Observations of the LitRPG scene (and why we need better classifications and a neutral voice)

Discussion in 'All Things LitRPG' started by Windfall, Dec 22, 2017.

  1. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    I thought I'd offer some observations of the genre from an outsider's point of view. I'm not going to be an outsider much longer, because I'm going to start reading stuff, so I thought I'd better get this out now:

    1) Problems that naturally arise from being a small, niche community
    - A small number of opinion leaders have massive sway over the readership, creating cliques and unnecessary drama.
    - Everyone has some kind of stake in the game, authors and readers alike. Authors need to make a living off a relative small pool of readers. Readers are hungry for more stories, and feel the need to fanboy/fangirl their favorite authors and attack those who disagree. This is not specific to LitRPG, but since the community is rather small, this phenomenon can cause massive damage. Authors need to tread carefully, since they cannot afford to offend opinion leaders or any part of the readership, and this has created a rather uncomfortable egg-shell atmosphere.
    - Readers/fellow authors feel the need to support the genre, leading to heavily biased reviews on Amazon, and this turns away a lot of new 'outsider' readers since they cannot wade through all the stuff out there right now to find what they want. This also does not really help authors in the long run. If we want to compete with mainstream fantasy/sci-fi, we really need to push for real quality, and more importantly, we need to really better manage reader expectations (which leads to the next point)

    2) Distinct groups of 'newbies' to the genre

    a) Those coming from general fantasy/sci-fi (mostly more concerned about story than stats -- the 'lite' crowd -- some of these readers are actually offended by pages of stats and think it's a cheap way to bloat word count)
    b) Those coming from web novels (might be expecting certain elements: fast-paced action, numbers, power fantasy, harem, etc.)
    Readers often cannot clearly articulate personal preferences and the fact that the community lumps all 'LitRPG' together is not really helping new readers find authors they like. I've been hunting down reviews of all kinds of things, and I've found that quite a few people who came from, say, Ready Player One or Awaken Online are generally looking for something different than the 'usual LitRPG' (not that I'm very certain what that is) and once they've tried a few of the more popular titles they just give up on the genre.

    3) Lack of quality neutral (no-stakes) reviews and guides
    Apart from the brilliant and very thoughtful https://litrpgreviews.blog/ (which should be way more popular than it is, IMHO, because that's some quality content), I haven't come across anyone who can afford to be completely honest. This is no one's fault. The community is still so small and those who are dedicated enough to own/run a website usually are very much part of the community (and therefore cannot afford to offend, since they risk very dire consequences). I think what can be done is that there should be a platform to promote thoughtful well-written reader reviews as well as articles that talk about the genre as a whole, and not leave these scattered through forums and reddit. Maybe there really should be a non-biased guide on different 'types' of LitRPG and GameLit to help readers navigate the genre and find things they like. At the very least, a guide on 'crunchiness' will be helpful, since there are readers who go "This is a decent story but the pages and pages of stats are pointless and took me out of the story", as well as those who go "I don't see stats. This is not LitRPG!"

    4) Reaching non-gamer readers (through non-biased guides)
    We can attract a wider pool of readers by starting them off on 'lite' stuff to get them used to the concepts and jargon. New to the genre? Never played an MMORPG? No problem! Start with these few books, whose MCs are as new to the game as you are. I've seen standard fantasy readers getting completely turned off by the first page of LitRPG because they just simply can't understand what is going on. At the same time, hardcore LitRPG fans are sometimes annoyed by noob MCs, leading to unfair reviews just because of poorly-managed expectations.

    5) Reaching female/YA readers (through non-biased guides)
    I shouldn't be surprised that most LitRPG readers are male, but right now the genre's got a bit of a bad name for being unfriendly to female or young audiences. This is also not a LitRPG problem, but we should not have these things define LitRPG. Just like how video games shouldn't aim to only be associated with teenage boys, LitRPG shouldn't aim to be defined only by these labels, and there should really be better classifications to avoid offending potential readers and turning them off the whole genre.

