There are a tons of games out there that call themselves or are classified as "RPG's". However, the gameplay varies wildly from one to another - with some seeming to have no more in common with each other than the fact that they've been classified as being in the same genre. Since games of a genre should have more in common with each other than not (adventure, sports, platformer, FPS, etc), "RPG" ends up seeming like more of a catch-all for any game that doesn't neatly fit into another category. Unlike any other genre, you really don't know exactly what you're getting into when you buy an RPG - which is why there are huge variations in opinion on whether individual ones are "good" or not and why, wholely apart from whether the game is fun or interesting. Everyone can agree on what an FPS or sports game consists of. When you talk about NHL 2005, the discussion is going to revolve around how close it is to real hockey, how it compares to other hockey games, what was fun about it or not, etc. Same with other genres. Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, for example, are at base the same, and the details that are added to that base are what seperates them and makes them into different games. There's a solid foundation from which you can compare and contrast them. The RPG genre, though, is like a Venn Diagram with many circles which barely intersect with each other - Game A might share a single feature with Game B, Game B might have something in common with Game C, but Games A and C might have nothing in common. There's not enough common ground to compare and contrast Fallout, Morrowind, Diablo, Deus Ex, Final Fantasy VII, Bard's Tale and Neverwinter Nights, for example, the same way you could compare and contrast NHL 2005 and ESPN 2005, or Doom 3/Far Cry/Half Life 2. Yet they are all in the same genres, respectively. So, after that long and boring intro, my question is: How do you personally define an RPG? What criteria do you use to determine whether a game is a better or worse RPG than another? What exactly qualifies/disqualifies a game as an RPG for you, if anything? For me, RPG is defined by where the term came from: "pen and paper" games. A computer game rpg is better or worse as it imitates a pen and paper rpg, which I consider to have a few key features: (1) A stat system. You control it, but the character in the game is not you. The stat system is there to let you know or define who your character is, what your character is or isn't capable of, what his abilities are. This should be reflected in a crpg - your reflexes and hand-eye coordination shouldn't effect your character in combat, for example, or else the stat system is useless. I'm not going to charm the pants off anyone in real life, and I certainly can't create a fireball out of thin air, but I can do both those things in games - or at least work towards doing those things. Similarly, if I make a character with an IQ of a dog then there are certain things I shouldn't be able to say, certain ideas I shouldn't be able to have my character come up with or enact. Summed up: There should be a system that seperates what you can do from what your character can do, and it should be consistent throughout the game. (2) The game world waits for you. You should be able to think about what action your character should take next, and have the time you need to make that decision. In pnp, the number of attacks my character can make isn't determined by how fast I can scream "Attack!" in the DM's face. In a crpg, it shouldn't be determined by how fast I can click a mouse. This should apply to everything in a crpg (with the exception of movement, which would be impractical). An rpg is different from a sport - it's about thinking, not action, and the game should reflect that. (3) Your actions should be limited only by the imagination of the game's creator and yourself. This is probably the one I consider the most important, and without a doubt the most difficult to translate into a video game. In pnp, you can do whatever you want, and the DM can improvise to accommodate your actions. Obviously a computer can't do this, so what it comes down to in a crpg is variety and options, since that's the closest a computer can get to the depth of possibility in pnp. If the only combat options you have in a game are to swing your sword or raise your shield, then it's a pretty poor RPG. Same if you only have two dialogue options, or worse no options besides clicking a button to move to the next line in a static conversation. The more variety and depth there is in what you can do within the game, the better an RPG it is. There are a few other things, but I think those are the main ones I personally use in comparing rpg's to each other. And yes,I know this topic has been done many times, but it's always interesting to hear what people have to say.