RPG is an acronym that gets thrown around a lot these days. From the beginning of the genre's popularity with the release of the first editions of Dungeons and Dragons to the 2023 release of Baldur's Gate 3, it's an acronym that has soaked its way into the gaming vocabulary more and more in recent times. While once the RPG conjured images of PC games with manuals so detailed they could serve as college textbooks, these days most games that introduce a built-in progression system fall somewhere under the nebulous label of games with "RPG elements".
It's become a difficult genre to lock down. While there are games like Baldur's Gate, Mass Effect, and the Witcher games that fall squarely into what most people would point at and describe RPGs, so too do many others. The Elder Scrolls games, Persona, Fire Emblem, and Pokemon are all games lumped into the RPG category that have shifted sharply from the genre's origins as a more open ended tabletop game into something with a larger focus on fixed narratives. A whole genre has spawned in the form of the JRPG: linear, story-focused adventures with leveling systems.
As one of those boring tabletop players who loves to roll a fistful of dice and scribble numbers on character sheets I can't help but feel that RPG has lost its meaning (which feels a whole lot like being an old man yelling at kids about how things were different back in my day). And while it's difficult to define an entire genre of video game, I've settled on this:
Any video game with a system of character and skill progression that allows for a consistent level of player impact on the narrative.
That personal definition is why, while I enjoy them, I don't consider most JRPGs to fall under that RPG flag. What about you guys? What are your standards for what is and isn't an RPG?