Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The debate surrounding whether Role-Playing Games (RPGs) can be considered a subgenre of video games has been a hot topic among gamers and game developers for years. On one hand, some argue that RPGs have distinct gameplay mechanics and storytelling elements that set them apart from other genres, making them a subgenre of their own. On the other hand, others argue that RPGs are simply a type of game that encompasses a wide range of subgenres, including action RPGs, turn-based RPGs, and more. In this article, we’ll explore both sides of the debate and try to answer the question: is RPG a subgenre?

Understanding the RPG Community

Defining Role-Playing Games

What is an RPG?

A role-playing game (RPG) is a type of game in which players assume the roles of fictional characters and interact with each other in a simulated setting. These games typically involve a combination of storytelling, strategy, and character development, and can be played in a variety of formats, including tabletop, video game, and live action.

Characteristics of RPGs

Some common characteristics of RPGs include:

  • A focus on player choice and agency, allowing players to shape the direction of the story and the development of their characters.
  • The use of rules and mechanics to govern gameplay, such as dice rolls or card draws, to determine the outcome of actions and events.
  • A collaborative and social aspect, with players working together to create a shared narrative and interact with each other‘s characters.
  • A sense of progression and growth, as players gain experience and level up their characters, unlocking new abilities and opportunities.
Examples of RPGs

Some popular examples of RPGs include:

  • Dungeons & Dragons, a classic tabletop RPG that has been played for decades and inspired countless other games and media.
  • The Elder Scrolls series, a series of open-world video games that allow players to explore vast, immersive worlds and interact with other characters and factions.
  • Live action role-playing (LARP) games, in which players physically act out their characters and engage in combat or other activities in a real-world setting.

The Evolution of RPGs

Early RPGs

The origins of RPGs can be traced back to tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, which emerged in the 1970s and popularized the concept of role-playing and collaborative storytelling. These games were often complex and rules-heavy, with a strong emphasis on combat and exploration.

Modern RPGs

In recent years, RPGs have evolved to encompass a wider range of formats and styles, including video games, LARPs, and other hybrid forms. Many modern RPGs place a greater emphasis on character development and narrative, with more complex and nuanced storylines and deeper exploration of themes and ideas.

RPG Subcultures

The RPG community is diverse and includes a range of subcultures and fan bases, each with their own preferences and interests. Some popular subcultures include:

  • Pen and paper RPGs, which continue to thrive despite the rise of digital gaming.
  • Tabletop RPGs, which often involve more complex rules and mechanics and are popular among hardcore gamers.
  • Video game RPGs, which have become a major force in the gaming industry and offer a more accessible and mainstream entry point for many players.
  • LARPs, which offer a unique and immersive form of role-playing that has gained a dedicated following.

The Debate: Is RPG a Subgenre?

The Case for RPG as a Subgenre

The argument in favor of classifying RPG (Role-Playing Game) as a subgenre is based on several key points:

  • Shared characteristics: RPGs typically involve a player taking on the role of a character in a fictional world, interacting with other characters, and completing quests or missions. These shared characteristics distinguish RPGs from other genres and provide a clear identity for the subgenre.
  • Recognition from players and developers: Many players and developers consider RPGs to be a distinct subgenre within the broader scope of video games. This recognition implies that there is a shared understanding of what constitutes an RPG, which supports the notion that it is a subgenre.
  • Impact on gaming culture: RPGs have had a significant impact on gaming culture, inspiring numerous spin-offs, adaptations, and imitators. This influence suggests that RPGs are a recognizable and influential subgenre, deserving of their own classification.

The Case Against RPG as a Subgenre

On the other hand, there are several arguments against classifying RPGs as a subgenre:

  • Lack of consensus: There is no clear consensus on what defines an RPG, leading to disagreements and debates about whether certain games belong to the subgenre. This lack of consensus casts doubt on the validity of RPG as a subgenre.
  • Overlapping genres: Many RPG elements can be found in other genres, such as action-adventure games or strategy games. This overlap blurs the lines between RPGs and other genres, making it difficult to determine where one genre ends and another begins.
  • Evolving definitions: As the gaming industry continues to evolve, the definition of an RPG has become increasingly fluid and subjective. This fluidity challenges the notion that RPGs are a distinct subgenre with a fixed identity.

The debate over whether RPGs should be considered a subgenre is complex and multifaceted, with valid arguments on both sides. Ultimately, whether or not RPGs are classified as a subgenre will depend on the level of consensus the gaming community can achieve regarding the defining characteristics of the genre.

Hybrid Genres and RPGs

  • Games that blur genre lines

The gaming industry has witnessed a rise in the number of games that defy traditional genre classifications. These games often incorporate elements from various genres, blurring the lines between them. Role-playing games (RPGs) are one such genre that has been influential in the development of hybrid games. Many game developers have been experimenting with different game mechanics and storytelling techniques to create games that are a fusion of various genres.

  • RPG elements in other genres

One of the significant aspects of RPGs is the ability for players to take on the role of a character and interact with other characters in a dynamic world. This has led to the incorporation of RPG elements in other genres, such as first-person shooters and platformers. For example, some games have incorporated character progression and customization, dialogue options, and branching storylines into their gameplay, giving players a more immersive experience.

  • The future of the RPG genre

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, it is likely that the RPG genre will continue to diversify and experiment with new mechanics and storytelling techniques. With the rise of indie game developers and the increasing popularity of digital distribution platforms, there is a lot of room for innovation in the RPG genre. As a result, it is likely that we will see more hybrid games that push the boundaries of traditional genre classifications.


1. What is an RPG?

RPG stands for Role-Playing Game. It is a type of video game where the player takes on the role of a character in a fictional world, often with a strong emphasis on storytelling and character development.

2. What is a subgenre?

A subgenre is a term used to describe a specific type or variation of a larger genre. For example, within the genre of science fiction, there are subgenres such as cyberpunk and hard science fiction.

3. Is RPG a subgenre?

The debate about whether RPG is a subgenre or its own distinct genre is ongoing. Some argue that RPG is a subgenre of the broader action-adventure or role-playing genres, while others believe that it is a unique genre in its own right. Ultimately, the answer may depend on one’s personal interpretation and the specific games in question.

4. What are some examples of RPG games?

Examples of RPG games include the Final Fantasy series, The Elder Scrolls series, and the Mass Effect series. These games often feature complex storylines, memorable characters, and immersive worlds that players can explore and interact with.

5. How does RPG differ from other types of video games?

RPGs typically differ from other types of video games in their emphasis on storytelling and character development. While many games focus on action and gameplay mechanics, RPGs often prioritize the player’s experience as a character within the game world, with choices and actions that have a lasting impact on the story. Additionally, RPGs often feature branching storylines and multiple endings, allowing for a high degree of player agency and replayability.

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