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Role-Playing Games: An entirely personal matter

Role Playing Games (RPG) have the ability to draw digital worlds where players can attach their imagination to the environment in a way that surpasses other game genres. The game mechanics of an RPG are designed in a way that allows the player to extend him or herself along emotional, visual and intellectual pathways that are mostly absent in other genres. I’ve caught up with two gamers that both have an exceptional understanding of RPG. Yolanda “Lolita” Green, content manager for Telkom do Gaming and Chris “Turkish” Smithard, a RPG fanboy. Join us over a 4 week period, each Wednesday, as we get lost in the magic called Role-Playing Games.  

  Yolanda Green.JPG

Yolanda “Lolita” Green in her Mass Effect hoodie

Why are Role-Playing Games (RPG) your game of choice?

"We all love trying on different hats in the way that only video games allow, but some of us have very oddly shaped heads." Jamie Madigan    

YG: “RPG’s are incredible pieces of artwork, as an artist I adore every bit of beauty it has to offer and as a writer I get lost in living a story. It appeals to most of my person and this is probably why I enjoy it the most.”

CS: “Before I answer the question, I’d like to state that one of the major reasons why I game is because it’s such a fantastic form of relaxation. More specifically, I think games are so relaxing because they are such an effective form of escapism. That’s why the RPG is my favourite type of game. No other genre can offer a more compelling experience in terms of escapism, immersion, and storytelling.”

Name your top three RPG's. Tell us what set them apart from other RPG's.  

“Yesterday I did a Tier 2 dungeon and got an awesome staff for my Mage in Rift. It's a spoon ... even games tell chicks to get back in the kitchen.” Yolanda “Lolita” Green  

YG: “My all-time favourite RPG is most definitely Mass Effect 3. It has the most incredible storyline, moral questions and awesome gameplay. I really enjoyed every bit of it, the adventure, happiness, tears and relationships (friendships). What sets this game apart from every other RPG is that BioWare has done what many have failed to do. They have appealed to two communities and successfully given each the right dose of enjoyment and balance. FPS junkies can shoot it up as much as they like, with challenging difficulty and kick ass weapons and RPG fans can enjoy a rich, stupendous storyline and indulge in the FPS genre in a way that appeals to them. For some one like me that enjoys both, this is RPG heaven.

Next is probably Rift. This fantasy MMORPG has originality, art, story and awesome gameplay. The community is great and I feel right at home there.   What sets Rift apart from other games is that it’s brought open world gaming to its players in exciting ways. From world events to open raids from low levels, you really feel a much bigger sense of “multiplayer’ than in other games, even if you like to solo, you can enjoy the game with 19 other strangers (in a public raid) with no strings attached. This game caters for all types of MMORPG players in a balanced way. From PVE to PVP to end game content, it is really the perfect game right now.  

Last but not least, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (read Greens captivating review of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning here). This game had completely left me breathless and stole my heart from the beginning. The most beautiful environments, the most enchanting story and the most incredible combat I have experienced in fantasy RPG. There are many things that sets this game apart from others, for example classes. I was absolutely thrilled that as a caster I could combat from ranged and close combat distances, have the coolest weapons and plan out or map out every fight. The story is just mind blowing. It kept me glued to my monitor for hours, progressing at just the right pace and presented in just the right way. What can I say, it really is just an epic game all round."

CS: “That’s an easy question. My top 3 are:

- The Baldur’s Gate series (not the action-rpg spin-off mind you) 

Fallout 1 & 2 

Planescape: Torrment

These games really stand out because each had intriguing stories, immersive worlds, characters that you could get emotionally attached to, and lastly, each was built on top of an extremely robust RPG and loot system."

What type of RPG is your favourite and why?

YG: “Fantasy RPG is by far my favourite. I find the creativity and beauty of it to be food for my being. I often sit in front of my monitor just staring with eyes wide open, just like a little girl marvelling at every essence of creativity and art. Imaginations in these games are just astonishing and unbelievable that we as humans can dream up such magic.”

CS: “High fantasy story-driven single player RPGs.”

Tell us about the favourite RPG character that you have played.

  CalipsaMount.JPG

Yolanda “Lolita” Green as Cälïpsa, the mother off mounts

YG: “This is a verryyyy tough one :O I have had many for different reasons, whom are all equally special and favourite. Firstly, there is Commander Shepard of the Normandy (Mass Effect). This was my favourite Single Player character of all. Of course I played the femshep, as I am a female and I really felt like I was placing myself into the game and story. This is the most significant role play I have ever experienced. The game presented me with so many moral questions and required me to put myself, my personality and my decisions into the story. When making decisions I always made the ones I would have made IRL or think I would have made being in those situations. I had lived into this character and story so much that I felt emotions as raw and real as if it were my own life.  

The other character that is one of my favourites is Cälïpsa. She is a tank/dps warrior that I created in World of Warcraft some time ago. She was my first maxed out character in the game. I created her to be the me before I had children, when I was still fun and brave :P She is a furious, daring character with whom I had PVP’d, tanked raids and rocked DPS. The most important of all, is that she was the character I started my MMORPG journey with, fusing bonds with friends and my fiancé that have set a bar for the rest of my life."

CS: “That would have to be... me :P”

What are the elements you look at when creating your avatar?

