What is the appeal of LitRPG?

Discussion in 'All Things LitRPG' started by Conor Kostick, Aug 29, 2018.

  1. Conor Kostick

    Conor Kostick Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I was recently interviewed at writing.ie and this excerpt from the feature is worth further exploration. Just what is the appeal of LitRPG? What do readers want and what would make us feel short-changed if it was missing?

    I was talking to fellow Sci-Fi author Oisin McGann about this and he asked a crucial question: what is it that readers of the genre enjoy? Naturally, like any read, you want an immersive world, engaging characters and a page-turning plot. But when future readers pick up a Level Up book, what, specifically, will they expect?

    Here, I think part of the answer lies in a weakness in online games as an art form. Some games are beautifully written (and as an aside, if Bob Dylan can get the Nobel Prize for literature, watch out for a game-writer winning it!), but their narratives are all pretty much distorted by the market. A company that has invested millions in attracting a massive user-base of subscribers does not want the story of their game to end. So they put arbitrary challenges that absorb hours and hours of game time in the way of players. And there’s never a fully satisfactory closure of story lines. The owners have to keep the game going.

    I think readers of LitRPG enjoy both the usual attractions of SciFi, plus the vicarious pleasure of seeing a character progress within a game world in a fashion that would take years of actual gameplay. And too, the enjoyment of ending a story with a proper aesthetic payoff. In short, if you buy a book branded LitRPG, you expect the online game to feature very strongly. I’m tempted to say, it’s a genre for gamers, because people who have invested a lot of time in playing online games will really appreciate this aspect of the books. But that’s too narrow because in the same way as you don’t have to be interested in a particular period of history to enjoy historical fiction set in that era, you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy a good book with a gaming premise.
     
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  2. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    I really like that bit about how online games lack a strong narrative (especially MMORPGs), so LitRPGs in a way sort of fulfill that need for a good story.

    I just posted on a reddit thread, but I'll post this here again: what I really want from LitRPGs is the dual nature of being both a player playing a game and a character in a game. I like there to be some meta-awareness where you're sorta walking the line between playing and being. Maybe that's why I gravitate towards low-stakes VR stories. I don't like permadeath. I don't like stakes that are too un-video-game-like.
     
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  3. Conor Kostick

    Conor Kostick Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I'm totally on that page too Windfall. I'm not too keen on permadeath stories. Books where the game is life itself I find less involving than ones where it matters how well you do in the game and I find myself enjoying both the overall plot and the challenges of getting ahead in the game.
     
  4. Jun

    Jun Level 13 (Assassin) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Answering this for LitRPG specific appeal, as opposed to just fantasy or any engaging story:

    For me it's nostalgia for playing games that I don't have the time to sink hours and hours and hours and hours into like I did when I was in my early 20s. It gives me an idealized game experience than merges with a love for fantasy novels.

    I mean, with a good author, I can spend 8-15 hours and experience the feel of an end game raid with awesome gear solid tactics, and guild community compared to months spent grinding dungeon after dungeon after dungeon in a real MMO to get the basic items required to join that kind of party.
     
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  5. Conor Kostick

    Conor Kostick Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    Yes, I hear that Jun. As an old EQ player I know just what a grind it can be to get a taste of the high end raid experience.
    [​IMG]
     
  6. Jun

    Jun Level 13 (Assassin) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    AS for feeling short changed.... a LitRPG (like any story) has to succeed in the "So what?" factor. There have to be some kind of stakes, so it doesn't end on the note of "Well that's X hours of my life that I'll never have again." The story has to be emotionally engaging, and a bit of meat beyond "Hey reader, watch me play an imaginary game."
     
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  7. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Talking about short-changed: I came to LitRPG for game-i-ness. It's surprisingly rare.

    My game-i-ness means:
    1) tell me the rules (preferably by demonstrating what these rules do)
    2) let me see the rules in use the 'normal way' to make sure I understand and remember the rules
    3) do the same with rules B, C, D
    4) now the stage is set... let's play! (characters make use of rules A, B, C, D in remarkable ways)
    5) me = happy
     
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  8. LeeGreg

    LeeGreg Level 7 (Cutpurse) Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I’ve been a fantasy reader since middle school which was many, many, many years ago. I remember Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time) gathering dust on my shelf because it was the biggest book I’d attempted at the time. I eventually read it and went on a binge. The thing about fantasy for me it’s always been about putting myself into those worlds.

