We just had a question up about what made a game an RPG. The question was downvoted, and quickly deleted.

The question was also flagged and backed as opinion based. Which makes me wonder why this question would be opinion based.

"RPG" is a genre. Genres are used to clearly define the main mechanics/themes of the included titles, in all media. If it was opinion based, they wouldn't use it as a label to tell the potential viewers what category said media falls within.

RPG is a lot wider used within todays scope, but I feel it is easy to say "RPG games exhibit X and Y", while also pointing out that hardcore RPGs focus on this mechanic primarily, while "RPG based games" contain remnants.

I can not think of any other genre that would be met with the same reception. Can you define a racer? A platformer? An FPS?

Then why can't you define an RPG?

  • Not duplicate, but related to the same issue with League of Legends, which is being discussed here (meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/11332)
    – Oak
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 18:35
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    Here's the link for 10k+ The only close vote I see on that question is "too broad".
    – Sterno
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 18:49
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    I'm not going to write an entire answer, and if we want to do a meta about whether or not terminology should be on-topic, let's do it, but I'm getting sick of seeing all of the "this word means different things to different people, so it's primarily opinion-based and can't be answered" arguments. Yes, it can be answered. Gamer jargon doesn't need to have a single, ultimate definition to still be able to answer a question and give the asker a reasonable understanding of what the word means.
    – Sterno
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 18:59
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    That said, the RPG question shows an amazing lack of research effort and is worthy of downvotes. Downvotes were given, the question was self-deleted, and the system is working as intended.
    – Sterno
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:00
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    As the OP, I've just undeleted it.
    – John
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:28
  • @John It seems that you've deleted it again after you've undeleted it. Was that intended? Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 10:28
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    Yes, it was. It continued to fall. (close/down votes) @galacticninja
    – John
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:24
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    I think it's actually a fair concept for discussion, as the concept of "RPG" as a genre is becoming less and less clearly defined and we're seeing plenty of traditional RPG style mechanics appearing in non-rpg games. That being said, it would be better suited to a different format than our Q&A one. I haven't voted in any way on the question, but I think people are definitely being too harsh with close votes.
    – two bugs
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 16:00
  • Relevant video though: youtube.com/watch?v=uepAJ-rqJKA
    – Nelson
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 3:42
  • In a role playing game you do just that, leveling and customising your character, and their gear. Borderlands is considered a FPS RPG, because most shooters don't allow for free roam, leveling and customisation, its jump in a linear environment and kill! Even Destiny is an RPG, where as halo isn't and its easy to see why.
    – Daedric
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 6:54
  • How interesting and somewhat related gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/41947/…
    – Ryan
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 4:49
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    It stands for "rocket propelled grenade". That's pretty specific, silly people ;)
    – GarrettJ
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 23:17
  • anygame with character level system is RPG . . . even a roguelike game that reset character level every instance. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 6:34

2 Answers 2


It's opinion based, because "What is an RPG?" has always been opinion based. Other genres are well defined, a racing game? Everybody knows what a race is. A FPS? You play in first person and shoot.

RPG has never been so clearly defined. From its first days in the 70s, RPG players always land somewhere on the axis between "I care about the game mechanics and optimizing my character, I enjoy the game the most, when I play optimally and do what is best for me and my party" and "I care about playing my character, I enjoy embodying him/her and experiencing stories and adventures in his/her skin". Another axis is combat encounters vs dialogue and storytelling. The thing is, RPGs allow players of both camps and even wherever you sit in between to enjoy the game and as such despite these potentially radical differences in mindset there never developed a different terminology, after all whether you were powergamer or storyteller, you both played for example D&D.

This continues to this day and even many Computer RPGs can be affected by it. Take for example Witcher 3, you can be equally likely to enjoy it because of the combat and character levelling, the story, dialogue and decisions or any combination of the two.

An RPG is such a broad and versatile medium, that its definition will always remain nebulous and making it impossible to answer to the question "What is an RPG?", for one person Diablo may be an RPG, because it allows to level and equip your character, delve into game mechanics etc., another may laugh at the threadbare story and non-existant decision making and deny it is an RPG. For this person, Age of Decadence may be the perfect example of an RPG, a game, which you can play without ever entering a fight, a thought abhorrent to the first player.

What makes a game an RPG is different for every person, as such everybody has to form their own opinion about the matter.

