An interesting read. Two points in the paper triggered me:
- Game or Story?
There are those who maintain that RPGs are games first and foremost: the gameplay elements are the most important factor in measuring player satisfaction, they maintain. But there are others who insist is it precisely the story that is told through RPGs that appeal to the players.
I haven't decided yet in which camp I fall. For the videogame RPGs, I'm definately more interested in seeing the story unfold than in endless (and, IMO, pointless) levelling up just to get through the next boss. However, in the end, it is 'just' a game. There is a sense of accomplishment in getting to the next story-bit/dungeon/cutscene, which is a sure sign of a game.
'Pen-and-paper' RPGs have more 'story' than videogame RPGs, but again they are games. I have game logs of the first RPG session I ever played, and it's just plain dull reading for those who weren't there. To the players, it evokes a certain emotion to read it all back: laughing about the ridiculously bad dice rolls, about the stupid pranks the little brother of the GM pulled, and things like that. Things like that add to the charm of RPGs, but it makes for lousy stories.
Greg Costikyan, who designs both pen-and-paper RPGs as well as video games, seems to agree: RPGs are first and foremost games.
- Immersion and investment
This is the same for both pen-and-paper RPGs and videogame RPGs: the player has a significant investment in the character. I hadn't considered that, because it's so obvious to me, but it is true: you invest time in both types of characters, and you want to protect that investment and see it grow.
So, back to girls and RPGs. There are significant parallels between pen-and-paper RPGs and videogame RPGs -- they're both games with a narrative, requiring a significant investment from the player. I don't know about you, but all the people I know who are fans of the Final Fantasy series are women. That must mean that they enjoy the game elements and value the narrative.
So could a Final Fantasy pen-and-paper RPG take in a large female crowd? The problem with such licensed properties is, as ever, inspiring the players to create a new narrative that isn't a direct derivative of the source material.
Take, for instance, the Buffy RPG. Sure, you can play as Buffy and the other characters from the TV series, but unless you have Joss Whedon as your gamemaster, it won't be 'just like the TV series'.