Press "Enter" to skip to content

What is roleplaying? A discussion on player choice in computer games |Essays on Roleplaying in Games

Games are a unique form of entertainment media. Unlike other media such as movies or books, you are a key player in how the game develops. In this video discussion I seek to explore what types of interactivity games offer us players.

If you’re someone who leans towards roleplaying your games then feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

#LetsRoleplayGames #RoleplayingGame #GamesDiscussion #GamesEssay

Credits and sources in order of appearance. All footage and voice is recorded by me on systems owned by me unless otherwise noted.

Blast From The Past –
Press Play Theatre –
Showstopper Musical –
The Attic Dwellers –
Roll4it –
Castron –
Annillator –
B33rM4st3r –
Lacry –
Many a True Nerd –

Background music is “Angelic Forest” from Youtube’s Audio Library, marked as “Free to use”.

Video transcription:

What is roleplaying?A perspective on player choice in computer
games.When people think of roleplaying in computer
games often they think of the genre of RPGs,games that are rooted in class and party based
systems like Dungeons and Dragons and non-fantasyderivatives like Cyberpunk.But roleplaying is broader than that.Fundamentally roleplaying is about the player
behaving in accordance to a character, eitherone they have created or an extension to an
existing one, rather than a genre of games.Behaving as a character can take on a variety
of approaches.In traditional media roleplaying is known
as acting, and we have different types ofactors.Voice actors portray a character with their
voices.Robyn Williams arrived at the voice for Mrs
Doubtfire based on the type of character hewished the audience to see.As he mentions, he took into consideration a variety of factorsStage and screen actors portray a character
via their physical actions as well as theirvoices.In this example the stage actors are taking
vocal lines from another work and attachingtheir own interpretation of what the corresponding
postures and movements would be for the emotionwithin the voice.Those are all forms of roleplaying that society
at large is familiar with.Aspects of traditional acting can readily
translate to computer games, for instancea letsplayer might speak from the first person
as the character.However roleplaying isn't limited to that.In traditional media such as books or movies,
characters, their actions, and the outcomeof those actions are all predetermined.How many movies have you come across where
the main protagonist dies within the first fiveminutes, followed by a rolling credits screen?None, that the hero will triumph is a given.Maybe not within a single movie, but in the
fullness of time it will come to pass.No matter how emotionally invested we might
be in it we have no ability to influence theevents in one way or another.We are but spectators in such works, standing
outside the scene looking in.Contrast that to interactive media.Improvisational theatre is a noteworthy exception
to traditional acting.In that form of theatre there is no script
and actors, asthe name implies, improvise their lines.The attraction lies in seeing what
comes out of such unplanned group interaction.In the realm of literature choose-your-own-adventure
type books allowed the reader to make choiceson behalf of
the characters,fighting fantasy type booksextended that to include combat and the chance
of defeat as a result of that combat.The number and types of branches were however
limited by the book format and tended to convergeback to a common point.Roleplaying systems such as Dungeons and Dragons
are extensions of the idea of improvisationaltheatre.Players apply the freedom of improvisational
theatre within the confines of a milieu andnarrative created by a gamesmaster.They create characters and interact with both
other player characters and non-player characters.The possibilities available to players are
effectively limitless as there is a humanarbiter in the form of the gamesmaster to
assess proposals made by players and judgetheir likelihood of success.In the above sample one can see the interaction
between the gamesmaster and the player.See how the situation is described and how
the interaction between the two takes placeon the fly.In all of the above the eventual outcome is
never predetermined.The various parties involved may attempt
to guide the narrative towards a satisfyingoutcome, but that’s never guaranteed.That maintains a certain level of tension
due to the chance of failure.These examples are the exception rather than
the norm and it's difficult to consider themas mainstream however.Computer games are a different story.By definition games are interactive, meaning
that player choice and interaction are builtinto many of them by definition.Some of these potential choices include:Narrative defining decisions – How do I
want the main story to go?By definition players control characters within
the story.As such the decisions they may take can be
used to affect the eventual outcome of a narrative.For example, in Fallout New Vegas the player
has a direct hand on who eventually comesto rule the MojaveSuch choices are the most obvious to conceptualize
but also some of the most difficult to actualize due tothe various branches and choices made along the
way that need to be accounted for.Narrative enhancing decisions – How do I
treat the world?Other types of decisions can exist that don't
necessarily have the same grand impact thatnarrative defining decisions do.Side-missions are a typical form of these,
where players are asked to undertake tasksthat may not have direct ties to the main
narrative.Choices may be made that have local impacts
but don’t affect the world at large.A good example is the quest in Fallout New
Vegas where you can help a group of ghoulsin their attempt to launch into space.Whether you help them or not, or even actively
sabotage them, means nothing to the rest ofthe Mojave but it does entail a choice on
