There is an immense community of video game designers that, over the last 10 years, have worked towards furthering video games as an artistic medium. While some of this progress relates directly to the rise of the video game industry, this progress is also the result of artists and designers making a conscious choice to consider video games as an artistic medium.
Despite the relative age of the medium, these efforts have made the argument of video games as art a serious academic discussion. Museums across the United States now consider the value of video game exhibits. Even Roger Ebert has taken up the discussion, lending credence to the debate despite his own conclusion that art cannot be won. While there is significant overlap between the design factors involved in video games and tabletop roleplaying games, efforts to further tabletop roleplaying games as a medium are virtually nonexistent.
How have video game designers made progress furthering videogames as an artistic medium? Here are 2 approaches that may serve as a guidepost for the future of tabletop roleplaying games as a medium.
Tell Different Stories
Designers of video games who want to reach a wider audience have made significant gains by following in the footsteps of comic book creators. In the same way that graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis have transcended the idea that comics and the superhero genre are the same (comic books are not a genre), releasing video games outside of typical genres like Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Phoenix Wright, and Dance, Dance, Revolution has increased the breadth of the video game audience.
Experiment with the Medium
While hardware limitations have always served as a catalyst for creativity in video game design, it has rarely served as the source for major innovation. Instead it has been the role of indie game studios, often on limited budgets, to create innovative game structures. Major studios may occasionally break new ground, as Lucas Arts did with its noir-comedy Grim Fandango, but for each example of innovation from a major studio, there are a dozen indie examples. Developers, thatgamecompany, are perhaps the most well-known, having released the highly experimental Flower and Journey.
Tabletop roleplaying games are a medium that has a significant amount in common with video games. Yet the community of video game designers working to further their medium has no equivalent in tabletop roleplaying games. This isn’t to say that there are none, only that those treating tabletop RPG design as an artform are limited.
These series of posts will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. The first article in the series can be found here: Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect” Our next instalment will take at tabletop roleplaying games that blur lines between simple game and artwork.