When Dungeons and Dragons was released in 1974, it heralded a new era in gaming. Never before had games allowed players to assume a role within the narrative in the same way that the RPG (Role Playing Game) allows.
The video game market has exploded, with this genre becoming increasingly popular, especially since the online versions were released on the world.
In a genre that has developed in an almost immeasurable fashion, it is strange to see also how many elements have stayed the same. These stales of the RPG have kept them popular and consistent, giving them long-lasting appeal. The storytelling element with a developing narrative draws the players into the game world, immersing them if you like.
Also, the replayability of many of the games means that there is far more scope for gamers to enjoy the narrative in different ways compared to other, more linear game types.
Other elements that have made the genre strong are things such as the exploration and quest themes that run throughout many incarnations. Groups of heroes setting out to save the world, often against massive odds, creates a certain appeal that is consistent with the early table top versions. Another hugely appealing element is being able to influence world events. One thing that gamers love is the ability to tangibly affect the environment around them and the decisions the player makes during gameplay often makes a real difference to how events in the game transpire.
The early table top version used dice to add that element of chance but, since the genre has migrated on to computers, the programming itself has allowed it to develop further. Many early examples in the 1980s were very simple but, in the 1990s, things began to get more complex.
Isometric games became commonplace with titles such as Diablo and the 1998 offering Baldur’s Gate changing the market. Many fans of these originals will be hoping new versions of Baldur’s Gate will bring back some of the more classic elements to the games.
With games consoles starting to dominate, the genre changed again, almost morphing into many sub-genres such as the action RPG or the MMORPG, which took the business model of the genre to new heights. Games such as Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and World of Warcraft fall into this category.
Other interesting new developments have seen games such as Casino Heroes break new ground. The game combines casino elements with the RPG. The game is set on a fantasy fairytale island where players can win money playing casino-type games.
It is an extremely lucrative market, with Pokemon having sold over 260 million units by 2014 and World of Warcraft reaching over 11 million subscribers in 2010. These games are likely to remain popular for a long time to come, especially as new developments continue to hit the market.
Gamers are in for a real treat as new technologies such as virtual reality will likely open up a number of interesting opportunities for the genre to explore. Developers have already created some of the most immersive free roaming environments ever created and VR will only aid them in creating even more. An exciting and long lasting favourite, the RPG can still only get better.