Learning to Write With Role Playing Games

If you've never played a role-playing game, they're a lot like interactive books, especially the non-talking games from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.  You play as the main characters and take them through the story.  Why are RPGs so great for writers? Because playing through a story is a fantastic way to learn how story structures and character development arcs works. 

My absolute favourite RPG of all time is 1997's Final Fantasy VII.  The story consumed me, the characters meant something to me and OH MY GOSH THE END OF DISK ONE WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? Talk about learning how to deliver an insane twist.


The characters really stand out in this game, and it's a good lesson for those of us with big casts.  There are nine playable characters and each one is has a detailed and intricate backstory leading them to where they are.  Everyone is fleshed out and no one feels like they are there to serve as a plot point or to fill empty space.

The dream team (Source)

Every character leaps out of the game as their own person. The characters grow, they learn from each other, they face up to personal demons and change for the better.  It proves large casts work so long as every character is unique and properly developed.

RPGs are also a really great way of learning how to crank up the tension.  In Final Fantasy VII, you start out trying to save the planet from an evil cooperation, which leads to travelling across the planet to stop the bad guy, only to discover the real problem is far worse than originally thought.  Each twist is perfectly placed, driving the story to its conclusion.

Subplots are always a huge part of RPGs.  Whether it's a character's backstory, a romance or world building history, the subplots always affect the main story.  In Final Fantasy VII, one subplot revolves around a love triangle.  Yeah.  Miss Cole, she who is dead inside, totally picked a team too.

World building is evident throughout. From the locations to the mythology, everything exists for a reason.  Exploring down to the tiniest detail is half the fun.

So, what do you think? Good writing tool? Any Final Fantasy VII fans among you, lovely followers?


...Time to dust off the old copy methinks!

Comments

  1. ANything with a good storyline can be useful. I play Freelancer a lot and you don;t get to find out much abnout the Order until half way through and what a reveal that is.

    The characters undergo changes and the sides keep changing. These kind of things are always worth a look for any writer, published or not.

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    1. Yup, and sometimes it's fun to interact with these characters as they change, rather than simply read about it.

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  2. FF7 was soo uh-mayzing! I think the cyberpunk setting really gave it such atmosphere.

    I think role-playing is good for creativity, especially if you're into collaborative storytelling/table top, where it can be all about the characters and their journeys.

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    1. Sooooo true. Midgar and the ShinRa building are such epic locations.

      I've RP'd in the past and always enjoyed it.

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  3. I've never gotten into RPGs...but I might get sucked in when I go to Indy later this year. I can definitely see how they'd be good inspiration, though. I'm always afraid that I'll just go off on a tangent and write my own twists for them anyway. :)

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    1. I haven't played any new ones but I love the old SNES and PlayStation games. Even if you don't play them, the music from them is brilliant to write with.

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  4. This is so true! RPG's are a great tool at what works and doesn't work when fleshing out characters. It gives you a chance to -be- the character, which I think is huge and a great feeling to try to incorporate in a novel.

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    1. Yes! It's a perfect way of showing just how deep characterisation can go.

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  5. I couldn't pick a team, I'll admit. I liked Aerith's determination, but she was too wimpy to me (although the scene where she dies is HEARTBREAKING and BEAUTIFUL and I still love her theme, and oh wait, I have the piano music to it because I AM A NERD), and I liked Tifa because she was strong and cool, but could never get a good enough feel for her personality beyond that.
    Yay for FF7! And YES, role playing taught me a lot about writing. ^_^

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