the part of the player and thus serves toenhance the immersion that the player has
with the world.Relationship decisions – Who do I like and
interact with?As the saying “show me your friends and
I’ll show you your future” goes, who youchoose to acquaint yourself with is at least
a partial reflection of what your characterprizes and aspires to.This applies particularly well to party based
systems or narratives that emphasise characterinteractions.Party-based RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate and
Dragon Age are prime examples of this.In those games certain non-player characters
can be members of the player’s party andthrough that permanency the player is the
given opportunity to regularly interact withthem and have them react to that interaction,
thereby creating an environment where theplayer can come to know and build a relationship
with them.Other types of characters within the world
can also come to be similarly known, whichmay drive player motivation in carrying out
side-missions and influence the decisionsmade in them.Options in achieving objectives – How do
I want to fulfil goals?Narrative defining and narrative enhancing
choices both involve deciding between thepossible outcomes involved.However, if the game permits, how one arrives
at the selected outcome is also an importantform of expression.For example, if a side-quest asks the player
to acquire a certain item, the player hasa variety of options.An obvious one is to exchange money for it
but it’s typical for the cost to be sufficientlyout of reach that a favour is required instead.Another potential approach is to steal the
item, or possibly even attack the item’sowner for it.The more options available the more it enables
the player to express themselves through thosechoices.User execution of actions – Can I influence
how things go?Once a goal is set and how the goal is to
be achieved has been decided, whether it’sby the player or by the game itself, it is
possible for user interaction to influenceits success.An obvious example is combat.In an isometric RPG combat is purely determined
via the character’s attributes and equipment.User input is solely restricted to selection
the goals, e.g. attack, cast a spell, etc.Not with determining the success or failure
of that action.Contrast that with a first person game such
as Dark Souls.While equipment and attributes play significant
roles, user input is much more significant.Take defensive rolls.The timing and direction of rolls to avoid
attacks is purely determined by the playerand is primal to its success.Equipment might play a part in how easy or
difficult it is, for example weight can affectthe speed of the roll, but enough player skill
may overcome that.Character attributes and skills – What am
I good at?Certain games provide characters within games
with attributes, skills, and abilities thatrepresent proficiencies and deficiencies.In party based games they’re often formalised
into classes in order to encourage a mix ofdifferent types of characters and justify
having multiple characters within parties.Games inspired by or directly descended from
pen-and-paper roleplaying games are the bestknown examples of these, although such features
are no longer restricted to RPGs only as manyother genres are adopting abilities as part
of their customisation options.For example, recent versions of Far Cry have
ability trees where the player can enhancethe character’s abilities with certain weapons
or attacks.A key difference between RPGs and genres that
have adopted RPG elements is that such abilitiestend to be optional bonuses in non-RPGs.Going back to the Far Cry example, you’re
always proficient with any weapon type.It’s just that abilities make you better
with them.Contrast that with the original Deus Ex, trying
to focus on a weapons based style withoutinvesting into the relevant abilities tends
to be quite difficult.Another facet of attributes are survival mechanics.They differ from normal attributes in that
they degrade over time.Effectively they exist to present a challenge
to the user by forcing a decision on how timeis invested.Do you spend time harvesting food, gathering
water, or sleeping to restore energy?The player is presented with a set of conflicting
needs but is given the freedom to choose howto meet them.Equipment choice and use – What phat loot
can I use?This is perhaps not an obvious form of roleplaying,
but the equipment we choose and how we useit is an expression of the player’s choice.Take a first person shooter.Do you prefer a sniper rifle or a shotgun?They typically involve dramatically different
play styles.Equipment selection is often influenced by
choices made in the other aformentioned categories.For example silenced weapons often compliment
stealthy approaches.An aggressive approach often requires access
to healing or other buffing equipment to mitigateor address damage accrued through that approach.Often the types of equipment available are
tied to character attributes or classes.In RPGs the most protective armour is often
exclusive to warrior classes and in returncaster classes often have exclusive access
to offensive casting.Typically the best forms of player choice,
regardless of category, involve some formof conflict in making that choice, either
via the exclusion of alternative options orconsequences from making that selection.That conflict helps to make choices meaningful
in defining a character.Life is a matter of choices, and every choice
you make makes you.John C. MaxwellUltimately the reason we play games, either
physical or virtual, is for self-expressionand achievement.In a computer game it could be to experience
a world that we could never do in reality,or to feel the fear of a horror story, or
simply the challenge of fending off a hordeof enemies.In all of these we are roleplaying through
our choices.


LetsPlay,LetsRoleplayGames,Gaming,Sequential,SequentialGamer,Essay,Roleplaying,Gaming Essay,Game Essay,Video Essay,Computer Game,Choice,Player Choice

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *