Standard RPG video games aren't RPGs.
I absolutely love Skyrim. I've played for thousands of hours across different platforms since it came out over 10 years ago. And thanks to a vibrant mods community, it keeps up with modern AAA titles (even surpassing a lot of them).
Skyrim is king among RPGs I'm sure I'll be playing it for another 10 years, minimum. I've only got one beef with it: there's no roleplaying.
When I sit around the table playing TTRPGs with my friends, we speak as our characters. We make decisions beyond what to swing our swords at next. We really get into our characters' heads. The line between player and character blurs. We live out other lives through character sheets and dice.
That's the feeling I want from a video game, but they fall short. I may be climbing mountains and slaying dragons, but I never utter a word. I just move my hands across the keyboard and mouse (or controller), making choices and enjoying the previously-written story unfolding before me (for the hundredth time, lol).
I don't say any of this to defame the good folks at Bethesda Game Studios, or detract from the incredible work that they've produced. They've come as close to a truly interactive experience as one can without relying on an AI--or another human--to interact with the player. I just want more.
I'm aware of communities like Valheim Roleplay (I'm also a member of that one) that inject roleplay into games where it doesn't exist out of the box. They manage it with a ton of mods and extra human effort. It's really great, though it stands as proof that RPGs are really just ... Gs.
Has anyone played an RPG video game that incorporates roleplaying out of the box?
I get what you mean about video game RPGs not being roleplay in the same way playing a ttrpg collaboratively is with other people, but for instance, my partner roleplays when he plays Skyrim. Playing around a table with friends is more in-depth, but he still has a ton of fun and feels immersed in it. He loves to make up whole backstories around characters and play them based on their alignments, not doing what he would in a situation but what his character would. I wouldn't want to say that people who rp in this way aren't roleplaying; it's just a different kind of roleplay.
Red Dead online is a great game for roleplay; there are a few very cool communities I've come across over the years. GTA online has a big rp community as well, surprisingly. I've also rped on Minecraft and WoW servers, and both were fun.
Those examples I used above were all player-driven, however. I doubt the makers intended (but hopefully were pleasantly surprised) to have the games played that way. Most roleplay is collaborative with others, which makes a big difference. There are solo ttrpgs, but most of us want to play with friends or other people, either around a table or online. That's probably what's driven ttrpgs and roleplay to be so popular again in recent years.
Seems to me that character customization makes a huge difference. I'm a huuuuge RPG video game fan (Final Fantasy in particular) and you're right, most Final Fantasy games involve no roleplaying at all. Sure, I get to know and love the characters, but never really feel immersed in the way I do with TTRPGs. I do, however, get similar immersion with Final Fantasy XIV, an MMO. My characters have distinct names and personalities. All RPGs have their charms but I totally get what you're both saying
Hard agree! The only RP to be found in video games is player-driven. Everything else is coded into the game what you can and can not do. That's not role-playing, that's glorified Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Which is fine, but it's not RP.
That said, I have had some outstandingly awesome role-play experiences in World of Warcraft, ARK, Conan Exiles, and other games. And out of years of such experiences, exactly none of it was "part of the game" but rather emergent gameplay we created ourselves within the framework provided.
@Kendall I particularly love when the flavor of a game naturally results in emergent roleplay with players. It doesn't always happen, or happen for everyone, but when it does it is so good.
I think certain games lend themselves better to it, with motivators of:
- Open play with easy downtime from built-in plots. Downtime makes space for roleplay.
- Character personalization. The ability to make your character feel unique to you helps enable personal investment in that character.
- Community! People open and excited to roleplay find each other and settle into spaces where they can freely roleplay.
great post! games can't do everything for the player. the player has to meet in the middle. When playing Skyrim or fallout you want to see and do everything, but the best playthroughs are when you decide your limitations and rules upfront. FOMO is a real thing tho when you want to experience every scripted scenario. I agree that open world games have more room for roleplay, because you don't have that FOMO you would on curated experience/dialogue/cutscenes, etc.
milsim gamers do this really well.
@SwampCreature Oh yea I am big on character customization lol. The more I can do with appearance, backstory, race, profession, morality, etc the better. I generate characters based off ideas, names I like, or even a couple of people I know lol. I firmly believe that most millennials are big into customization and this is the hill I will die on lol.