    6) The rising trend
    More and more people are playing games, AI is a hot topic, the future of the genre looks great! The Ready Player One movie will attract a lot of potential readers (maybe even non-gamers), so I think we should have those guides ready by then to help ease people into the genre. And more people means a wider and more diverse readership and this will help ease the clique/drama problems in the long run.

    So, I think what we really need is a neutral voice to write these guides. I'm not sure how we can do it, since it can't be one of the authors and can't be anyone who has stakes in this currently-fragile genre.

    I'm sure you all already know this. Just wanted to say something before I binge-read LitRPGs over the holidays.
     
  2. CheshirePhoenix

    CheshirePhoenix Crazy Hermit on the Hill LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Editor Aspiring Writer

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    TL;DR: the internet is being the internet again.

    There is no such thing as a moderate on the internet. Every time someone espouses a moderate opinion, they’re almost immediately shouted down by two disagreeing parties (or more, see pc vs Sony vs Xbox vs handheld vs mobile vs people who just think games are fun), so moderates learn early that the only time they’re allowed to have an opinion is when they’re talking to themselves. Seriously, everything on the net is either the best thing ever or literally worse than hitler.

    This is because we’ve been conditioned to have extreme opinions on everything, and we’ve also been told that our opinions matter (more than others’ opinions in some cases). So people hold these extremist views, then along comes a moderate and that moderate is identified as The Other Side and immediately attacked.
     
  3. MrPotatoMan

    MrPotatoMan Level 13 (Assassin) Citizen

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    I think this is the genres biggest problem the combination of bad female characters and lack of YA makes the genre pretty unfriendly and will only get worse if it dosent get stopped. The other things will get fixed as time goes on but if the genre trends in this direction for too long it will get stuck
     
  4. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    This, I believe, is exactly everything that is wrong with the world right now. It's like we've devolved into prehistoric warring tribes.

    But this gives me hope:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/litrpg/comments/7l3q6a/litrpg_ambassador_program/

    Not sure who the people are, but if they are moderates then it's a good sign and exactly what we need. Or just more people like the guy doing the litRPG review blog -- he's wonderfully honest, and he's not an author, so rabid fans can't hurt him.

    Or maybe I'm missing something?
     
  5. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    At this point I can't say anything about female characters before I actually read some real books, but there must be 'clean' fluffy relatively harmless LitRPGs out there that can be recommended to the YA audience?
     
  6. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member LitRPG Author Shop Owner Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I had that idea here in the LitRPG Cave a while back -- LitRPG embassies could be set up on groups/forums and we could have ambassadors or what-not. Interesting idea...
     
  7. Dawn Chapman

    Dawn Chapman Level 11 (Thief) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Mine's been called 'chiclitrpg' so win win for me, it's not gory there's no sex, and we've a much younger YA set in the series planned. https://www.facebook.com/kanundra/posts/1684691824875070

    They all start with Desert Runner... and it's continuing to grow :)

    So yeah, it's had some reviews from Ramon he's the podcast over at - http://www.geekbytespodcast.com/lit-rpg-novels/ and his reviews can be pretty good :) though I think I'm defo not crunchy enough for him.
     
  8. Yuli Ban

    Yuli Ban Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    A lot of these sound like growing pains of a new genre. I'd imagine that, if grunge were happening right now, a lot of people would be talking about how "we need to make sure grunge doesn't become an insular scene where only four or five bands dominate the sound" coupled with "how do we reach new audiences?" and whatnot.
     
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  9. CheshirePhoenix

    CheshirePhoenix Crazy Hermit on the Hill LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Editor Aspiring Writer

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    As someone who lived in Washington State during the rise and height of the grunge movement, I can honestly say that I’m glad the movement has largely passed.
     
