RPGs Were Never About Roleplaying

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Role Playing Games, as they are sometimes called, are some of the longest-lived and most popular genres of videogame out there – to the point that they’re older than videogames themselves. However, in spite of their consistent presence in our culture, it’s increasingly feeling like no-one knows what RPGs are actually about… and it isn’t, as one would naturally assume… role playing.

So, the sacred duty to navigate the realm find the eight sacred crystals, determine the fate of reality and slay a few dragons along the way falls once again, to The Architect, who on top of saving the world also needs try and find out where the RPG came from, and where it’s going – with the answer coming from a rather… unconventional source.

You Saw:
Microsoft Flight Simulator – 2020
Sid Meirs Civilization 6 – 2016
Final Fantasy 10 – 2001
Legend of Grimrock 2 – 2014
Divinity Original Sin 2 – 2017
Super Mario Bros 3 – 1988
Tetris – 1984
DOOM – 2016
Persona 5 Royal – 2019
Monster Hunter: World – 2018
Fallout New Vegas – 2010
World of Warcraft – 2004
Final Fantasy 6 – 1994
Final Fantasy 15 – 2016
Final Fantasy 16 – 2023
Final Fantasy 7 Remake – 2020
Final Fantasy 7 – 1997
Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 – 2009
Horizon: Zero Dawn – 2017
Assasin’s Creed Valhalla – 2020
Disco Elysium – 2019
System Shock Remake – 2013
Wasteland 3 – 2020
Jupiter Hell – 2019
Ctrl Alt Ego – 2022
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark – 2018
Undertale – 2015
Stardew Valley – 2016
Caves of Qud – Early Access
Garage: Bad Dream Adventure – 1999
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands – 2022
Dave the diver – 2023
F-Zero GX – 2003
XCOM 2 – 2016
Honkai: Star Rail – 2023
Baldur’s Gate 1 – 1998
Nier Automata – 2017
Super Mario RPG – 1996
Bioshock – 2007
Doom – 1993
Pokemon Emerald – 2004
Dragon Quest 8 – 2004
Prey – 2017
Battle Chef Brigade – 2017
Vampire Survivors – 2022
Pathfider War of the Righteous – 2021
Dragon Quest 11 – 2017
What Remains of Edith Finch – 2017
Fallout 4 – 2015
The Dungeon – 1975
Moria – 1975
DnD – 1975
Hand of Fate 2 – 2017
Wizardry 2 – 1982
Ultima 1 – 1979
Rogue – 1980
Diablo – 1997
Diablo 2 – 2000
Diablo 3 – 2012
Diablo 4 – 2023
Borderlands 3 – 2019
Hades – 2020
Slay The Spire – 2019
Dead Cells – 2018
Dungeons of Dredmor – 2011
Dark Souls – 2012
Darkest Dungeon – 2016
Elden Ring – 2022
Darkest Dungeon 2 – 2017
Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion- 2006
Solasta: Crown of the Magister – 2020
System Shock 2 – 1999
Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – 2011
Ultima Underworld – 1992
Elder Scrolls 1: Arena – 1994
Runescape – 2001
Dishonored – 2012
Hitman 3 – 2021
Deus Ex – 2000
Xenoblade 2 – 2016
Mother 3 – 2006
Yakuza: Like a Dragon – 2020
Xenoblade 3 – 2022
Final Fantasy 14 – 2010
The Hex – 2018
Trails of Cold Steel 3 – 2017
Wizardry 3 – 1983
Final Fantasy 1 – 1987
Chrono Trigger – 2015
Octopath Traveller – 2018
Valkyria Chronicles 4 – 2018
Rune Factory 4 – 2012
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – 2004
Super Paper Mario – 2007
Suzerain – 2020
Colossal Cave Adventure – 1976
Mystery House – 1980
Roadwarden – 2022
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – 2004
Pathologic 2 – 2019
Neverwinter Knights 2 – 2006
Fallout – 1997
Planescape Torment – 1999
Fallout 3 – 2008
Yes, Your Grace – 2020
The Withcer 3 – 2015
Dragon Age: Origins – 2009
Mass Effect – 2007
Sunless Skies – 2019
80 Days – 2014
Overboard! – 2021
Pentament – 2022
Moon: RPG Remix Adventure – 1997
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – 2016
Dicey Dungeons – 2019
Borderlands 2 – 2012
Stranger Things – 2016
Dragon Age: Inquisition – 2014
Mass Effect 2 – 2010
Anthem – 2019
Mass Effect Andromeda – 2017
Pokemon Ultra Moon – 2017
Pokemon Legends: Arceus – 2022
Pokemon Scarlet – 2022
Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos – Not Out Yet
Crusader Kings 3 – 2020
The Sims 4 – 2014
Neverwinter – 2013
Destiny 2 – 2017
Fire Emblem 3 Houses – 2019
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 – 2007
X-COM: UFO Defense – 1994
Indivisible – 2019
Terraria – 2011
Esoteric Ebb – Early Access
Tabletop Simulator – 2015
Chess – 6th Century CE
New Pokemon Snap – 2021
Dark Souls 3 – 2016
Street Fighter 6 – 2023


  1. Both excited and surprised to see Trails getting a shout-out.

  2. The simple answer is that the RPG genre of video games has just never been much good at duplicating the experience of a TTRPG. AI will probably allow CRPGs to have that true narrative malleability some time in the future, but certainly not in the near future.

