Role-Playing Game (RPG)

Last Updated: June 20, 2017

Definition - What does Role-Playing Game (RPG) mean?

A role-playing game (RPG) is a genre of video game where the gamer controls a fictional character (or characters) that undertakes a quest in an imaginary world. Defining RPGs is very challenging due to the range of hybrid genres that have RPG elements. Traditional role-playing video games shared three basic elements:

  • Levels or character statistics that could be improved over the course of the game
  • A menu-based combat system
  • A central quest that runs throughout the game as a storyline

Modern and hybrid RPGs do not necessarily have all of these elements, but usually feature one or two in combination with elements from another genre.

Techopedia explains Role-Playing Game (RPG)

Video game RPGs have their origins in the paper and pen role-playing games pioneered by Dungeons & Dragons. These were defined games with clear rules. The video game RPGs started out very similar to paper-and-pen games, minus the dice and with the addition of animated battles, but with the turn-based menu combat intact. Since then, the genre has been broadened to include:

  • Action/RPG: Games where battles are real-time, button mashing affairs
  • Strategy/RPG: Games where battles take place on a map and character units are deployed against opponents
  • Adventure/RPGs: Games where the action elements are combined with items and special weapons the character collects along the way
  • Online RPGs: These are multiplayer games that mix many elements and players over a shared world in what is essentially an endless RPG.

The popularity of the role-playing concept – becoming someone else, somewhere else – assures that many more variations on the theme have yet to emerge.

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