Why are RPGs so awesome?

Dragons Dogma Online Lion Battle


Firstly, this question has probably been answered in a billion different ways, from a million different angles by a multitude of experts and non-experts but I’m still going to write this. So consider this me thinking out loud.

Having recently read Reality is Broken, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to blog about the positive impact of games in society rather than it being seen as another form of escapism. Seeing the increased adoption of game theory in our day-to-day lives makes me wish that life was just one, big, fat RPG – in a way that’s not creepy.

Why am I writing this?

I have been working a lot of weekends lately, which means I haven’t had time to indulge in my current RPG fix – Witcher 3. With these sorts of games you cannot just pick it up and squeeze in a 30 minute session before going to bed like Rocket League (my current go-to). So nowadays I’m spending more time being me, rather than being Geralt of Rivia, the white wolf.

Before this, I was playing Bloodborne and I am STILL waiting for Miyazaki to hook a brother up with the DLC.  And Dragon Age: Inquisition preceded that which disappointed me but somehow I still squeezed in 90 odd hours anyway. It seems like I always need a RPG in my life or I’ll be forced to engage in this boring existence that is reality.

Thus these trails of thoughts got me thinking, why do I mainly only play RPGs?

Why have I become so bored of first-person shooters and FIFA?

After some reflection, I penned together some reasons for whoever cares to take a moment to appreciate why role-playing games are awesome.

Oh yeah, the point of this blog…

These are the 8 reasons why RPGs are so awesome – in my opinion.

  1. Our world has no meaning anymore. They are filled with it.

Skyrim Scenery is beautiful

Everyone loves a story mainly because they have meaning. Something this world is losing day by day. As the modern world becomes more atheistic and less concerned with things like tradition and culture, we are losing what makes life valuable. We stand for nothing so we can care nothing… besides money.

The pursuit of happiness has become a rat race for capital. This may motivate many but also demoralises others as this mind-set leaves a void that no amount of wealth can fill. But then suddenly a fictional narrative within a game trailer catches your attention. You are tasked with fighting evil in order to save the world from ultimate destruction. A mission which only you can accomplish by picking up your control pad and venturing into this big, bad world on a disc. A task that requires endless hours of your time that wouldn’t be better spent on a spreadsheet of sales leads that you must follow-up on.

  1. You are not judged on your actions.

The watchful eyes of your parents, the wagging finger of your teachers and the judgemental stares of bystanders means you are rarely free to act on your instincts. Even though the gut feeling comes first, it is the “what would people think” afterthought that eventually wins. Having to adjust to the expectations of peer pressure means you are never truly yourself. It feels like a weight off your shoulders when you can “be yourself” without social norms or fear of scrutiny holding you back.

  1. NPCs are friendlier than real people

Zodalt and Dandelion girlfriend side by side

How often do you randomly talks to strangers just for the heck of it? To ask how their day was and see “wassup”. I’ve been commuting to London for years and never bothered to strike up conversations with my fellow passengers – how anti-social of me. But when I’m passing through a rural village, looking to buy some potions suddenly I’m very talkative. There is someone’s life is on the line [Main quest] and here I am clicking through the options because I want to know everything about this NPC Joe the Blacksmith. Even if he is overcharging me for sword repairs.

NPCs are more interesting to talk to and more approachable than real people for a reason I don’t even know. I rather find out why Tina the Herbalist needs four Tevian mushrooms for a Stamina Potion than make small talk with Becca on Tinder who loves guys with beards and tattoos. So who said gaming can’t be social? Just because the avatar doesn’t have pulse, doesn’t mean the connection isn’t real. Right?

P.S. I’m not a weirdo.

  1. You are free to determine your destiny.

Character Creation DS2

We spend a lot of our lives being told what to do without much leeway. That is until you are given a fresh start when you select a New Game in the Start Menu. You are in control of forging your own path. Being whatever we like is becoming more difficult nowadays. The job market is getting more competitive and the costs of living keeps going up. At least all I have to do is hunt down a few orcs to put food on my table. And that is a lot more fun than say, sitting in meetings about things you obviously couldn’t give two monkeys about.

  1. You can enforce justice.

Fable 2 Enforcing Justice

Most individuals have a strong sense of justice hidden deep within. Nowadays we have no need to enforce it because we have the police and the justice system. Funny thing is, the biggest criminals are rarely brought to justice. The people who should receive the brunt of our wrath tend to be just out of our reach. So when we get to kill a bad guy with the sharp end of an axe, it feels so damn good. Does that seem a bit cynical? Because maybe it is. We may not be as blood thirsty as back in the day of public hangings but we still want to see people get what’s coming to them. So for those who want to play hero but can’t afford a batman suit. These are the sorts of games you should be playing.

  1. You are given purpose.

Dragon Age Inquisition Round table

Most RPGs tend to give you a narrative where you are on a mission to save the world. This makes you feel important in a world where you are a small cog in a big wheel known as a corporation. A world where your local community isn’t even local anymore. You don’t belong to anywhere but to a constant stream of text on a Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed.

  1. You are fairly rewarded for hard work.

“Hard work pays off” is bullshit in a lot of cases. It should be “work hard and you’ll have a higher chance of success than if you didn’t”. Unlike the single parent balancing two jobs to feed their kid or the student holding down a bar job to pay rent in London – you are rewarded more fairly. You can see why many young adults prefer to spend their weekends grinding out quests instead of working more hours. Because in an alternative reality, they’re getting a living wage.

  1. It’s environmentally friendly.

And I don’t mean in terms of climate change. Being a frequent London commuter, I personally believe the city to pretty ugly during the day. The air stinks, it’s derived of wild life and polluted many times over. This pales in comparison to the scenery in a lot of medieval, fantasy-worlds where Mother Nature is vibrant. The grass is green and countryside fruitful. I would love to travel to New Zealand and live in the hills, setting up camp before another hiking session but it’s expensive. And it is becoming more and more inaccessible as we cut down the forests, pollute our air and drive more animals into extinction. Soon it’ll look like something out of the Fallout series… I guess not all RPGs are beautiful. Fuck me that’s quite depressing.

Fallout Town looking run down

“But it’s not real”

So what? The intrinsic rewards you receive from playing them are. And they are about as real as the “retail therapy” you give yourself on payday, to reward yourself for another month working for that despicable person you hate…. Oh and happens to be your boss.

Follow me @seyiagboola

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