Some Thoughts About The Definition Of RPGs [wip]

The definition of what a role-playing game (RPG) on a computer¹ is, is both vexed but also superficially unimportant in two ways. First, “It's just a computer game”; this objection is easily dealt with because not only are our hobbies important to us as humans and therefore valid subjects of enquiry², but video games are now worth nearly $200,000,000,000 a year—they are objectively big business. Second, on the surface it could seem as though defining an RPG ought not to have any effect on the world: the real entities that we group under the categorisation banner “RPGs” will vary in a scalar manner regardless of our descriptions. But, while this might be true for natural kinds, RPGs, as human creations, are subject to the forcing effect of decisions. When developers, publishers, critics, and consumers change their minds about what these genres mean, they then make decisions based on those beliefs which in turn nudge the real nature of the entities within those genres, the games. So these definitions have more than academic interest: they are important to us as humans; they are big business; and they have real consequences.

Historical context


sum θoətiz abaʊt ðə definiʃən ov r.p.g.-iz [blank]

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