Yes, once again the “what is a CRPG” topic has raised its head. This time, Matt Barton over at Armchair Arcade is tackling the subject.

However, rather than try to define the CRPG exactly, he goes into what he calls “family resemblances”, qualities or features shared by games labeled CRPG. He lists twelve, although remarking more could be added.

Of course, not all games have all the features, but typically any one game will have several in common with any other. He carefully doesn’t say how many “qualities” a game should have before being labeled “CRPG”.

That’s a wise move, since if a game had only one or two “points in common”, would it be CRPG? For instance, if a game has a fantasy setting, along with puzzles, riddles, or mazes (two of his qualities), is it a CRPG? I don’t think so. That would be more an adventure game.

My feeling is, to be considered for CRPG status, it must at least have the first point on his list: some form of in-game character improvement. The alternate persona must have a means of becoming more competent over time.

Beyond that, the other eleven are all familiar to us from many games, and their inclusion can be considered part of the CRPG model. Several are also found in the typical shooter, but shooters lack the #1 requirement.

And, as usual, nothing is mentioned there about (ahem) ROLE-playing. The list is more about mechanics. We have debated the matter of roles before ( ROLE-playing? and ROLE-playing? Part 2), and this article doesn’t touch on that at all, except in the “contention” section. I found that rather disappointing.

Also, he loses focus at the end by introducing “key points of contention”. These are aspects of CRPGs about which players debate (argue) most often. That ought to have been in a separate post, to keep discussions from overlapping.

Nonetheless, he’s done a creditable job, and the article is worth reading. Check it out here:

What’s A CRPG at Armchair Arcade