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Vertical Development

Why Use Roleplaying Games As A Metaphor At All?

There’s something I continually keep looping back to and reflecting upon within my life’s work and that’s “Why even use roleplaying games, such as MMORPGs, as a metaphor for vertical development at all?” I mean why not just explain vertical development directly without the metaphor?

The obvious answer of course is that these metaphors are what I’m most familiar with and thus will see the most. For the first forty years of my life, roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons and later MMORPGs like World of Warcraft formed the foundation of my life, regardless of what I was doing professionally with regards to work. They did so because these gaming environments provided the psychological needs and values I was looking for, particularly with regards to collaboration and teamwork, but often wasn’t finding in my work environments.

But beyond that though, hopefully it’s obvious that roleplaying games and MMORPGs are going to probably be the most familiar metaphors for my target audience, that being gamers, especially younger ones. And for a metaphor to work effectively for its target audience, it has to be a familiar frame of reference for them. And right now, I think a lot of teenagers and even young adults are going through an extremely difficult time and probably using video games as a coping mechanism to meet their needs in a similar way that I did when I was a young adult.

Most important of all though is that the similarities between the elements of roleplaying games and vertical development are so uncannily similar, I felt I couldn’t ignore it because above all else, the metaphor helps package all of this complex knowledge into a simple narrative that most gamers will probably be able to understand and make sense of versus just communicating it directly in a less “digestible form.”

Although information overload is frequently discussed in the media—which help cause it—our dilemma is not that we receive too much information. We don’t receive anywhere near the quantity of data it takes to overload our neurons; our minds are capable of processing and analyzing many gigabits of data per second—a lot more data than any of today’s supercomputers can process and act on in real time. We feel flooded because we’re getting information unfiltered, unsorted, and unframed. We lack ways to select what’s important. The design task is to make information digestible, not to keep it out.

John Thackara, In The Bubble

By Nollind Whachell

From playing within imaginary worlds to imagining a world of play.

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