The tedium of roleplaying games

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

Role-playing game developer Jeff Vogel has a lovely rant on RPGVault about how much he hates fantasy role-playing games. Well, not all games, but most of them, which he says are a waste of time involving "a lot of tedium."

But this is not a rant against all the World of Warcrafters out there; rather, Vogel's criticisms will likely ring true with massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) players as much as anyone. Vogel's big problem with RPGs could best be described as the Frodo Baggins school of narration so present in fantasy role-playing games: everyone starts out as a complete weakling.

As he writes:

Fantasy role-playing games are unique among computer games in one thing: they are fundamentally about starting out weak and learning to be strong. And that learning process generally involves a lot of tedium.

Anyone who has ever had to kill rats or go on a series of "FedEx" errands for various shopkeepers just to level up will appreciate Vogel's complaints. He uses the example of a quest from the hugely popular Final Fantasy XII video game to make his point:

You have to find this secret door into this castle. Fair enough. And you find out how from this guy in the sewers who sounds like Apu from the Simpsons, but a grumpy old man. He knows how to open the hidden door into the castle. But does he give you a key? Or just, Heaven forbid, open it for you? No.

He says, "To get into the castle, you must first get a darkened sunstone. Then you need to fill it with sun energy. By wandering the lands to the south, and searching for the four shadestones. Then you fill the crystal with sun energy. Then you..."

SHUT UP! I don't want to spend hours wandering and killing wolves and for the shadestones, whatever those are, to open a door. It doesn't make any sense!

This particular complaint also has a special place in the heart of this writer, as I gave up on Final Fantasy XII at exactly that point in the game.

On the subject of making fun of role-playing games, there is perhaps no better video parody than Massachusetts student Mark Leung's College Saga, a series of hilarious video clips complete with video game sound effects.

Thanks to Slashdot and the Guardian newspaper for the links.