Which Makes for a Better Roleplaying Game: Tabletop RPGs, or Computer RPGs?

The short answer is that it depe… yes, sorry, we’re going to stop right there on this question. I realized, shortly after I sat down to write this, that the topic in question is not particularly answerable in a general sense. The best kind of roleplaying game is a game that you best like to play. If you like to throw down dice with a bunch of people and make bad puns, then that’s best. And if you like to click on the left mouse button while frantically running away from the big scary monster with the skull icon, then that’s best, too. And many people seamlessly move from one type of game to the other, and that’s best, too. In other words, under those circumstances the question in the title is meaningless.

But that doesn’t mean that the question is meaningless under all circumstances. As I think back on some of the articles that I’ve read (possibly even one or two articles that I might have written) on what are the best kinds of game to play I’m not sure but that there’s a certain level of defensiveness about the topic itself.  There’s a slight feeling of “Well, I must start by justifying my particular hobby because I am an adult and I feel that people will give me that look when I discuss gaming” that wafts through the literature; and that can come across on the monitor screen as being at least mildly cringing.

I hope that you’ll forgive me for observing that said cringing is, well, silly. Yes, children play games. They also dance, sing, write, draw, sculpt, read, watch television, watch movies, listen to music, play sports, and a whole bunch of other activities that provide physical, emotional, and/or mental exercise.  But you’ll notice that very rarely will you see people go up to an adult who is dancing, singing, writing, drawing, sculpting, reading, watching television, watching movies, listening to movies, playing a sport, or whatnot and solemnly quote 1 Corinthians 13:11 at them without once realizing that it’s part of a larger discussion on why agape should be the primary motivating factor for your behavior, and that the passage is not actually about chronologically optimal maturity levels at all*.

But that’s one of the interesting things about people: their favorite fun stuff is perfectly fine. It’s just other people’s favorite fun stuff can be safely judged.  Back when the Onion was more reliably funny, it hit this topic with a certain amount of force (“Walking Sports Database Scorns Walking Sci-Fi Database“); and note that that particular blade cuts both ways. Gamers do themselves no favors when they artificially imbue their own hobbies and diversions with innate superiority, either. The brutal reality is that, roughly six billion years from now, nobody on this plane of existence will either know or care that I spent alternate Saturdays playing a bard who was seriously considering taking a level in cleric.

Then again, those same hypothetical entities won’t care what everybody else on this planet was doing then, either.  So there’s no real reason to try to create or sustain a hierarchy of acceptable human activities that’s based on what people remember about middle and high school. I mean, that’s exactly backwards.  When you’re an adult, you get to be the person who decides what’s actually adult behavior. There’s a reason why we don’t let sixteen-year-old kids do it… well, we shouldn’t let sixteen-year-old kids do it, and hopefully our society will eventually self-correct there. But you know what I mean.

To sum it all up, then: Which makes for a better roleplaying game: tabletop RPGs, or computer RPGs? I don’t know, friend.  You’re an adult, so you tell me.

PS: I understand that people find it difficult to simply not care if somebody they’ve never met disapproves of them. I’ve been on the Internet for a couple of decades by now, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see people get hung up on that. But eventually you just have to decide to toughen up, and power on through.

*This is a remarkably common problem online, by the way.  If you have the time, I heartily recommend giving at least the New Testament a thorough reading. You will be amazed at how many people will quote the Bible without any sort of context.

(Artwork created using multiple images.)