  3. BG3 feels like a degenerate's playground. Fucking disgusting.

  4. RPG video games are games that seek to emulate the kind of experiences someone would/could have had with a TTRPG.
    Kill the gobby, kick the chicken, slay the dragon, save the princess, 'slay' the princess, hit the bar, credits, NG+, boost CHR, 'slay' the dragon.
    Simple, no?

  5. 4:29 what the hell is that game, i looked through the list but none of the titles are jogging memories. Who out there has played it? I need context for the aggressive little guys!

  6. Two of my favorite things mashed up. FF7 music with Flight Simulator, I didn't know I needed that until you provided me bliss
    What's the game at 3:31?

  7. Pen and paper RPGS are the inspiration for a great many video games. However technology was extremely limited so of course they couldn't deliver on that full experience. Then we had several generations of games that emulate those games and the games that emulated them and so on. And that creates new genres and subgenres. Our video game genre words are just WAYYYYY too limited to describe an experience. Tags are the proper way to describe a game to people, but it hasn't really been done well even though its been tried on things like Steam. As long as we keep improving on it, its still the right way to go moving forward. Tags like "story rich" "choices matter" "difficult" "great soundtrack" and hopefully other, much more descriptive tags.

  8. Saying that the original D&D can't be fun just flies in the face of how popular it became, it's legacy in general and the surging movement of the OSR using those older systems as templates that, at least in my opinion, generate far more enjoyment than the current versions of D&D.

  9. Was not "role play" because every player has its role/class and not because they "act" in a set up world?

  10. Never understood the arguement, "if its not turn based, its not a RPG." In my opinion, turn based made sense back in the day because technical limitations, and on table top because its the only way you can play a board game. But in a video game it feels so clunky, and obsolete. I always thought dragon age orgins did it the right way.

  11. When I think of role-playing games that involve role-playing make me think of GURPS, White Wolf, and other TTRPGS, not video games. For video games, Visual Novels are pretty much the only thing that begins to strike me as "role-playing", and those have limited choices.

  12. My Personal favorite strain has to be the souldlike. Never before have I been allowed to so fully shape the story and equipment of my own character as in Elden Ring. I love that basically all gear is viable, leveling is optional and you get to choose yourself what Characters you interact with, which bosses you put out of their misery and what warcrimes you will commit on your path to become elden lord. The different endings are also done so well, each reflecting a different Philosophy and shit 10/10

  13. I'd say calling classic Final Fantasy 'tactical' is a bit of a stretch. There's no positioning at all. Anyone can hit anyone, there's no terrain, choke points, etc..

  14. isnt it just u play as another person? where u play a role of a separate character? for like immersion but seperate? like a story action thing

  15. As an indie TTRPG snob, I was prepared to disagree and hold that narrative agency is the true legacy of RPGs and that the bottom half of your graph should be called something else, but you tied it back together well enough to convince me that focus on character progression is an accurate signifier.

  16. D&D is a roleplaying game because unlike the wargames it was descended from, the player was not controlling an army, but playing the role of a single soldier on the field. This is the massive innovation – no other game before it had this central idea, unless you are counting theater improv games. This seems so intuitive and obvious to us now, but this was a revolution in how we define what a "game" is at all. Any game, no matter its format (video game or board or whatever), that descends from this idea is an RPG by the original definition. As far as specific mechanics, you mention classes, but D&D more notably invented HP, XP, and levelling up. (Dave Arneson came up with those things, Gygax codified the rules) – source: Empire of the Imagination

    Interestingly, because Baldur's Gate allows you to control an entire party, it is actually regressing in some ways back to being a wargame. Chess is a type of wargame in which you control a field of soldiers – RPGs are the answer to the question "what if I were just the bishop, experiencing the battle in first person?" BG3 returns to the chessboard for combat, but is an RPG otherwise.

  17. Holy moly dude. You put so much effort into the background entertainment of the video, it's kind of incredible.

  18. Dungeons and dragons invented, coined, and is the "VANILLA" RPG.

  19. RPGs are really a few pints with your group down the pub with paper and dice.

  20. God bless the internet for making the cat meme at 6:48 one of the most replayed points of a video game RPG essay 🙂

  21. Very well done! Good job. Thanks for your hard work!

  22. Playing on Arelith server of Neverwinter Nights, I think that's where I can find the true definition of roleplay.

    Set in a world with its own rules, we are merely a small part of the ecosystem instead of being "the chosen one".

    We craft our own story.
    We set our own goals.
    We find a way to fit ourselves into the crowd.

    I ended up seeing players who roleplay mundane things other than class-based adventurers: Town's alchemist or woodworker, content with not going on adventure anymore because of "been there done that" factor. Local priests who provide for new players. Thugs who pickpocket adventurers who had just returned from lucrative journeys.

