What Are Fantasy LitRPGs and Their Relation to Today's RPGs?Dec 28, 2022 | 1 Votes
When RPG games began as early in the 1970s, when players and friends started meeting together in attics, basements, and garages to roll the dice on an intimately crafted game board, when each person represented a character in the game world on a quest to win and achieve their goals, when all these things interacted together to form one amalgamated gaming medium, the RPG genre was born. The literature that came with all of these games (the background stories, the manuals, the quests, and their outcomes as well as the fan-made recordings and accounts of their role-playing activities) became the start and the core of what is known today as Game Literature or to be exact, Fantasy Literature Role-Playing Games (LitRPG).
As gamers moved into the 1980s and the emergence of these wonder machines one could have at home called Micro-Computers (aka PC today), software developers who wanted to expand beyond the realm of business processing and work-related application software entered into the realm of computer-game development and many of these programmers have already been playing RPG (Roll the dice) board games with their friends. Porting RPG from the physical into a program that displayed graphics, rolled the dice, and showed or animated the results ended up as one of the foremost PC game genres that ever existed. Then, with the dawning of the World Wide Web and multiplayer gaming, the genre simply leveled up into the MMORPG we have today.
Computer and video games are not that much different in literature as compared to their original pen and paper, board, and dice forefathers. There is always literature that accompanies the games. Whether in the form of game manuals (printed or on-screen), paraphernalia (game collectors love these), short stories, magazines, books, and even animation and films, if they are literary mediums dedicated to games or RPG games, they are either GameLit or LitRPG. Fantasy LitRPG however, became a specific genre of literature (printed medium) around the 1980s with origins stretching from SKorea, Japan, and the then Soviet Union. These are fantasy novels that are directly or indirectly based on both actual and computer RPGs. It took several decades for the genre to solidify itself into the formally internationally accepted genre of literature that it is today.
When one purchases a Fantasy LitRPG novel, one reads an RPG game. Yes, reads, not plays (and in the case of today's popular audiobook market, listens to). Reading a novel of this genre is going through a kind of experience an RPG or MMORPG player experiences without the need to make decisions, hack and slash, gather resources and treasures, grow one,s party, and so on and so forth. The adventure is played out ala computer-game style where player stats, potions, spells,interactions, and leveling up are of major importance to the outcome of the story. The author however is the one playing the game in his mind and all the reader should really do is to read, listen to, and enjoy the story.
Usually, these stories encapsulate the essence of what RPG gaming is. They take place in a semi- medieval and modern fantasy world filled with both magic and technology, they have the main character (protagonist) or a group of main characters that interact with other (non-player) characters. Fighting and combat is an important and common occurrence in the storyline. Character stats are usually mentioned (sometimes after every other paragraph) and everything related to what a player-controlled character in an actual computer RPG does ( crafting, learning, grinding, inventory management, etc.) is practically brought to life with words and descriptions.
During a fight or encounter, the effects of such on the characters from both sides are described as clearly as possible. Spells are thrown, weapons are drawn and used, shields are put up to negate or diminish enemy attacks, and the whole scene ends up as a worded step-by-step description of an event that makes a player react as fast as he (or she) can, or think very carefully in an actual real-time or turn-based computer RPG fight. Also, the overall story and its direction gives the reader a sense of the importance of the events happening in the character’s life. It really doesn't matter if the actual story takes place in a VR-like game world or the player is actually transported to an alternate fantasy reality as long as everything takes place the way it should in an actual computer RPG adventure.
Fantasy LitRPG has come a long way but the market potential of the literary novels that delve into it is continually growing at an exponential rate. YouTube alone has a number of Fantasy LitRPG audiobooks one could listen to. Many novels have been published and although one could argue that Fantasy LitRPG is so much like the regular Fantasy novel genre, the distinction is evident in the way the stories are presented. For RPG gamers, reading and listening to Fantasy LitRPG, the storylines will add more to their gaming experience. The stories may not actually pertain to existing computer RPG games but they nevertheless provide additional insights into the fantasy worlds where both games and books exist. For designer-developers, the stories are not only immersive and interesting, but whether one is actually a writer or not, one can still draw ideas (in the proper context) from these stories and apply them to one’s own designs.
Whatever reason a gamer, a developer, or a reader/listener has for delving into the realm of Fantasy LitRPG, if one enjoys Fantasy stories, gaming, movies, or anything of the like, one is sure to find them truly immersive if not enjoyable.