  • your argument being "this may not be considered an RPG because it only has light RPG elements"? We are not talking about identifying games purely as an RPG. RPG has a very specific definition, and many games tailor to it to some degree. It doesn't mean that we need to use the other aspects of the game to define its RPG element.
    – user106385
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:18
  • @Timelord64 Huh? I've seen Halo classified as an RPG. No lie at all. What makes an RPG an RPG depends on your specific classification, and how pedantic you want to be about it. I would most definitely agree defining what makes an RPG, an RPG, as opinion-based. Besides, since when are we in the habit of bounding genres?
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 23:08
  • @Frank, any reference to Halo being classed as an RPG, or is it just some guy you heard on the bus? Maybe you should look up a genre. Genres are literally there to classify games
    – user106385
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 23:15
  • @Timelord64 Which is their purpose. Why are we being asked what makes it that? At best, all we're doing is regurgitating something from somewhere else. We're not actually bringing any expertise to the problem space. As for Halo, it was from a friend of mine. Managed to make it into the paper, too, but I can't seem to find the reference. Point is, a game is what you make of it.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 23:21
  • @Frank, what makes that different to any other question? We have upvoted questions that are direct copies of wikipedia pages. If your posting something that is correct, it is almost guaranteed to be up somewhere else. The idea that we would be regurgitating directly from another source just implys that you would have to do so to answer the question. There are many users on here who are more intelligent and more knowledgeable on the subject then yourself. "My mate said halo was an rpg once and he was in the paper" is in no way a stable argument. They put duds in the paper all the time.
    – user106385
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 23:32
  • @Timelord64 It is, however, a highlight of what we'll get. Crap. Utterly, and fully. The question is fundamentally unanswerable in any objective manner. There is no expertise at play here, nor is there any agreed upon definition.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 0:34
  • @Timelord64 Huh? My argument was "You can't define what an RPG is, because it has no specific definition, what makes an RPG is different for every person." Interesting how you point out, RPG HAS a very specific definition, yet don't even post it. Considering this and that you drew a completely wrong conclusion from my post, I somehow doubt any constructive discussion can occur here.
    – Dulkan
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 7:36
  • @Dulkan, if the question asks for pure definition, rpg defines the genre where the player takes control of pc (s) in an immersive world, where particular roles are played out. Derived from the true meaning of a "role playing game", which are 'tabletop/pen and paper' games, of which the most notable is dungeons and dragons.
    – user106385
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 8:47
  • Many games incorporate rpg elements, but are not considered pure rpgs, as these other elements incorporate alternate genres. These are often defined within alternate genres ( action rpg, japanese rpg, massive online rpg), or with rpg as a secondary element (call of duty would be defined as an fps with rpg element). The definition of rpg, itself, is very specific
    – user106385
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 8:50
  • Consider that genres are used for identifying the type of game to prospective players. Wpuld a developer really use "rpg", if it was a term each individual would have a differant interpretation of?
    – user106385
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 8:52
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    Your definition is so broad it can apply to virtually every game. In a FPS I slip into the role of soldier guy, where i play the role of shooting enemies. In a racing game i slip into the role of racer guy and play the role of doing races, etc. Additionally very many games today incorparate what is classically though of as an RPG-element (i.e. character progression), so much, that it doesn't really make sense anymore to point this out as an RPG-charcteristic.
    – Dulkan
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 9:16
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    You can market nearly everything as an RPG due to this. There is nothing stopping anybody from saying call of duty is an rpg, because it has character progression, you'll just see the vast majority will disagree. And that's where we are at again, personal opinion. A developer who thinks his game is an RPG will market it as an RPG, after all it fits his definition of RPG. When the majority disagrees, it'll soon lose its status as an RPG. Another element for labelling a game an RPG is precedence, there are thousands of CRPGs available, doing something similar equals it being an RPG.
    – Dulkan
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 9:23

[I VtC as opinion based]

Because RPG has many subcatagories that people are actually thinking of, when they say 'RPG'.

Aside from the very obviously different j-rpg and european/western rpgs (Skyrim vs final fantasy for example).

In reaction to your 'Can you define a FPS' question, can you define a FPS with RPG elements?

Now, do you think everyone who is asked the same question, will come up with the same description of such a game? Of course not, some will tell you RPG is about leveling up, making yourself stronger/better/etc and others will tell you the RPG elements is about how you're made to think like the character you play (literal role playing).

Lastly, you can define subgenres in the other genres too - a racing game can be a simulation or arcade type, but no one has asked us to define this. I don't think it's easy. 'A racing game is about getting from A -> B as fast as possible'.... I've just described a platformer which rewards you for going fast, such as super meat boy.

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    Just because there are sub genres doesn't mean there can't be a definition of the overall genre. The difference between j-RPGs and western RPGs for example would be part of the answer, or that RPG elements are often mixed into other genres as well. That doesn't mean you can't define what these RPG elements are. I don't think it's an opinion based question either, since it is possible to factually define the genre as a whole and what sets it apart from other genres.
    – Kodama
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:40
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    Your explanation of a racing game is flawed because it is so broad, not because it would be impossible to define a racer. If I say an RPG "has characters and monsters" then of course it's not a good description and could be a platformer as well but that doesn't mean it's not possible to define it accurately. Whether it's easy or not to answer a question shouldn't be a factor to close it imho.
    – Kodama
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:41
  • In my opinion, it could reasonably be narrowed to "getting a vehicle from point A to point B as fast as possible". Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 22:42
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    @DamianYerrick Sonic R and a handful of others disagree with you. As does any Olympic game has foot or swimming races, or winter games generally. (those were big in the 8 bit days) Skis might be vehicles, but skates aren't.
    – Dallium
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 9:09
  • And so I think my point rests ;). I see now it's a far harder decision to come to, and in future I'll just leave it to others to decide. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 14:10
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    Wait, so 5 people disagreed enough to downvote, but noe one has a better answer to give? You're saying "it's too subjective" - if someone can make a case for "not too subjective" shouldn't someone formulate that as an answer here?
    – Julix
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 1:52
  • Unless this answer wasn't getting at the "why"
    – Julix
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 2:17
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    I feel some of the points you've raised in this meta would actually make a half-decent answer to the question if expanded upon... i.e. the overall definition, the different subcategories and subgenres, how RPGs differ from around the world etc. It definitely doesn't sound 'opinion-based' as per the close reason...
    – Robotnik Mod
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 6:10
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    @julix My comments on the OP sum up everything I'd write in an answer. I didn't write an actual answer because the question is concerned with a hypothetical case of the question being closed as Primarily Opinion-Based, which has yet to even happen. Moreover, it should be up to the close voters (of which, again, there haven't been 5 yet) to argue their case that this particular terminology question, of which we have plenty of others, needs to be closed. I don't feel a particular need to argue that a question that hasn't even been closed yet should remain open.
    – Sterno
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 14:04

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