Popular Abstract – Role-playing games have evolved into many forms in their … role-playing games, such as World of Warcraft are now one of the most popular …
International Journal of Role-Playing – Issue 1
The Many Faces of Role-Playing Games
Popular Abstract – Role-playing games have evolved into many forms in their thirty-year history. From the traditional pen-and-paper form, that originated with Dungeons and Dragons, with a group of friends playing around a table, to large live-action game, with hundreds of people acting out their assumed roles. The first computer role-playing games appeared over twenty-five years ago and massively multi-player role-playing games, such as World of Warcraft are now one of the most popular genres of digital games. Despite this diversity players at least seem to think they know when something is a role-playing game. When players, writers and game designers say "this is a role-playing game" there are no problems, they all seem to know what each other means, what is and is not a role-playing game. Yet there is no commonly accepted definition of the form. Understandable, perhaps, given the diversity, but the implicit agreement about its use means that there may well be some common underlying features shared by the various examples.
Hampering any attempt to understand what makes a game a role-playing game is the subtle divide between role-playing and role-playing game. Role-playing can take in many places, not all of them games (such as ritual, social activities, therapy, etc). This means that definitions of the role-playing activity are not that useful in separating role-playing games from other games. In this paper we start from the position that the players are correct: they know what a role-playing game is. By examining a range of roleplaying games some common features of them emerge. This results in a definition that is more successful than previous ones at identifying both what is, and what is not, a role-playing game.
Michael Hitchens Macquarie University Australia email@example.com
Anders Drachen IT University of Copenhagen Denmark firstname.lastname@example.org
Role-playing games have grown and evolved into a large number of forms in the last thirty years, spanning digital as well as non-digital media. They demonstrate a wide variety in the number of participants, style of play and the formal and informal systems that govern them. Despite this diversity players at least seem to think they know when something is a role-playing game. Yet there is no commonly accepted definition which both captures games generally accepted as role-playing games and distinguishes them from other, similar, games which begs the question, whether roleplaying games are united by anything more than a colloquial name. Additionally, research involving these games is hampered by lack of a widely accepted definition of what constitutes a roleplaying game, as it is then not even possible to clearly delineate the subject of such research. In
this paper various example of role-playing game are examined in an attempt to identify the defining set of characteristics of these games. On that basis a definition for them is proposed which is hopefully more successful at separating roleplaying games from other, similar, game forms.
Role-playing games, in their modern form, are generally held to have originated with Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970′s (Mason 2004). Since then they have evolved into a wide variety of styles and media, including both digital and non-digital examples and with player numbers in an individual game ranging from a single person to the thousands. The differences between these forms can be so extensive that players of one may dismiss another as not being a role-playing game at all (Dormans 2006). 3