GameLit vs. The World

Discussion in 'GameLit' started by Yuli Ban, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. Yuli Ban

    Yuli Ban Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I saw this subforum created the other day and held off on adding anything to it until someone else did in case it was for some other purpose. Apparently not!

    I've been talking about the different of LitRPG and GameLit ever since I came here, despite the fact I've never even written a book of either variety (if you discount fanfiction). We have these two very similar genres and the debate now can be boiled down to:
    • What are they?
    • What are they not?
    • How are they alike?
    • How are they different?

    You know that phenomenon where you can clearly define something when you're in the core of it, but once you reach the borders the differences become fuzzy, debatable, and even negligible?
    To go back to heavy metal music, let's discuss the differences between three styles: straightforward heavy metal, thrash metal, and death metal. They're all sitting along a spectrum of speed, right? And you know when a band is heavy metal, when it's thrash metal, and when it's death metal. Clearly Dio isn't Slayer and Slayer isn't Morbid Angel. But it's when you start getting into the minutia between these genres that you run into problems. You're never gonna confuse a heavy metal band for a death metal one, but I can't count the times I've had people say that a band like Helloween or even Iron Maiden is "thrash metal". And the aforementioned Slayer alongside the likes of Kreator and Sodom have been called death metal by those unfamiliar with the style more times than you can count. It doesn't help that these bands have songs that greatly inspired the forthwith genres, to the point that some might even point to them and say "this is clearly a thrash metal song from Iron Maiden" or "this Sodom track is death metal without question". For bonus fun, let's throw in doom metal. You're never confusing doom for either thrash metal or death metal because it's metal that goes in the opposite speed direction, but the problem is that you can confuse doom metal for straightforward traditional heavy metal. Like, say, Pentagram or Saint Vitus— each considered to be the American Black Sabbath, and they have more than their fair share of high-tempo tracks. So why are they doom metal but Sabbath is "heavy metal with doom attributes?"

    It's the fuzzy borderlands that cause so many problems when defining these things. Usually, we create new terms, new genres, new subgenres, and sometimes they fall within the fuzzy borders. Like how heavy metal with thrash-esque speed but isn't thrash metal is "speed metal", or how doom metal that's heavy metal played slowly but not utterly depressive or stoned is "traditional doom". But all you've done is cut a Multiplier and have yet another fuzzy border! Usually it's called a niche. My beloved metal niche lies within traditional doom, called "Sabbathian Doom", which is metal and heavy rock played as closely to that of Black Sabbath and some of their purest acolytes (primarily Soundgarden and Witchfinder General) as possible. And yet even within that niche you could create more niches.


    Same thing here. Exact same thing.

    LitRPG is beholden to that term in its name— "RPG". It's literary stories essentially about gameplay. That's the focus of the story. That's why you're writing it. But you see, not everyone abides by that rules because some want their LitRPGs to have more of a story to go along with gameplay. And gameplay differs anyhow. It's possible to have gameplay that flows so seamlessly that the only way you notice it happening is due to stat boxes, like an Action-RPG. Other times, gameplay proceeds in a more strategic, turn-based manner (not the most common thing in LitRPG, I've seen, but I think that niche could use more stories).

    But here comes a new problem: what if you want to write a story that's focused on gameplay, but the game isn't an RPG?
    When I created Astral Falls, it was always meant to be in the style of an action JRPG, particularly one specific JRPG, The World Ends With You, and eventually several other branching games I thought had mechanics that'd also work with it. One of those being Mirror's Edge. And I love wide-open exploration thanks to being a child of the PS2 and, thus, the 3D GTA trilogy. My favorite is, to this day, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but a damn close second is San Andreas. And wait a second, wasn't San Andreas's big innovation for the open world game genre that it utilized RPG elements? Indeed, that was one reason why it's so beloved (or reviled, depending on the part of the fanbase you're talking to).

    So what happens if you write a LitRPG story that is essentially like you're playing San Andreas? Or any other game where RPG elements are used? To the point you all but make sure to keep things as video game-like as possible. Stat progression isn't much of a thing, but you're still improving them. You're still getting more items, more skills, unlocking new things, new areas, facing off against certain opponents, earning XP, etc., and it's all done in the realm of a video game. You follow video game logic and use video game mechanics. Even if it makes sense that being shot 500 times would leave you literal blood-cheese, as long as you give yourself time to find medkits or regenerate your health, you're just fine.

    Wouldn't that be LitRPG? Technically it shouldn't be since your characters aren't in an RPG. But it meets all the other requirements! You have to watch your HP; if you don't, you die and have to restart or respawn. You have to watch your inventory lest you want to run out of critical weaponry or items when the time comes. If you use something that has limited uses, it vanishes from reality after the last time you use it and you have to find more of that item if you want to use it again. But that's not LitRPG. So what gives?

    This is where GameLit comes into parlance. Except...