    LitRPGs just make that easy since most are people from Earth playing a game usually set in an unrealistic but fun world. I’ve found them to be quick reads that satisfy my imagination.
     
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  9. Kidlike101

    Kidlike101 Level 17 (Theurgist) Citizen

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    Litrpg is a genre by gamers for gamers which is what attracts a reader to it.

    Not only do I as a gamer (all be it a filthy casual) like the genre that's based around my favorite pass time, it's also a bit of self indulgence as quite a few books of this genre are power trips.

    I think going broad however is a bad idea. Each series should market itself through branding, this authors do generally regardless of genre so why would it be different here.

    Example is the very successful Dungeon Born series. When I pick up a book from this series I expect two things. I expect the dungeon to progress to the next level of difficult, it does that every single time but how it goes about it is what makes me buy the book.

    The second thing is the interaction between the main characters that keeps things from getting dull and too technical. Everything else is just icing.

    An example from another genre is Stephen King. When I pick up his book I expect it to

    A. Point at something specific.
    B. Make that something scary.

    Again, everything else is icing, It's also why Sleeping Beauties was on my shit list last year. I was expecting something and never got it. Instead I just got a whole lot of icing and crappy commentary with the something scary peppered between the pages here and there, He didn't even bother to point at it just focused on filling you up with frosting... ew....


    I believe there is a shift in this genre from VR to it being high fantasy with gaming mechanics integrated into the story. All the successful mangas and animes over the past 2 years have been so. (is it wrong to try and pick up girls in a dungeon?) , (Konosuba), (No game no life) and (overlord) All have game mechanics in the world however the world is clearly high fantasy, you could even say the MC is filtering it through a gamers vision because that's what he's used to.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
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  10. Simon Fiasco

    Simon Fiasco Bringer of the Avocadopocalypse LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I've spent the last two decades playing MMORPGs, and the last three and a half playing tabletop RPGs and reading sci-fi and fantasy novels of all stripes, and I resonate pretty well with this statement. While some MMOs, like City of Heroes, weren't as much of a grind as others, putting it all into a well-crafted novel allows a certain amount of time-dilation, wherein you see a character rise through all the muck to a more heroic stature in 300-700 or so pages, rather than months or years of grinding levels, seeking out quests, and camping bosses for loot. Because we, as gamers, have shared this experience, we live vicariously through the eyes of the main character, living it all over again, only in a different world with different rules, creatures, and gear. In this, it is both recognizable and alien, which simultaneously allows us a dual sense of familiarity and newness.

    This. In spades.

    When I play an MMORPG, the only way I can enjoy the character is to get into their skin. If I'm playing World of Warcraft and my character is a female night elf Demon Hunter, I have to put myself in the shoes (or boots) of a female night elf Demon Hunter. As a result, I invest myself in the character, make her story my own. Even if the game's narrative never ends, the character's story forms in my own head, and it becomes a slice-of-life story for me.

    Sometimes it becomes more.

    I led a successful roleplaying supergroup in City of Heroes, a game with a weaker overall narrative than many. This provided an amazing opportunity to create stronger narratives for individual characters (and groups, as well), and the developers encouraged it by adding in a system that allowed players to design and share custom missions. One of my characters went through an amazing story arc, from his first appearance in Paragon City to his death in the Yellowstone Caldera while fighting an evil clone of himself.

    Nothing about his story had anything to do with the game's narrative, but because I had the freedom to create my character's story and build on it, he became something more than just another character in a game.

    LitRPG, as a genre, does this for the writer, and by extension, for the reader.
     
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  11. Conor Kostick

    Conor Kostick Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    This is great everyone and very useful too. I know from experience that I can't satisfy everyone with the focus of my books, but if I satisfy those, like myself, who want the gaming hit at the same time as being entertained by a wider plot that doesn't stretch credulity too far, then it will be a job well done.

    My current W-i-P has more attention paid to the low levels of the game than I've written before. Yet I find that I look forward to going back to writing it with the same sense of anticipation of pleasure as I get from logging into a game. This is different to when I'm writing a non-LitRPG book and definitely different to when I write history. I just hope it doesn't make the reader impatient for the main plot to advance...
     
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