Why videogames will never displace TTRPGs

Jan 11, 2017 | | 1 comment

My first experience of a video game was a handheld device that let you play a version of Space Invaders.

It looked like this:

I loved it.  It was exciting, it seemed to be intelligent (those little critters definitely dodged my missiles) and it had never-ending levels!  What more could you want?

Well, quite a lot more it turns out.  The next thing to come along and get me going was our IBM thing, not entirely sure what it was but we got it in 1983 and it looked a lot like this:

You could make a little turtle move around on the screen by giving him simple commands.  If you were really into it, you could use BASIC to make the screen print “Boobies!” over and over and over and over ad infinitum.  It is likely that this would’ve worked with other words.

Next came this:

The VCS, I think, or 2600, or both, I don’t really remember.  Ours was not a new one, my dad was still suspicious of these things, he worried that they would rot our brains and make us into compliant drones who were at the beck and call of “the man”.  This was the beginning of my father’s strained relationship with technology.

After that things kinda settled and video games took a back eat with the arrival of Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set.

This blew my mind.  It ignited my brothers mind and it caused small blazes in the minds of the other kids in our neighbourhood.  All screens were forgotten and this new, apparently unlimited world of adventure took over our time.

So far as I was concerned the video game was dead, D&D and Traveller and Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia and any of the myriad of RPGs a got my hands on knocked spots of any video game.

There was a brief comeback for electronica when I got my beloved Amiga 500.  On this I played Alien Breed, Monkey Island, that weird Japanese game where blocks rolled towards your tiny sprite, Sensible Soccer, Frontier, Grand Prix and Syndicate.

Even then, it wasn’t long before the Amiga started to collect dust and a whole slew of new RPGs, with ever more sophisticated systems and exotic settings stole my attention away from the screen and back to the table-top.

So, recently I decided (partly due to Nathan Ainsworth, @Psitanium) that it was time to have a look at what had become of the video game.  Wow, to say things had changed over the time I’d been away was an understatement.  I played Halo,  Call of Duty, Hitman and Darkest Dungeon. The graphics are incredible, the voice acting is good, actually good!  The back stories are cool and intriguing and sometimes engaging and the gameplay is, well, not good.  And here is why video will never replace TTRPG (I know, it is n’t trying to, but it’s my blog, so tough):


Ultimately, a video game is linear.  It is like reading a book or watching a movie.  It is fun.  It is exciting.  It stimulates all the correct parts of the brain to get you hooked and wanting the next one, but there are limited choices.  An RPG of the pen and pencil variety has no restrictions, no boundaries and choices aplenty.

So, I’ll take Bunnies and Burrows, or Forgotten Futures or even the almost unplayable Chivalry & Sorcery over your shiny metal gears any day of the week.  Of course, it’s just my opinion.



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One Response

  1. YES! As a kid I would play the Infocom games on my Apple IIe. It just bugged the heck out of me that there was something I wanted to do, but the program wouldn’t let me. As I moved on to Nintendo, I found the same problem with a lot of those games.
    Even now, with all of the advances in computer/console games, you still see it all the time: I can’t open this chain link fence even though I have a backpack full of explosives and a shotgun; I can’t break this glass door and enter the room; I can’t chop down this tree and use it to cross the river; etc.
    Computers will never be able to replace the human GM for coming up with on-the-fly responses to the most off-the-wall requests of the players:
    Player: “I wanna seduce the guard.”
    GM: “But… The guard is a dire wolf.”
    P: “Yeah. I know.”
    GM “… Okay, gimme a second…”

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