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Role playing games

by Archives January 25, 2006

ST. CATHARINE’S, ON. (CUP) – When most people think of games they think of hide and go seek, Monopoly, cards or computer games. Playing games has always been an important part of our culture. Whether it’s Hungry Hungry Hippo or Pogs, most people can remember games they loved and cherished.

One of the first games in recorded history is a Babylonian board game similar to checkers and chess played in 4000 B.C. Stone marbles and checkers were played in Egypt during 3000-2000 B.C.

In the year 969 playing cards became popular in Asia. In the year 1843 The Mansion of Happiness was the first board game to be sold in North America. In 1887 Thomas Edison combined his phonograph technology with the speaking doll invented by Johann Maelzel in 1820.

In 1931 Scrabble was invented, in 1936 Monopoly and in 1949 Lego. Mr. Potato Head, Hoola Hoops, Barbie Dolls, G.I. Joe’s, Hot Wheels were to follow. In 1972 a very important game was invented – the video game machine which featured a primitive form of paddleball.

Some people have never stopped playing games; in fact, many university students get together on a regular basis and play Role Playing Games (RPG).

The idea of RPGs was not marketed until 1973 when Dungeons and Dragons was invented by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, a game designed to create a whole new fantasy/adventure category of toys, which has now become a $259 million market.

Ryan Cvirik, a philosophy major at Brock, is one in several groups of people who get together on a regular basis and play RPG games or LARP (Live Action Role Playing) games.

“Currently I play a role playing game called Rifts, but also random card games to pass time before and in between classes,” said Cvirik.

Cvirik has been playing RPGs “on and off for maybe five years now,” he said.

Cvirik made RPGs sound quite simple.

“[The games entail] the creation of a character that is literally out of this world because it is in a fictional setting and the adopting of that character so that you can interact with other characters in the setting, usually under the guidance and mediation of someone who has the plot in mind, which makes it very fun,” he said.

Cvirik explained there are different sizes of groups for different games.

“In our Rifting group there are anywhere between 5 and 10 people, depending on who can make it, in another game I was involved in we could have up to 20 to 25 people all interacting, all at once, so it can be pretty crazy,” he said.

Cvirik said that in order for these games to function properly there is usually a main storyteller that directs the course of the game.

“Unfortunately not everyone gets the chance to play,” said Cvirik, “so there needs to be someone sitting on the sidelines making it fun for everyone else, and it can be fun for them too.”

Cvirik said that usually these stories are “made up on the spot.”

“Our storyteller or our Game Master, as he’s affectionally known, tells his stories the way he writes his essays, which is to say he comes up with them on the spot, but he has lots of prior knowledge to draw on,” he said.

Cvirik explained that the plots of these RPGs are “heavy into the quirks of mythology that have been adopted mainly for a gaming setting, like there’s the stereotypical dungeons spelunking where you’ll go into a place that’s extremely dangerous and come out with treasure, but when we’re feeling more creative, we’ll travel the globe, making friends with different cultures and just trying not kill each other on the way.”

He continued to explain what these games look like when they are being played.

“I haven’t done LARP in a while,” said Cvirik. “LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing, when you would actually pretend you were at a play and just be in character constantly. We use a ‘pen and paper system’ so we sit around, we usually crack jokes when it’s not our turn to speak. We try to stay in character but it doesn’t always work because the nights are long and everybody has to deal with the fact that they are not only interacting with the characters but with the players who are playing the characters. It’s just an amazing group dynamic.”

Cvirik tried to explain a current plot in one of his RPG games.

“This will sound a little strange coming out of context,” he said, “but at the moment, our gaming group has just arrived in Egypt, rather forcefully, because someone was kidnapped, and you know, when someone is kidnapped the first place you ought to look is Egypt right? So this is supposed to be Egypt in 2087, or something like that, and international relations have degraded a little bit so the natives aren’t too happy to see us.”

The characters in the games are the most unique and interesting aspects of RPGs.

“Some of our characters are stereotypical elves from a Tolken-esque story, but not all of them are,” said Cvirik. “For instance, one guy is a king of sorts but he’s not in his land so he doesn’t have any kind of great authority. He really dislikes the idea that he doesn’t get any respect and consequently has a lot of violent outbursts.”

“Another one is a weapon smith who thinks anything that is shiny is really cute and must be giggled at … ironically when it comes to battle this person is one of the better fighters in our group.”

“We have a plucky little girl who is apparently able to bite through solid metal without breaking a sweat … and a harpist who is a holistic medic who occasionally dissolves into the air, because, well you can do that when you’re just using your imagination.”

Cvirik said the group of gamers meet on a regular basis and that the RPG sessions can last anywhere from three to five hours.

Mike Pisiak is a Brock alumni who plays a completely different kind of RPG all together. This one involves video games and the internet and is called a MMORPG which stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.

“It’s a world in itself,” said Pisiak, “and you create a character, just like a pen and paper RPG.”

Pisiak explained that the basic point of these games is to do all of the “quests and missions to get your character to level up,” he said.

He also explained that MMORPG are renowned for being addictive.

“Because it takes a lot of time to build up a character and sometimes quests take hours and hours to play, so most of the time, you can’t just sit down for half an hour or an hour and play,” he said. “Plus there are guilds and teams in these games, so there’s an element of social interaction.”

Pisiak explained that many people play these games all at the same time and they all share a common connection.

“Tons of players are connected to whatever server you’re on,” he said. “In World of Warcraft (WoW) there are around 10,000 people on any given server during the day.”

Pisiak said that MMORPGs are worlds “where you can travel around and do a bunch of different things.”

Pisiak explained that the point of the games are to basically make your character more powerful.

“The more powerful you become, the more places you can go,” he said.

There are all sorts of people that build relationships with other people through these games.

“There are some people that start dating in real life after meeting in online games,” said Pisiak. “There are couples that play these games as well.”

In order to play these games, a gamer has to spend a considerable amount of money on a regular basis Pisiak said.

“It’s 60 bucks for the game itself and I think $20 a month for an account,” said Pisiak.

“Sony recently created a site for the sole purpose of auctioning off rare items from videogames. You buy the item, log into the game and they give the item to your character.”

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