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

138 Comments

  1. Hail, Traveller! Before you embark upon your epic quest to slay the eight magical princesses, you ought to check out my humble wares – please, purchase some provisions, such as a sword worse than the starting one and three lesser healing potions! ooooh!: https://www.patreon.com/ArchitectofGamesX more like no, like a wrong answer you know like a cross you put over something to cross it out but the cross is an X like the name of twitter – this would be funnier in a visual format: https://twitter.com/Thefearalcarrot

  2. I think you kind of mince your words a lot in your conclusions. I'd prefer if you picked a viewpoint and argued in favour of it or against it. Waffle on long enough and you'll naturally conclude that everything is equal in it's own special way. Which is in itself pointless.If everything is special, nothing is special.

  3. Yea.. I roelplay in all kinds of games. I roleplay in GTA V story mode. lol.

  4. You would be hard pressed to find a game in which you (the player) don't play a role. That is the premise of a videogame, that you get to play it.
    As you said RPG, WRPG, CRPG and JRPG are terms for generes that evolved separately (although sometime intertwine) and the name is not a descriptor of the game but of its ancestry. Anyone buying darks souls thinking it is a JRPG because it is made in japan would be disappointed the same way someone wanting a WRPG would be if they bough South park stick of the truth.

  5. I love how soviet womble made an analogy so good that Adam just had to use it to explain this topic. Love your content ma men <3.

  6. I disagree, I think there is a core spirit to "real rpgs" and other games who get called rpgs without that are just pretenders (which doesnt mean they're bad games, just bad rpgs). This may sound "hardcore" (or some might call it narrowminded) but a human is a human and a gorilla is a gorilla, even if we share common ancestors somewhere. A true rpg should have a big commitment to player agency both narratively and mechanicly. Thats the hill I'm dying on

  7. I feel that species taxonomy is a poor comparison to make for your final point. Accurate terminology is actually very important in genres, because genres work as advertising, and false advertising is very bad. Engaging with media is an investment (of time and often of money), and people want to know they're getting what they paid for. If I think "RPG" means "role-playing" and you think "RPG" means "dungeon crawler", then if you advertise your game as an "RPG" I'm going to be annoyed and disappointed. For that reason I do think it's worth coming up with more accurate terminology.

  8. The best way to explain the change from Chainmail to DnD IMO is the change from Warcraft III to League of Legends.

    A TTRPG is as diverse as each person interpreting it. I would argue the same goes not just for RPG video games, but also all genres.

  9. Feel like this is your most… mildly incorrect video?
    You make a lot of extremely assertive claims about a whole history and community that it feels like you didn't properly spend the time to research.
    The most glaringly incorrect statement to me is the idea that D&D is or ever was a 'singular set of rules' that could ever *technically be flawed.
    D&D was a set of baseline rules that was intended to be changed by its individual players so their game could be more fun for them.
    There was never a right way to play the game, and Gygax himself knew that and talked about that often.
    That is also how the RPG genre split so much after D&D's inception– the game was always meant to be split into all those different paths– it was by design.

  10. I always interpreted rpg as the role each of your characters play in battle/gameplay. like defender, healer, dps, etc. and for games like bloodborne the way you battle changes greatly on your build.

  11. What makes it more needlesly complicated is the existance of genre purists who treat the term "RPG" as some sort of badge of honor that needs to be earned.

  12. A role playing game is a game where you play a defined role.
    There, done.

  13. Really nicely done. Couldn't agree more with your analysis.

  14. The way u connect these hooks/tangents in your videos gives me such vsauce vibes! Great video

  15. I'd consider most RPGs as "TBAGs" (Turn Based Adventure Games), that is, since most already have defined characters, and at most you only upgrade them. It's not really roleplaying anymore, at least for me… What do ye think of this? Tho, this is mostly for JRPGs.

  16. The "role" in RPG originated from the idea of combat role, as in tank, dps, healer, skill proficiencies, etc.

    So JRPGs like FF7:Re where different characters have very different combat styles and abilities are closer to what RPG started as, than games where you have one character who can be a bit of everything such as in Skyrim.

    Persona is an interesting case where the main protagonist can fill any role depending on the persona they use, while the rest of the party has different roles based on the skills they get.

  17. 2:56 Rougelikes have nothing to do with rpgs you can't controll your builds like in legend of grimrock, dark souls trilogy and elden ring, and wasteland 2 and 3. Also you make no impactful choices and EVERYTHING is randomized, while everything is hand crafted in rpgs ( except for combat in turn based rpgs since rng determines hit chance ).

  18. if an rpg is not about roleplaying, ITS NOT AN RPG. Most video game ""RPGS"" are not rly rpgs. true video game rpgs are games like the og fallouts, arcanum, baldir's gate. Skyrim is not an rpg. it has some rpg like mechanics but is not a real rpg. The trueist rpgs are those played not on the screen, but at a table with a band of your freinds with paper and dice

  19. awww come on, Honkai Star Rail is actually doing a decent job for a narrative (though with the gacha your experience with combat is going to differ somewhat, depending on what you managed to luck into, although currently the damage types really aren't that much of a mechanic beyond getting the checkmark to weakness break enemies)

  20. Now I am confused and even know less about the term. Something about Character and Self Expression.
    Is Super Mario an JRPG with a linear plumber character study? Is minesweeper a RPG, because you can express yourself with risk, calculation or just brute clicking power? Is Tomb Raider a JRRP with a weapon progression system? Is Guitar Hero a RPG where you level your own invisible stats? Is Bowling an RPG because everyone can be smug in their own way?

