Fiona S. Schönberg holds a BA in Film & English Literature Studies, an MA in Mediendramaturgie (Media Dramaturgy). She is a novelist, script writer and (narrative) game designer from Germany, as well as a PhD candidate at Regensburg University and an associated researcher for Regensburg University’s Digital Area Studies Lab.
Life is Cheap – The Cycle of Profit, Investment and (Self) Improvement in Roleplaying Games
FROG 2023 – Talk
Whether it’s Septims or Eurodollars, Nuyen, Bottlecaps, some flavour of Galactic Credit or the ever ubiquitous gold and silver pieces – most roleplaying games, both digital and analogue, feature some form of diegetic currency.
When observing what these games actually permit the players to spend that money on however, a common trend emerges. Even though a wide range of these games feature mechanics to spend money on food, housing, and a number of leisure or luxury items and activities, and even though the accumulation of wealth is presented as an actual diegetic goal in many such games, the vast majority of opportunities to spend money (both in number and quantity) are focused on improving the mechanical efficiency of the player avatar to perform whatever (usually violent mercenary) work they do to earn money to begin with.
This talk will explore the procedural rhetoric of this loop. The loop of all but (mechanically) guaranteed profit, generating money as a diegetic currency of mechanical progression, and specifically how the progression of profit to invest into greater (combat) efficiency, in turn leading to greater profits, closely mirrors capitalist libertarian theories of individual economic progression but eschews the many pitfalls that such theories chafe against outside the realm of gamified fiction.