Let me tell a story, in a hidden temple over the mountains of china, a disciple grows up in the nurturing hands of a martial arts school, where he learned to be serene, respectful and most of all a pretty badass fighter. That peace and quiet was suddenly disturbed when an evil presence comes and annihilates the whole school, the hero tries desperately to save whomever he can but cannot but watch helplessly as his whole life is torn apart in front of his very eyes. Once the chaos settles, he embarks on a journey, to find whomever caused his whole life to crumble traveling far and wide, meeting new allies, each with a different power or ability to help him fulfil his purpose. To find and deal with this evil presence. However, said experiences and his decisions change him, he can be cruel and sadistic, he can be compassionate and caring, he can resolve his problems through his fists (being a martial artist and all) or he can resolve them through dialogue each branch gives the hero and his partners different techniques and ways to fight with monsters as well as decisions towards what to do with the killer. Once it comes to a conclusion the hero may choose to kill him tenaciously, being true to the power of revenge and anger, giving in to the “dark side” as some may call it, he may try to figure out why he did it, negotiate, pardon him as well as many other options. This of course is a very washed down Jade Empire summary, from the same creators that brought us magical games such as Mass Effect trilogy (and now the newest installation Andromeda), Dragon Age, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic all of them Role Playing Games (RPG) in which you become and act through a character.
Now Pan out to one of the most sold games every year, Call of Duty (CoD) which nowadays I see, through comics, Reddit posts and forums, is mainly played by teens. The story always revolves around the same premise, a war is going in on so you, another jarhead, must go and fulfill whatever orders you are given, mainly go in, kill everyone, get out. Which of course came to be a huge multiplayer place where people can do the exact same thing, get in, kill everyone, get out, or get killed and tell everyone how you had sexual relationships with whomever’s mother you are insulting (cause you are such an alpha male). There is no character development, in most games not even the name of the player is mentioned, he does not grow, he does not develop and the only thing he gets better at is killing people and following orders. This changed in another First Person Shooter (FPS) called Battlefield 1 released this last year in which there was some character development given, based in WWI you play as not only one but several soldiers only to be killed once you actually get to know them. While the first deaths may become somewhat jarring or emotional, after seeing so much death around you become numbed out and any new characters you may play as become nothing more than another pawn so that you may Leeroy Jenkins towards the battlefield.
Now, before you start stating that may only be applied to certain games or start yapping about how CoD is such a good game because of graphics and all those things let me tell you, it’s not about graphics, it’s never been. I love my FPS’s I mean of course who wouldn’t want to be able to feel great because you beat someone at shooting them in the head? Its mindless, useless, fun and that’s precisely why games like CoD and Battlefield shouldn’t be your go-to game at first, especially for children, but rather an RPG, or at least and FPS, with RPG elements and here is why, those types of games are closest to actually picking a book and to immerse yourselves in the world of said game, as such they are video games as an art form. Much like the ancient times when people actually used their imagination in D&D, RPG’s make you create a character of your own, even if they are prefabricated, they let you nurture, and make him/her grow to how it suits you best, with different abilities, attitudes, responses and decisions when the game moves along, it lets you from relationships with who you want or how you want, so it’s not even merely picking up a book but actually start writing your own book, your own adventure your own story.
RPG’s also give people a sense of consequence. Games of the RPG genre sometimes pan out in sequels, which makes small decisions such as helping out a band of robbers int he first game later extrapolate into that same band being responsible for creating a Civil War under the pretense of fighting for freedom. Picking a side for a band may make some of your partners decide to leave while making others gain more respect towards you and I could go on but the bottom line comes to one thing. Choice. Full blown, RPG’s give you the choice to play the game or make your character however you want. Something that, of course, FPS’s can’t make, you can’t just turn away from war and stay there, there would be no game there, meanwhile in Skyrim there are people beating the game as non combatants making the Villagers Kill the Dragons for them or beating the game through non-violence. As such the games quit being about the killing and more about the nature of humanity, of how people are different, and there are many ways to tackle different problems, much like the story I told you about in the beginning.
Now with this I’m not saying that FPS’s are not fun to play or even to be owned. As stated before I myself play and sometimes crave for said nonsense, especially (or should I say solely) with friends. Sadly, due to all the violence and frustration felt while playing such a high adrenaline game, many of which depend on teamwork has created a very toxic community (read above; having sexual intercourse with everyone’s mothers) and dealing with all of that usually leads to one of two possible outcomes, you become a flaming rager that bangs everyone’s mother or you end up depressed and end up not playing. Hence when friends come about for they dilute that anger with jokes (unless they are angry as well but that’s another problem) and it becomes what the game should be in multiplayer, a fun time.
In short RPG’s make you ponder about the essentials of what a game should actually be or have. The RPG’s has, by nature, a story (IKR?) but not just any story, it has to be immersive, interesting, something that will make you wanna know the answer no matter how far and wide you have to travel, one that demands growth not only in what your equipment, but also experience wise, it has to demand that you understand the whole picture of what is happening around you and how it came to be, but more than anything, your story has to matter. Be it that you started from scratch and slowly became recognized town after town, or that you are in fact, the chosen one, the “dovakin”, the commander, or whatever, it has to make an impact. Not necessarily to the world, but to you, it has to feel that what you did, for you ACTUALLY MATTERED. Something that, unlike RPGs, FPSs don’t really care for story or campaigns (gameplay averages 6-7 hours, unlike RPG’s that average 20+ hours) because evolving, creating bonds, growing, takes time, patience, and it foments discovery and exploration. FPS makes you get from point A to B as fast as possible with little to no reward for exploring the map.
So here’s my take, RPG’s make people grow, it foments exploration, it lets you live the story as if it were your own, develop on your character and deal with the problems that arrive in several ways, allowing you to see what option best fits you, your partners and gets you the results that you prefer or the least worst option. It is, therefore, a metaphor on life, albeit a fantastic one. On the other hand, FPS’s give you a gun, a place to go, and an objective, usually related to killing someone or doing so in order to fulfill your mission. Period. As such, RPG’s offer a more complete experience, one that will leave a lasting memory and for what you created and experienced, while FPS will just repeat the same thing over and over again. So, immerse yourselves in a story, develop your character, forge friendships and make the story matter to you. Don’t let your game just be something that makes you angry or that you will not remember, make them about the experience, the story, the memory.