics: Mario 1 and 3, Batman, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden. None of my friends back then played RPGs at all! I didn’t discover the genre until Nintendo Power when they were giving away copies of Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest) for free. A pair of my friends gave me their copies when I was in the 4th grade because they didn’t care about it. On one hand, it felt like I was being pitied, being given some crap game that nobody wanted. On the other hand, a free game, and one I’ve never played before! I was excited to learn about RPGs, even at that young age. At the time, I received maybe one or two games a year, because that’s how it is when you’re poor. One a year is a blessing. So, I started playing Dragon Warrior, and though the story was pretty simplistic, it offered hours and hours of gameplay. It was like an interactive book – but since the story was thin, I was doing most of the storytelling myself. This was back before the days of widespread internet access, so I really had to explore on my own.
Every game I owned up until that point was a cut-and-dry side-scroller. You head right until the stage is over. The next RPG I found was thanks to my Uncle, who rented me a SNES, and Final Fantasy 2 (IV). It was at this moment I was hooked forever. Final Fantasy 2 was a love story but also a tragic fantasy tale of loss, regret, redemption and so much more. During that weekend, I felt so damn good because I got to Cagnazzo, but didn’t have time to get beyond him. This was also the game that made me want to talk about video games, so that’s another bonus in the genre’s “Pros” category. When I got to Middle/High School, I found friends that would lend me theirs, so when I couldn’t afford them, I could at least enjoy these stories for myself. That’s the long and short of it: RPGs are books that you get to immerse yourself in, and to some degree shape how the story goes. I already loved “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, and this was the next natural progression down that road.
What keeps me playing RPGs?
RPGs are huge time commitments, and my time is at a premium now more than ever. I still to this day love a good story, and whether it’s an action RPG, a turn-based strategy RPG, or a turn-based RPG, they all have deep stories, each with their own hook. Each of these RPGs has something to compel you to move forward, to see what happens next. Many RPGs also have replayability so each playthrough is different. This varies from different party members, different builds for characters, or choices you make that force party members to leave (or even die)! There’s so much to love about RPGs, and even if you aren’t a big reader, more modern RPGs more or less tell you what to do. I still love my old-school games where you just have to know or know to talk to everyone, in order to progress.
Plus, there are Randomizers now! The rise of the Randomizer has really been a genre of RPG that I’ve come to love. Randomizers are a style of programming that takes classic RPGs (or even more modern ones like Final Fantasy X and Hollow Knight), and randomizes aspects of them: Item locations, key item spots, treasure chests, even bosses! This takes a game that I love, and gives me an infinite amount of replayability, and can also cut the time invested down by over half. This means I get all of the joy of the game I love, without having to spend 80 hours getting to the good parts. With a good RPG, I don’t have to wait on four or five other people to get online. It’s just me, and a good story. There are so many great ways to approach an RPG now. Hell, I even count Yakuza as an action RPG. Some people prefer RPGs with blank slate characters, that they can project onto, but I’m not really in that camp. I like to get into the personality and backstory of my characters and walk in their shoes. I’ve seen incredible sacrifice, love, and betrayal in these games. I think the game that probably really sank me forever into the grip of RPGs was Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals. I loved the prequel (that came first, funny enough), but the development of Maxim as a character, and the sacrifice he was willing to make got me on board for life. I met most of my best friends, people whom I’ve known for decades thanks to RPGs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What about you? Why do you play RPGs? If you don’t, what are you looking for that they don’t provide?