After telling a friend about the LitRPG genre, he asked me, “Why would anyone read a book about someone playing a game when they could just play a game themselves?” This friend was a pretty passionate gamer, for a while it was how he made his living, so I could understand why he would ask such a question. But when thinking of an answer I couldn’t give just one, as I was sure different LitRPG fans enjoyed reading it for different reasons.
Reasons I attempted to convince him of . . .
The first answer that came to mind was that gaming technology hadn’t reach the point that it could create games as realistic as those portrayed in many science fiction books or films. I thought this was a good argument, until my friend countered with the fact that the level of immersion a good game could create through its level of interaction and engagement far surpasses anything that a book could reach. Although I’m not sure I agreed with this, I obviously wasn’t going to convince him with this answer, so I tried another.
My second answer was that it was simply a modern manifestation of portal fantasy and that with fans of books like Chronicles of Narnia or Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, games were becoming the new doorways at the back of the wardrobe because it’s easier to relate to plot elements in a game than an entirely new fantasy world. Of course, this didn’t satisfy him either. He once again claimed that someone would get a better feeling of being in a different world with game elements by simply playing a game with those elements.
I was beginning to see a trend to his counter arguments. Whatever answers I used to defend LitRPG, he was just going claim playing a game was preferable. I then realized a key difference between games and almost every other medium. In order to play a game a player usually needs to be very active in their level of interaction with it, where with books you can be passive and just sit back with your own thoughts. So my next answer related to my love of watching game playthroughs online. Some people just like to game vicariously.
For some, the story is the most important part of a game. Even if the story elements they enjoy might be based on the game mechanics or world, it doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy the grind or puzzles one might have to go through to get to that story. I feel this is the reason many people might prefer to read LitRPG than play a game themselves, because, similar to watching playthroughs, we want to game vicariously and get lost in world similar to portal fiction, but in a way that surpasses the technology that gaming systems have today.
Using the different strokes for different folks argument seemed to sway my gamer friend a little, but because of his love for games, didn’t fully convince him of why reading LitRPG might be enjoyable. If you can think of other reasons why LitRPG may be preferable to playing games, I would love to hear them as well as my friend’s counter arguments to them. While on the subject, my LitRPG book has now been mentioned on two LitRPG websites LitRPG Reads, LitRPG, and I was also on the LitRPG Podcast if you’re interested in checking those websites out. They have an array of books that might start you on your own journey into the genre.