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  10. Yuli Ban

    Yuli Ban Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    In retrospect, I can't imagine why. I mean, if the movement were less hostile to metal at the time (which admittedly deserved a lot of its bad reputation for letting the hair-farmers get out of control), it would've been even better— back in 2011-2012 watching Metal Evolution, it was kinda hilarious listening all these very obviously metallic heavy rock bands say they had nothing to do with heavy metal because metal = hairspray and love ballads, while they were punk rock. And yeah, they were punk. But mixed with metal. Just not glam metal. I guess at the time: if you weren't glam, you were thrash, and if you weren't thrash, you weren't metal, so therefore they weren't metal?

    But now we're getting off topic.
     
  11. CheshirePhoenix

    CheshirePhoenix Crazy Hermit on the Hill LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Editor Aspiring Writer

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    That happens a lot around here. Getting off topic, I mean.
     
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  12. Gryphon

    Gryphon Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Clean, fluffy, and relatively harmless?
    Care to elaborate on what you define those three terms as? I don't mean to sound rude, but with so many different ideas and whatnot, we all have different standards of those.
     
  13. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Sounds really interesting! Wouldn't mind hearing more about this!

    Another recent post on reddit suggested that there are two kinds of LitRPG: world-based and story-based. The first is the real crunchy stuff, with more emphasis on the MMORPG feel (?) and the latter is more story-based, so the main emphasis is on the story and the 'world' isn't as fleshed out or important. Personally, I don't know if I agree with these categories, but I think it's good that someone has pointed out that there are different 'flavors'.


    Awesome! I will read your books :)
     
  14. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    For me it would be something I wouldn't have qualms about recommending to a mom who is trying to buy a book for her 12-year-old. Personally, I believe kids can handle much more 'mature' stuff at that age, but if something is to be labeled YA-friendly I think it needs to be quite 'safe' so as not to offend parents.

    So, I'd say: no sex, no nudity, no drugs; no explicit and unnecessary violence just for violence's sake; no MC spouting sexist, racist or homophobic stuff; mature topics presented in a responsible manner; issues that are relevant to young people (how to deal with love, friendship, loss, learning to take responsibility, learning that actions have consequences, value of hard work, how to not be an internet troll, etc.); overall 'moral' tone. I think the last bit is important.

    Speaking from experience, I feel that once I graduated from 'kids books', there was an age between 11-14 when I found it extremely difficult to find stories I could identify with. Most things were either just too simplistic and 'kiddy' or just went over my head. Since everybody plays games now, I think YA LitRPG should be a thing, and I think it has the potential to be huge. (Especially how LitRPG can get away with quite a lot of blood and violence, since it's "not real" -- so you can still do epic battles without the dilemma of actually having to murder thousands of real people, you can 'die' without actually dying, you can explore a lot of darker issues with a lesser degree of consequences -- hence why I said 'fluffy' and 'relatively harmless') Hopefully that makes sense?
     
  15. Viergacht

    Viergacht Thunderdragon LitRPG Author Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I'd like to read something like that, myself. Getting real tired of reading books by guys who've clearly barely interacted with a real woman and whose long-term relationship is probably an anime pillow. :p
     
  16. CheshirePhoenix

    CheshirePhoenix Crazy Hermit on the Hill LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Editor Aspiring Writer

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    YOU LEAVE MY WAIFU OUT OF THIS SIR OR I SHALL HAVE TO CALL UPON MY SECOND TO DELIVER YOU AN INVITATION TO A DUEL UPON THE GRASSY KNOLL!

    GOOD DAY, SIR.
     
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  17. Gryphon

    Gryphon Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Haha!
     
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  18. Gryphon

    Gryphon Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    It does. Honestly, I'd say Incipere meets the qualifications, but it's not quite ready yet.
     
  19. CheshirePhoenix

    CheshirePhoenix Crazy Hermit on the Hill LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Editor Aspiring Writer

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    I’d say it’s ready, myself. It was already 9000% better than most of the first time novels I’ve read, then after I got my hands on it it became 9001% ready.

    Perfection is the enemy of good enough.
     
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  20. Gryphon

    Gryphon Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    To HELL with good enough! It needs to be Gooder enough!
     
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