  21. It was called rpg because in the 90s the Japanese games borrowed mechanics from pnp rpg like lvls, items, classes, etc in order to sell the games to western markets as dnd was very popular at the time on the same markets. That was never about role playing. NEVER EVER. Its just a market term.

  22. Yes they where always about role playing. Just not as demonstrated in 2023 by wannabe actors & hack comedians.

  23. has anybody died down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out who first coined the term jrpg

    Lord bless you if you have or if you do

  24. rpgs are storytelling and strategy? very little strategy in most vgs – just dueling…and storyelling implies you are telling a story – but most vgs are telling you a story, so vg rpgs are like limited audio book choose your adventure with random stakeless duels with leveled (meaningless) loot lol

  25. breaking news: youtube tries to create a new label

  26. It would've been good to include a quick note that other TTRPGs branched off of D&D in different directions as well.

    2:23 "bolting RPG systems on" I assume means "adding skill building and calling itself an RPG". Then yes there's plenty of that.

    3:00 "whatever is going on in UnderTale". Yes.

    3:56 I think the first RPG was D&D 1e which was based on a war game… you talk about that later.

    4:07 this is why I never use "RPG" to describe anything.

    4:54 ha. I chose attack every time I leveled up for the entire game. Peach was hitting just fine. I asked someone why I was dying so easily and he was surprised I found a way to unbalance my stats. It was my first time: it made sense to me. And it worked.

    5:08 you haven't defined RPG fully so it might be the case that these would start/stop being RPGs.

    7:38 narrative progression isn't exactly opposed to mechanical progression since doing 1 doesn't reduce the other. But rules that assist 1 will get in the way of the other.

    7:44 what remained of Edith Finch? Ha. Using that game's family tree is a great tie in with the opening of finches.

    8:29 "541 BC" lol. That's more like cave exploring. Not that dungeons didn't exist but the kind D&D uses are from the dark ages.

    9:01 "forcing players to keep looking at their build" is a key part of a game being not solvable. Because once a game is solved it's over forever.

    9:02 OMG a playable slime! What game is this? Slay the spire. Not a game I would normally play but I do love slimes so I'll think about it… It's a fan mod. Highly rated but I'll pass.

    10:52 lol (Wasteland 3). Unfortunately it looks like the skill has a use which limits the joke.

    11:26 which in my opinion is the best way to play it. The plot is great but combat isn't.

    12:26 out of context quote ha. I've never played Xenoblade Chronicles so no clue what this is about (it's obviously the crystal but IDK what's so magic about it).

    12:48 "mandatory god slaying" lol. If you want a counter example: Castlevania. Dracula isn't considered a god even in those games despite his power.

    13:28 lol. Apparently it's The Hex which looks good.

    17:16 lol. Apparently it's Overboard!

    17:43 Apparently it's Moon: RPG Remix Adventure.

    18:48 ah that filled in chart really helps.

    19:13 I assume you mean sales

    19:16 you can kill the god pokemon though.

    19:56 pointless? that's the first I've heard that. my 3.5 games had plenty of combat.

    20:11 well yes people hate every version. That's true.

    22:47 "warbler" is an amazing word. It might've been Bluey where I saw "[bird warbling]" in subtitles.

    23:20 (adapting) well you could stop changes if you caught every bird on Earth on controlled their environment completely which would be harder to do than owning all video game companies.

    23:27 how does understanding RPG roots help to understand where they're going? I like this video and it's got good info and it's useful for "what makes something good" but that's not the same thing as "what future RPGs will do"

    23:37 lol. I mean technically there's more evidence for that than there is for evolution but the internet can't do civil debates.

    23:41 "spell slots" nice touch. He had just used Wish. ha.

    23:53 isn't this normal length?

    24:04 lol I love the joke theming

  27. Role playing means, everyone in the group is playing a different role … in the beginning that meant not Acting Role Play, but Game Play Role Play – Different Classis: Warrior, Archer, Mage, Healer … some how down the road people started over acting 🙂
    And RPG game is a game in witch you can choose what Role your character will play in a Battle. Yea.

  28. This really should have been called "Video Game RPGs Were Never About Roleplaying." RPGs are absolutely about roleplaying. When you try to render a slightly similar experience in a video game form, it might still be fun, but something is lost.

  29. Final Fantasy at least was heavily influenced by D&D, despite its lack of popularity in the region. Its spell charge system is basically lifted from D&D and so are the enemy designs. The US localization even redesigned the "EYE" enemy because it was clearly a Beholder. The ubiquitous elemental and status systems came from D&D.

  30. MMOs died with Discord. No reason to even log in anymore.

  31. On an unrelated note, growing up wasn't worth it.

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