  Smithard char in Amalur.JPG

Chris “Turkish” Smithard with his big sword ;)

YG: “Creating my avatar is a really fun and big part of the game for me. It’s the persona that I’ll embody for the rest of the game. I like to create an avatar that fully embodies its class. For example, I created my Cleric Healer in Rift with her own little story and personality. She was to be a healer on the Defiant side (which is like the Horde of WoW). So I gave her a “light” look with an evil twist, she is fare skinned, has white hair and red eyes. A beautiful but dangerous woman, I named her Almah (taken from Alma) which I saw in the F.E.A.R games. This name means nurturer (healer) and with reference to the F.E.A.R games, also not a push over kind of lady. So here she is, Almah: the dangerous healer that had come from the future to save Telara. She is the ghost of ferocity and precision. I have levelled her to max level, she is rank 21 in PVP and kicks ass in raid as both healer and DPS. And now, I am happy :P She has become what I envisioned her to be.  

I take this approach with all my characters, I want them to look the part and be what they had been intended to be. They don’t always have to be “me” but I like to think that they embody just a little bit of who I am inside.

CS: “I will almost always go for some type of fighter or paladin variant. Something about playing the virtuous hero who saves the day really appeals to me (maybe it’s a self-esteem thing!). I’ll usually play a character who fights against evil and self-interest, but who isn’t afraid to break the law to combat these notions either. Secondly, I really enjoy the look of most fighter classes. Nothing beats heavy armour and a really big sword or gun."

What is your view about developers infusing more and more real life elements in RPG's, for example, romance?

"Can games make you and another human experience an emotion that's deep enough to touch adults? Jenova Chen Journey's creative director  

YG: “Infusing real life into games can be brilliant; I think that mostly when done right, it’s bringing RPG to a new level. Romance is part of life and has been in games for many years. Whether it was insinuated or played out. These “invisible” social rules set by society make us unsure of whether we are allowed to like it or not, but sometimes, for the sake of story and more meaningful gameplay, it’s the best thing that could have been incorporated. Whether you are allowed to choose a bisexual, homosexual or heterosexual relationship or whether it’s a predestined romance, it brings out thoughts that we had in our heads anyway.  

Games have been infusing the most important IRL elements into games since its existence, death, and eventuality. Now developers are only adding the bells and whistles. This makes for fuller storylines and role playing.”

CS: “I like it if it helps to enhance the feeling of emersion, but it can become too much. As I said, I really enjoy stories, and I think the best type of story is one that is simple yet has a resounding message. But it’s a fine line. If a game’s story or characters are too simple you can’t connect with them at all, yet if they become too complex you just lose the player entirely. I think Baldur’s Gate got this formula just right. Most of the characters were relatively stereotypical, but each character had one or two really unique personality traits that really stood out. I think this helped to make them more memorable in a sense.”

The ability RPG's have to engage players on an emotional level is perhaps its most outstanding feature. Do you ever experience this, and if so, in what manner?

  Smithard in Amalur.JPG

“Death from above!” Chris “Turkish” Smithard in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

YG: “Experiencing emotion in RPG’s is something that I’ve experienced in many different doses and ways. I’ve rarely experienced true emotion like I have when playing Mass Effect. Games provoke different parts of who we are depending on the game. Some make me feel like I have invested a great deal of myself into companionship, others into the beauty the game offers and some into character development. Experiencing happiness, sense of accomplishment and even sadness is something that makes an RPG for me, engaging me on an emotional level is the most important aspect of whether I perceive the game to really be a good game. I can’t imagine any RPG to be what I perceive as a good game without that kind of depth.”

CS: “It is the most striking feature yes. I often find myself becoming emotionally attached to the characters in a good RPG. In fact, RPGs have frequently evoked very strong emotions in me ranging from joy to anger.”

Do you think immersing yourself in a RPG world creates an element of 'belonging', or is it all just a fictional illusion?  

YG: “It really depends on what kind of RPG you are playing; different RPG’s create different senses of belonging. MMORPG’s have the ability to create a great sense of belonging with friends and even complete strangers. Knowing that there are others like you, that millions of people agree with you on a game and can enjoy it just as much as you do. It makes you feel like you are not alone, like every hour that you play, there are people around you, like being at a social event IRL, you don’t have to speak to everyone around you to know they are there. It creates a sense of community and most definitely belonging.  

Unlike earlier years of gaming where gaming had a negative stigma around it, being seen as something lonely geeks or nerds do that have no social capability, it is no longer anything to be ashamed of. It is a tremendous feeling of togetherness, fellowship on a massive scale. Other single player games commonly create a sense of belonging when they succeed to immerse you in the role you are playing. Convincingly getting you to feel like you can put yourself in the shoes of the person you are playing or pretending to be or making your own. You feel like you belong in your surroundings and with the characters accompanying you, like if that world were real, you’d feel like you belong there. I guess any game and RPG for that mater can create a real and intense feeling of belonging. What we feel is not fake or an illusion, with new ways to communicate in our modern age, who is to say that it isn’t as real as physical interaction.”

CS: “I imagine that for some it could be about belonging or even escaping their lives. But for me it’s purely about the emotional experience that RPGs offer.”

Closing thoughts.

As with the story telling this is the kind of thing we should be doing – using the psychology of the player to deepen their connection with the game and how they are playing it. Alex Moore  

Alex Moore from Gamasutra made this profound comment about story telling in games. It captures the essence of RPG’s, which is at its core about a player’s immersion into another world, about how we play out and map our own stories. RPG’s tap into the psyche of the player and forms a dance of feedback and response between the player and the story. Join us next Wednesday as we discuss Role-Playing Games and the escapism it provides for gamers.  

Yolanda Green Twitter | Blog   

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