Elvis Presley was a Musician

The discussion over the Chess is not an RPG article continues. John’s next installment comes with two consumption options; video and podcast. Both feature John talking with Zak S. Again, I have thoughts.

I was standing in the shower this morning and began piecing together a new definition of Role-Playing Game that I felt was better suited for my discussions. On my way into work I listened to John and Zak attempt to define the alchemy that turned Dungeons and Dragons into a Role-Playing Game. All of these factors collided with a handful of other notions I have in my brain and as I listened and eventually I settled on a new definition. I even went as far as writing an entire article about it. Then I wrote this:

For sake of argument lets accept that the birth of the Role-Playing Game was with a game designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson called Dungeons and Dragons. From the beginning we can see two players who derived their enjoyment from the game in two different ways. one preferring the tactical strategy born of Little Wars and another preferring the storytelling born of the Braunstein games. This leads us to the idea that it was the blending of these elements, focused around the idea of a single point of view character, came together to form the modern Role-Playing Game.

This blending of what came before is a phenomenon we see in music. Each new generation draws inspiration from the generation before them. This is how we get Rock and Roll from Jazz and Hard Rock from Rock and Roll. Each of these new genres mix elements of the genres that came before them. The problem I see from the RPG community is that people are still arguing over what Music is.

Imagine the mess we would have if new genres weren’t created for musicians. If everyone clung to the concept of Music as the defining term for their creative endeavor. There would be no distinction between Elvis Presley, Ozzy Osborne, Robert Johnson, and Johnny Cash. Invention of the electric guitar would become the birth of modern Music and everything that predates that wouldn’t be considered Music. People who were fans of the electric guitar would proudly declare that any band without one isn’t real Music while trumpet players would quietly enjoy their tunes off in a corner.

Over the last few days I’ve grown more and more convinced that defining the elements that make a game a Role-Playing Game are futile at best, distracting at worst, and ultimately contributes nothing to the understanding or advancement of the hobby. I believe that even if there was an agreed upon definition it would only encourage someone to create a game that broke the definition but could still be considered a Role-Playing Game, bringing us back to the definitionless dark ages.

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