You can do whatever you can imagine

An article I wrote for my first semester on the IT University.

Most people enjoy a good movie or book; some people enjoy acting while others enjoy writing. And then there are some who enjoy all of the above. Role-playing games combine these elements (entertainment, acting and authoring) allowing the participants to come together co-authoring a story. While there are various reasons for partaking in role-playing one of the central ones is that of being in a story with memories of grand adventures, shared by your fellow players, being immersed in a fantasy world (Fine, 1983).

The basis for this paper was my own puzzlement surrounding RPGs. Having been an avid role-player for around 10 years, I have engaged both in Tabletop Role-playing Games (TRPGs), Live Action Role-playing Games as well as Computer Role-playing Games (CRPGs). I found there were quite different experiences playing RPGs compared to CRPGs. After having tried playing Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) and reflecting on the different play styles of the games, I noticed that when on the computer, I never really felt as if the story was the story of my character, nor the world as fantastic as it should have been. Rather the setting often felt hollow and unreal, and the story was that of a stranger, with me as an onlooker. This outlook isn’t uncommon among role-players that categorize CRPGs (and MMORPGs) as mere character-builders, where role-playing isn’t needed or fun (Dormans, 2006; Barlow, 2007). One player Gilgamesh claims that “Computer RPG’s are Ego Masturbation” (2007) and focus on selfaggrandizement and the ability to conquer by whatever means necessary. And I am inclined to agree.

My theory is that “Tabletop RPGs usually are more compelling than their digital counterparts, since they in a greater degree allow for openness in the world”. In this paper I will delve into my theory and find the key differences between the two game types that make the experiences so different.

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