photo from Geek and Sundry
It’s the eternal struggle, gamers continually being divided by the platform in which they game. Strong opinions, pigheaded preferences and perhaps a little misunderstanding on both sides of the tape. Some of the younger people won’t understand that expression, but it matters not! A role playing game is a role playing game, no ifs, ands or buts about it. However, a very different experience can be pulled from the platform in which you experience them. We know which one I personally prefer, just based off of the content of this blog, but what’re the main differences between the two? There are some that I believe are overlooked.
The first thing that comes to my mind as the stark difference between the two is the visual experience. GM’s for TTRPG’s can create handouts, use miniatures and maps, maybe even dress up occasionally (though I certainly have never done that myself). It’s no secret, though, that a computer or video game console does this not only differently but, in my opinion, better. Playing a CRPG is like watching a movie, sometimes. Imagination can be a very powerful and mind-altering thing, but sometimes it can’t stand up to a good movie or video game. Descriptions from a good GM can help catapult us into the world in which we are playing, without question, but the visual power of CRPGs, or just video games in general, is colossal. This could be one of the reasons why CRPGs have exploded. Actually seeing a character with an unfamiliar voice that is acted out is a completely different experience than having your friend of twenty years pretend to be someone else.
Visual immersion is certainly not the only reason, however. CRPGs take a hell of a lot less time and coordination. Having just switched my personal game to a bi-weekly schedule, this point really hits home. Many TTRPG sessions are missed or interrupted because it involves multiple people with their own schedules and lives. A single player, or even a massive multiplayer online (MMO), CRPG can be picked up and put down based off the schedule of one person: You. That certainly makes getting your dose of imagination incredibly easier. Usually being able to play such things in your own home also helps squeezing in the time to do it. Not having to travel, wait for other people to travel to a specific location and then considering the ride home makes a huge difference in how we manage gaming in our schedules.
For those who really disdain math, a CRPG has a leg up on tabletop again. With the computer doing it all for you, all you have to worry about is your base stats, if that particular game even lets you customize them. There’s always a degree of customizability in CRPG’s, but it’s not always the same as things like Strength, Constitution and Dexterity. Changing how these functions work may be appealing to some people because this cuts down on the work you put into the game. Running around, killing things and finding stuff in a video format is very pleasing. Especially without having to add or multiply numbers and remembering how a spell or attack functions rules-wise. With the computer being the GM, you also don’t have the added preparation of making up a story, building encounters and everything else that role comes with. You just hop on, have your fun and move on from there.
For the tabletop people reading things, you’re probably thinking, wow, he’s really bashing tabletop right now. Think again, because that is about all the CRPGs have to offer, in my opinion. There’s a reason I have a preference between the two. For me, CRPG’s are really bad at one thing in particular: person to person interaction. I don’t mean inter-character, but actual people. The internet has taught us that being physically removed from a situation changes the way some people interact with said situation. If you’re sitting at a table with a bunch of friends, you have pretty much no choice but to be there and experience whatever is happening. How you deal with that is very different between the two gaming platforms. That personal connection between everyone you’re sharing a room with makes the gaming bond stronger, or at least to me it does. It doesn’t help with being in the game, everybody has to buy into that on their own, but it does help you realize that there’s people behind this and it’s not completely make believe. This whole concept does come with its own drawbacks, but seeing how people deal with each other in matters like government and society, it’s not surprising as to how it can play out.
A huge part of why people play RPG’s is to experience a story. In the case of CRPG’s, the story is laid out for you. Sure, you have agency, but programming is limited to what it has been told it can and can’t do. Consequently, implementing your own imagination into the game is limited to what the programmer of the game has outlined. TTRPG’s win the contest on that front. If you have a good group and GM, a story can last years and you’ll have an immense amount of control over what happens. Being more collaborative, it doesn’t always go your way, but you at least get to talk about things and give it a shot. The world is your canvas, and the GM has handed you a brush!
To some, it may be a little strange that I give up a lot of the luxurious aspects of computer gaming to sit in a probably too humid room with a bunch of people and play pretend. But for those people: remember where you came from. It’s debatable whether or not computer role playing games would have existed without pen and paper ones, but would they have gained as much traction without them? I personally say no. So for those who have grown up with computer games, I highly recommend giving tabletop a try. It’s a different way to experience an idea that you love, and don’t let a bad first experience ruin it for you.
Start a discussion, I’d love to hear your ideas.
Stay Metal \m/