    What about those stories that are clearly inspired by video games, making casual usage of stats but not having "+9,999 XP" mean anything? Scott Pilgrim has to be the most famous one, but I've seen many argue that Ready Player One might as well be this too. I don't believe that too much for the latter, but I agree that the former would not make a good RPG if you didn't add anything to what was already stated.
    The RPG references are there, but if you took them out, you'd only hurt the aesthetics of the story; you wouldn't actually cripple the story itself.

    Stories inspired by video games sounds like a solid definition of GameLit, but so do stories that read like you're playing a video game but aren't explicitly RPGs (which would make them LitRPGs). If it's both, then that would be like saying doom metal and thrash metal sound the same. They're both under the same umbrella, but they're different things. Some would like to use GameLit to describe any story that involves video gaming (or, more accurately, utilizing or parodying video game mechanics). But then what do you use to describe stories that keep holy video game mechanics but aren't RPGs?

    What if I wanted to write a story that's basically a platformer put into words? Jumping across platforms, collecting coins, losing lives, working with a possibly untested physics engine, and 100% literature. Well surely that can't be LitRPG, but if GameLit only meant "any game-related story", what would it be? Do we create a new subgenre called LitPlat? For sandbox games, do we create LitSandbox? We might laugh at that notion now but the we of 5 years from now might say "how come we didn't see something so obvious?" Except as any music fan will tell you, getting bogged down in endless subgenre tags gets annoying fast. You're practically playing a game just trying to decipher the stories. LitLitRPG, there's a story concept for you.

    And we call it LitRPG, so does that discount other media? Remember back when Cartoon Network lost their friggin' mind, suffered dissociative disorder, and started making live-action shows? There was that decent one called Level Up that was pretty solidly LitRPG-lite by current definitions. Doesn't that count? And when the Scott Pilgrim movie actually had more of a video game feel to it than the comics since it skipped the slice of life dramedy bits. Wouldn't that one also count? Well excuuuuuuuuuu~uuuuse me! I can already hear some say. Some could argue that you can't do LitRPG in TV or movie form because you can't just stop the action to check stats and inventory. But the French are doing it relatively fine. Code Lyoko wasn't the most LitRPG thing out there, but perhaps you've not heard of Marcus Level, which is not the best thing ever (it's pretty obnoxious) but it's literally like watching someone play a video game.
    And what about gaming webcomics? For decades, they've been about simulating video game logic and mechanics in their storylines. Why wouldn't they be LitRPG or GameLit?

    See, it's that fuzzy border problem again. You can clearly notice when the color of the genre is at its brightest and purest, but when you're fading into the other colors, it gets harder to discern the differences.
     
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  2. James G Patton

    James G Patton Horrific Pun Master LitRPG Author Citizen

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    I partially see where you are going, but GameLit would be like Metal, nothing specific, where as LitRPG would be a flavor, like Doom Metal or Thrash Metal. We can agree both of those are Metal despite the differences right?

    GameLit is broad and loose, unlike a sub genre which would be more specific. LitRPG would still be GameLit because it involves game inspiration, but its own flavor.
     
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  3. Yuli Ban

    Yuli Ban Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    That goes back to what I was saying about how some view GameLit as basically being "LitRPG without the RPG" or "LitRPG-Lite".

    I suppose you could say that it is like Heavy Metal and heavy metal. Which is to say the overarching style and the specific subgenre.
     
  4. Dustin Tigner

    Dustin Tigner Level 11 (Thief) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    LitRPG started as a too-niche genre. As it grew, you had people try to expand what it covered, and other people try to keep the genre "pure".

    GameLit isn't a branch of LitRPG. It's a straightforward and open category of works. You have GameLit if gaming elements are essential to the plot. Super simple.

    If gaming elements do not affect the story in any way, then it's probably not GameLit. And if it's not GameLit, it's not LitRPG.

    To further confine this definition, we added: "Often includes features of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Science Fantasy." The keyword here is "often". This allows room for authors to be flexible, while also focusing on the genres we feel fit GameLit the best.

    LitRPG, on the other hand, can be debated for ages as to what counts and what doesn't. This is because people wanted it to be more than it was because there wasn't an appropriate other genre for the works.

    The LitRPG I've enjoyed the most are the ones that instill a desire to play an MMORPG. That is, until you realize that all current MMORPGs are junk compared to what they are in LitRPG novels. As a gamer, I want 'more' than what current games offer. And LitRPG fills that need without the grind.

    LitRPG is just a more specific GameLit story. It has expectations to fill. And if you don't fill those expectations, you get upset readers and the feared Not LitRPG label.

    In my opinion, GameLit isn't bringing about this fuzzy question of what is and what's not. That's entirely LitRPG. If your story revolves around gaming elements, it's GameLit. If it handles the expectations of LitRPG (whatever those may be), then it's LitRPG.

    And if numerous GameLit books wish to be about platforming, then they can call that sub-genre whatever they want. It's still GameLit. Genres exist for marketing and helping readers find the books they want. GameLit is just the umbrella term.

    If you are trying to identify the edge cases of what can fit in GameLit, try Hunger Games. There's some fuzzy for you. @James G Patton and I had a good time figuring that one out. ;) And in truth, I can see it as either or at this point.
     
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