Disclaimer, I’m talking about Role Playing Games, so if you came here for rocket propelled grenades, you’ll be disappointed.
I consider myself a part of the gaming community. It’s an association that often comes with it’s own set of social stigmas and disapproving stares, at least when its the first or only tag people look at. Hopefully after some of the writing I’ve been able to share here, I can leave some of you convinced that it’s not entirely deserving of all that stigma.
One thing I’ve found very interesting is how many gamers are writers at heart and don’t even know it! So today I’m inviting you to consider the possibilities. If you’re already a writer, then instead I’d like to present a means of inspiration.
The first step in any RPG often mirrors the first step in making a good story: establishing a good characters. I’ve known some people who are absolutely phenomenal at creating characters, and I mean more than just picking a hairstyle or tattoo color. I mean finding character motivations, learning their quirks and habits, outlining their moral standards and more. This is where RPGs can be really helpful to writers as well as gamers.
In an RPG, the universe is laid out for you, and it already comes with its own lore involving history, ethnicity, culture, religion and even art and science. For writers this means that you can focus on the character themselves. Its an excellent exercise in creating a believable personality and avoiding cliches. It also encourages research; delving into the background of the world so you can develop an accurate background for the character, which can also be inspiring for your own world-building.
For gamers, that same process is often a great way to be introduced to some of the key mechanics of writing. A lot of times that involves stumbling on some of the popular cliches of modern fiction and sci-fi, but that’s part of the learning experience. If you can create a character that you find yourself immersed in, you can create a story that you and others can be immersed. In fact, a lot of gamers do just that.
This is as much an element of writing as it is of RPGs. In writing we usually call it conflict (unless it’s fantasy, in which case quest works just fine), but its something every story needs to be interesting. What drives the heroes or villains forward? What is the situation that needs to be resolved? Why are these characters the ones who can do it? Having a clear goal in mind for the destination of a story helps you guide the action in between so it leads to that conclusion in a satisfying way.
There are all kinds of quests out there, from delivering a package, to protecting a stronghold, to saving the world. If you’re a gamer, the idea of main quests and side quests should be familiar, and they are just as important in writing(due in no small part to the fact that that’s how they get into your games).
Your characters will often be waylaid by distractions, smaller conflicts and opportunities to step off the beaten path, and these are, generally, good things; chances to delve more into your character’s motives, reactions and personalities using different settings.
One small, but important difference here: In many gaming settings you can do side quests all the live long day, and the main story will be waiting patiently for you to come back to it. In fact, a lot of players prefer this approach, trying to get everything they can and unlock any secrets before finishing the game. This doesn’t work so well in writing.
The pacing of a story is important, and if the characters ignore their main objective, the readers will notice and wonder why. This is often as simple as showing that the characters are aware of the time constraints they face.
These two things together are the foundation of both a fun RPG and a fun writing (and reading) experience. If you’ve got one, you can do the other! If not, you may find that one makes excellent practice for the other.
That’s all from me today. Best wishes in all your holiday endeavors! Feel free to give us some feedback in the comments about your approach to character development and how you do things differently.