Role Playing Games evolved from War Gaming roots in the early 1700s; where a marker or miniature figure once typically represented a squad of soldiers (Albrecht 1983). Originally patterned after Chess, the Master of Pages to the Duke of Brunswick, created a battle emulation game in 1780. Similar to the game of RISK, this game allowed the participants to move rudimentary figures on the board to simulate the situation in the battle field (Fannon 1995).
Over the years, more realistic and accurate variations of War Games soon became incorporated in the military training of armies in the early 19th century. These games were called “kriegspiel” or “war games”. They still used the basic rules that were used in the earlier game but now had other more complex pieces and rules that improved the reaction of the pieces and to make the movements of the characters more realistic (Fannon 1995).
The transition of these War Games from the military training grounds into the hobby market began in 1913 with the introduction of Little Wars, which was a children’s toy soldier game and developed by H. G. Wells. This was actually designed for children but soon enough adults began playing the games as it allowed them to reenact actual battles from the Napoleonic period are well as other famous battles in history. This unexpected but greatly welcomed surprise soon created a niche for hobby war gaming for adults and it was not long before other game developers followed suit.
In 1959, Allan Calhamer released a board game called Diplomacy which introduced a new exciting aspect to the traditional war games by making social interaction and interpersonal skills part of its game play. This was followed by Slobbovia which was a live-action variant of Diplomacy and was used mainly for character development rather than reenacting famous conflicts in history. There were other similar games that were introduced during this period but it was the development of a fantasy board game that ushered in the new age of Role Playing Games as it is currently known and enjoyed.
Dungeons and Dragons The eventual modern successor of War Games and its variants was Dungeons and Dragons which was an RPG wherein each player controlled the actions of one character (Archer 2004). In the first edition rules of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), the influence of War games is revealed by its use of certain measurements of distance such as one inch per ten feet or ten yards for outdoor distances (Rilstone 1995).
These metrics for distance were also used in War Games and thus the influences of D&D are betrayed by such. D&D is considered the first modern role-playing game and it has influenced nearly every Role Playing Game that has produced since its introduction in 1974 (Rilstone 1995). Role Playing Games were originally played on a tabletop for the simple reason that most of these games required the use of paper, dice and, in certain cases, the use miniature figures or tokens of some kind (Archer 2004).
The other early forms also used more complex and realistic figures and pieces to create a more interactive simulation of the mission that was being played. From these origins, Role Playing Games have evolved in different directions (Archer 2004). In the early 1990s, many new Role Playing Games began flooding the markets. One of the most popular games that were introduced was Vampire: The Masquerade which was a game that had an immersive storytelling experience as it allowed the players an unprecedented control over the character (Rilstone 1995).
This was a short lived success, however, as a series of murders that were committed by a gang of teenagers, who the media gave the moniker “Vampire Cult” to, led to public backlash against RPG games of that type. Luckily the backlash was minor, brief, and quickly overshadowed in the industry by the buyout of TSR, Inc. by Wizards of the Coast and the subsequent release of the D20 System/OGL rules (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). Computer RPGS
The pivotal point in the development of RPGs happened in the 1990s when the advances in computer technology and the introduction of the personal computer took Role Playing Games into a new frontier (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). Though Role Playing Games were already previously well established in the computer world, the proliferation of home computers to most of the households in the United States gave these gamers the ability to play games online over BBSes or networks paved the way for MUDs, MMORPGs, and play-by-email (PBeM) gaming.
This also led to the the first stirrings of copyright and intellectual property concerns that were already being felt by the industry during the latter part of the 1980s with TSR leading the way in litigation precedents, first against the publishers of the Role-Aids line of game supplements and later against file sharers (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). In 2000, a significant change occurred in the tabletop role-playing industry. Wizards of the Coast released their Open gaming license for use with their D20 system (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007).
This has allowed many small role-playing game publishers to quickly and easily create role-playing material that a large body of role-players could easily adapt for their own campaigns. Modern Developments in RPG At present there have been more and more multiplayer CRPGs appearing in the market. The highly popular cult game Diablo, for instance, introduces gamers to a system by which different players can enter the same world and cooperate against the enemies, trade equipment, or, should they wish, kill one another.
Another development is the introduction of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), which are huge open-ended worlds with hundreds of interacting characters. The most popular games in this genre are systems like the World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron’s Call (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). The modern developments in RPG are not limited to fantasy worlds, bloodshed and violence as the popular kids RPG named Pokemon (a. k. a.
Pocket Monsters) was introduced and features a fairly simplistic set of games whose main innovation is the replacement of the party by creatures that can be captured, collected, and trained for beetle fighting. The success of this game has been incredible as it has led to a huge industry with many spin-off products, including other games, cartoons, and endless merchandise. 1997 saw the beginnings of a new internet fad as more and more homes all over the world began to be interconnected (Nephew 2003).
Influenced by console Role Playing Games, an enterprising group of young programmers and aficionados began creating independent CRPG games, based mostly on the game play and style of the older computer consoles such as the SNES and the SEGA Genesis games (Nephew 2003). The majority of such games owe its popularity to the simplistic game development kits such as the Japanese RPG Maker series that were ushered into the market. This started the Independent RPG Video Games movement. Current Issues in RPG Gaming
The rapid progression of Role Playing Games and its transition into the computer world has created a lot of controversies. One of these controversies is with regard to the idea of what it means to be a Role Playing Game More recently because the advent of games such as Deus Ex and Warcraft 3 has blurred the distinction which used to exist (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). Many non-RPG games are increasingly featuring aspects traditionally seen in Role Playing Games, such as the skill system, the experience mechanic and the dilemmas scenarios.
Meanwhile, many self-declared Role Playing Games such as the more recent Zelda games by Nintendo have dispensed altogether with the traditional RPG aspects (Nephew 2003). The expansion of traditional RPG elements into 3-D game engines is also another issue as it has led to the creation of a myriad of hybrid game categories and thus leading to a crowding out of its successors to earlier representations of CRPGs (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). Another area of controversy is in the representation of Role Playing Games elements in first and third person shooters.
The problem is that these two are now indistinguishable from each other because these games simply incorporate a story with cut-scenes and traditional FPS problem solving and have added developments to the incorporation of the genre’s usual character building modules such as getting better weapons (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2007). As these FPS games continue to develop and increase in these characteristics it remains to be seen whether the games will simply be called FPS (or TPS), break off into a new category of FPS/RPG, or just adopt the RPG name.
Conclusion From simple childhood games to reenactments of historical events and finally MMORPGS, the world of RPGs has been expanding at unprecedented rate. The manner in which RPGs have progressed and survive the trials of time is a testament to the greatness of these types of games. While the more modern types do not really engage the imagination of the player, the indispensable trait of allowing its players to enter a fantastic world is simply irresistible.
The question that remains to be asked now is what form the RPG will take in the future. Will the advances in technology allow players to have unprecedented control over their characters on all levels? Will it finally allow people to create a virtual reality that allows the player to not only manipulate the actions of the character but also feel what the character feels? Whatever happens, one can be sure that Role Playing Games have changed the future of gaming for every avid gamer out there.