Yeah, why should I care? What’s it to me that Foozle is up to his usual dirty tricks? For that matter, the old lady who wants her dog back can go ask someone else. Why should I care about her at all?

In most RPGs, we play the “hero”, the good person. The Great Problem Solver to the world. Anyone at all can ask for our help, however trivial the task.

But c’mon, how much do we really care about these people and their little miseries? The one motivation we have is the reward: experience, gold, maybe a Neat Item.

How many of us would go around “helping out”, if we all received was a “thank you so much”? Side quests would go unaccepted if they didn’t have a payoff.

That’s what makes them so mechanical. We do them and move on. There’s little emotional involvement in most of those “jobs” (I refuse to call them “quests”).

And when you add in the usually-large number of these tasks, it’s hard to find a reason to care about any of them. Even the “main quest”, defeating the usual Foozle, becomes drab after awhile.

Sometimes designers try to make you feel involved with a backstory: maybe your family was wiped out by Foozle & Co. That’s not going to work too well. It’s fictional history, something that happened in the past, before the game starts.

So why get all upset over mom and dad being wasted so far back you can’t recall it? That’s terribly artificial. It’s hard to care about make-believe people you didn’t ever know.

I don’t feel a lot of involvement with RPGs these days. There are too many make-work tasks, for a bunch of forgettable NPCs, whose only purpose is to help you advance in the game.

Perhaps what we need is an RPG with one good story, where everything is related to the main line, with no little jobs on the side. Then maybe we’d get to know the NPCs better, and have a real reason for going after Foozle besides “save the world (yet again).

In the meantime, you with the missing butterknife, tell me: why should I care?