There are a variety of computer games which are terms "role-playing".
I am by no means an expert, but there are a few broad categories:
- Single-Player Games
- Most computer video or adventure games have a token character
which the player is controlling. However, a game is sometimes
termed "role-playing" if the character can gain experience,
items, and other improvements over multiple sessions. I think
it is called this because historically the experience and item
gaining are inspired by tabletop RPGs.
- Text-based Multi-user Games (MUDs, MUSHs, MU*)
- The term MUD originally stood for "Multiple User Dungeon".
The name comes from influence by the tabletop RPG
Dungeons & Dragons and the computer game
Zork. However, it has now come to generally mean
role-playing games with an interactive command-line
text-based interface. You log into a MUD server, then type
in commands like "Pick up coin" or "Say 'hello'" or "Attack
lion". The server then registers your command and sends a
response showing what happened. The key is that there may
be dozens or hundreds of other players on at once, and you
can talk to them in character and trade with, fight with, or
otherwise interact with their characters. MUDs are frequently
free, developed and maintained by volunteers.
- Graphical Online Games or MMORPGs
- MMORPG stands for "Massively Multipler Online RPG", and
generally indicates a game similar to MUDs but with commercial
graphics. These are generally commercial games such as
Everquest and Diablo.
The advantage of open multiplayer online games is that anyone in
the world can come and game with you. On any moderately popular
game, there could be dozens of people online to interact with.
Players can log on and log off at their convenience, and always
find other people to play with. However, there are also a number of
limitations of computer RPGs which limit them compared to the
role-playing in various face-to-face games. While they may not be
inherent, a number of commonly cited differences include:
- Like live-action RPGs, there is not necessarily a human
referee on hand to deal with troublesome situations. This
prevents many things which could be handled by human judgement
calls in a tabletop RPG.
- The very feature of easy access to players means that there
are not limits on players. Rather than playing with friends
you know, there are totally unknown strangers. From playing,
you don't know what country, what age, or what gender they
are. This is an intriguing aspect to online play but also
limiting to some people.
- The world has to deal with players appearing and disappearing
essentially randomly. This is usually handled by the character
disappearing from the world as well, which puts a considerable
strain on suspension of disbelief.
- Especially because it is interaction with anonymous strangers,
some abusive social issues can arise. There are often major
issues over player-killing or PK (i.e. killing of a player
character by another player character), as well as abusive
language and harassment.
- Conversation is limited to typing speed which is considerably
slower than verbal dialogue -- as well as lacking body language
and intonation (though emoticons and other text-based tricks
help with this).
Here are some links for more information on computer RPGs:
John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Wed Apr 16 00:58:41 2003