Let's try a gaming opinion post, just to see how it flies here:


If you permanently stop asking "Is this a roleplaying game?", declare that literally every game in which you roleplay at all, however tenously, is one, and then instead ask "What tradition(s) of roleplaying games is this part of?"...

You can then accept that House and Cops & Robbers are Roleplaying Games in the children's tradition. And so on.

And then: Things open up quite nicely.

@LeviKornelsen I like this. My thoughts have drifted more to this. More like an ever branching evolutionary tree, with lots of independent origination.

@LeviKornelsen I quite like this method of categorization actually. It's a nice alternative/extra to just using genre (which I feel often struggles to really describe a lot of ttrpgs).

@S_Murphy_Games @LeviKornelsen I remember having a discussion some time ago on another platform about how most of our cultural conceptions of media genre come from non-interactive media: first books, then movies.

It will take time and a good bit of critical work for us to develop a vocabulary of genres that apply as meaningfully to roleplaying games as the ones we use to describe movies. (And even then, genres always have fuzzy edges and plenty of overlap)

@johnwsheldon @S_Murphy_Games - Yeah, this framing may or may not work well in terms of long-term construction of critical thought - but it is *lovely* for shaking nonsense out of the brainpan.

It especially helps when someone's parsing as per "A roleplaying game in the D&D tradition", when they might be better served by looking to RPGs in the party game tradition (Like how to host a murder, or Rocky & Bullwinkle).

@LeviKornelsen @S_Murphy_Games Absolutely.

There are people doing the work of creating critical frameworks for RPG analysis, but they tend not to be the folks arguing about what is or isn't a 'real' roleplaying game. Only whether a given game is relevant to their current discussion.

@LeviKornelsen There are things I love about this, but I do wonder whether it's useful to try to assimilate every kind of playing pretend into "RPGs" rather than seeing them as a tradition within a broader category of imaginative play. Is it useful or confusing to say that a kid pretending to be their favorite basketball player hitting a bucket over their most hated defender is playing an RPG?

@Jesseabe - It's useful in the context *of* RPGs to acknowledge that Bucket-hat kid may be making up and playing one.

In the context of "Stuff my kid is up to", not so much.

@LeviKornelsen Let me ask the question a different way: How does redefining "roleplaying game" to mean "playing pretend in general" help us better understand what we are doing when we play these games? (I have my own thoughts about this, but I'm asking the question sincerely, to better understand what you're suggesting.)

@Jesseabe - It lets us stop contorting terms on the lines gatekeepers would prefer, and leave that thinking in the dust.

@LeviKornelsen I hear that. I confess I'm skeptical that it would work, but I'm certainly deeply in favor of recognizing the ways in which RPGs as traditionally defined (whatever that means) and all other games of pretend are deeply related in all kinds of ways.

@Jesseabe @LeviKornelsen This, by the way, is the way any "is x a y" question should be asked IMO. "What utility does it have, what can we learn, if we consider x a y?"

@LeviKornelsen I’m not opposed to this idea, but Ibdon’t see it avoiding arguments over what is an RPG so much as love the location of the arguments. Pedants gonna pedant.

@linnaeus - Probably some, but most of the dedicated gatekeepers would never cross this bridge; they can form the ORPD (Original Roleplay Definition) movement and go grump in the corner.

@LeviKornelsen I'm sure there are circles where this is controversial. For me I started TTRPG when I was 7 so it was obvious that it was just an adjudicated version of the types of games I was already playing. It's probably why I held onto imaginative playground play a bit longer than a lot of kids though the games morphed into things with rules like proto-LARPs. Children's tradition with Palladium influences. 😂​

@LeviKornelsen Just here for the lack of gibbering and sputtering "But...story games...everybody is the DM?!....bgrrlgftffphargh..." responses.

@LeviKornelsen What is also revealing about associating roleplaying with early pretend play is that children are much more comfortable employing authorial stances than traditional RPG participation would indicate.

@Reinhart @LeviKornelsen It's been my experience that he beginners will usually try to get into an author stance until someone gets them to stop.

@nekoewen @Reinhart @LeviKornelsen Yup. It pretty much gets brow-beaten out of them either by the GM or other players. It's hard to tell *how* prevalent it is (nobody I've gamed with was heavy-handedly like that, except for a certain designer who will remain nameless) but I figure most of us have run into those who do it or have been subjected to it, offline and on.

@Reinhart my youngest daughter (11) regularly has what she and her friends call "role plays" over Zoom. They are really just negotiated stories that they tell in settings that they cooperatively construct.

@LeviKornelsen agreed!

The Shut Up and Sit Down podcast regularly alludes to the fact that the more a game allows you to construct stories around the game play, the more it begins to blur the lines as to what a "role playing game" actually is.

I have constructed many stories about games of Carcassonne, Smallworld, and others with family and friends.

@LeviKornelsen the first official #ttrpg that I introduced to my kids was Marshall Miller and Bully Pulpit Games' The Warren, but I has been making up stories through call and response and suggested narratives with each of them since they were very little. Actual rules mediated role playing games came very naturally to them.

@LeviKornelsen It's true! A roleplaying game is merely one in which you take on a role, whether that be the role of "being yourself" or "being someone else"

@LeviKornelsen so when you do the voices playing Clue I assume that counts.

@Gearyster - Definitely. I mean, you *have* a role assigned, the only question is "are you playing that role to any degree?"

@LeviKornelsen when I play Pandemic with friends, I try to encourage role playing. 😀

@gabrion - I think Pandemic would play extremely well as a "Must speak in character, and frame conversations as zoom calls, phone, etc" game, honestly. You'd just need good enough names for all the components.

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