    It felt so immersive. A plot is not set on you, meaning you literally can be whatever you want yourself to be.

  23. Could someone please tell me what the game in 3:15 is called? Thanks.

  24. I think with AI, it will now be far more realistic to have single player RPGs where the narrative and world can drastically change based on your decisions.
    There is a game that already does this quite well (Without AI neural networks), Kenshi I think it was? One of the most true-to-category RPGs I ever saw, where the whole world is dynamic and changing with or without your actions, so you can either be along for the ride or change the course of history.

  25. 📌Regardless of all the sub genres RPGs has evolved into, I will always prefer the ones that try to emulate the Tabletop experience. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" games that give your character choices on how to act, and those choices affect the story. Playing Dragon Age Origins and Fallout New Vegas gives me a fulfillment that no other genres can match.

  26. CRPGs. RPGs are played with pen & paper. Hence crpg is not an rpg in a real sense. There is no way to roleplay as the name implies. In other words, CRPGs are only impostors, and that's all to it. You can't roleplay, you don't have a freedom to do whatever you like, like kill your enemy with a spoon, if it wasn't implemented by programmers.
    It's funny that 30 years ago people were using term crpg to make a difference between real thing and a mere shadow of it. Now someone will say he plays rpgs, you ask him what games he plays or run, and you get the answer that he never played rpg. What a load of rubbish. It's even worse. Some people use term ttrpg, like rpg is not enough, and like the table – table top – is mandatory. To sum it up. Your video name implies that it's about rpgs, while in reality it's about video games. Plus D&D wasn't first rpg game out there.
    Gygax just joined the club.

  27. Would argue about the term in the name – "Role"

    It was not really about playing a role of "someone", a person, but rather of a "combat role", an entity with weaknesses and strengths. Looks similar to "classes", right? Exactly what it evolved into.

    DnD 1st edition had not much of a deep lore and was mostly combat oriented (and apart from lore still is considering the amount of mechanics covering it vs mechanics for noncombat mechanics) and was mostly a vanity flair.

    I would say the term itself is very malleable and not definitive today, and perhaps confused newer generations of game creators who put different meaning in it and based their games of it.

  28. The coolest roleplaying game i've played is KOTOR 1 and Mass Effect 2 by Bioware. Specifically Evil Paths.

  29. cRPG are not RPGs. People couldn't emulate a improvised, tailormade story generator, so they went with the best next ting: a Dungeon/Hex Crawler with a story going on in the background.
    The history of cRPG is the history of players getting frustrated that it always fails to capture what RPG was all about.

  30. usually video essays on games would state an opinion then explain it, this one just feels like it's padding for runtime by listing game titles. This video feels "fake" in this way. The "analysis" portion of it could be put in like 3 minutes

  31. Raid shadowlegends marketing team is so good they get mentions without payment, is there an essay about that?!

  32. I asked my parents to explain to me what roleplaying means, and I wish I could unhear the answer.

  33. I always liked the distinction between western RPGs and JRPGs. where as in the west, its more of a self-insert blank slate that was based on DnD, but in Japan, RPGs have become more of 'stepping into the shoes of an existing character'.

    Love the video though!

  34. Any game where bettering your character and his gear is more critical than improving yourself as a player is crap only a Skinner's pigeon would play. Yes, most computer-driven RPGs are as such.

  35. "RPGs Were Never About Roleplaying" Well duh my dude! Originally they were first produced as an anti-armor weapon in the early 1960s, the Soviet-designed RPG-7 (rocket-propelled grenade) is a shoulder-fired, reusable tube that launches an unguided, rocket-propelled grenade. The RPG-7 is inexpensive, easy to use and, with over nine million made, readily available worldwide. It has nothing to do with roleplaying! You silly goose!

  36. Maybe the real RPG are the friends we made along the way

  37. RPG means rocket propelled grenade. Discussion over.

  38. Honestly, after playing TRPG's (especially non DnD systems), seeing a lot of the videogames call themselves RPG's feels wrong

  39. I couldn't get past all the strawmen in the first five minutes.

  40. For people interested in the history of D&D's development and the wargaming and role-playing traditions it marries, there is an amazing book called Playing At The World that explains it in very deep detail. Early D&D was both very fun and had (somewhat) clear design intentions, simulating fantasy worlds, with a particular emphasis in the simulation on combat and character progression. So early dungeon crawlers weren't necessarily cutting all that much out, as the focus of any particular D&D game greatly depends on the DM and surrounding culture, in the early days it was strongly influenced by most players being wargamers and thus very dungeon crawl focused, which is why it wasn't called Dungeons & Dragons & Dialogue. But improvisational collective storytelling and friendship fromed after sitting around a table for 4 hours every weekend, are somethings D&D provides in ways that are hard to replicate on a computer. Even the most reactive deep interactive fiction or narrative adventure isn't a match for a good GM, and that's not a bad thing. Very few CRPGs offer anything like the tabletop experience, nor should they. Being characters IN a world (you left this out a bit) can be done all sorts of different ways better on a computer or IRL.


  41. So what you're telling me is that minecraft is the only real rpg out there.

  42. According to your criteria, would aidungeon be a good RPG?

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