Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#1
I've been trying to put my finger on it for a while. Since Sword Art Online came out the idea of a story with game elements, and the Isekai genre have gained an enormous amount of traction.

Personally I could never get into either of the two. To me both seem like cheap ways to avoid writing traditional conflicts and plots. But, it seems that is a rather unpopular opinion.


My question is, why exactly are people so drawn to this type of story telling especially when most boil down to a ripoff of Sword Art albeit with a slight change or twist?

Maybe I've yet to find a good one in which I'd like to ask for recommendations. But really, I just want to know why people are so invested in the genre.

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#2

Isekai is essentially wish-fulfilment, the genre. Take a normal person with nerdy tendencies and throw them into a beautiful fantasy world filled with everything they love from videogames, including or especially the fanservice. Despite the worlds having access to incredible magic or technology, it's the one average nobody from our world that will save the world with their knowledge of our modern society/games/ fantasy tropes.
It's easy for readers to self-insert (which is why protagonists are often a bit nondescript), previous qualifications don't apply either, you can be the abominable loser or invincible god, in this world you're the Isekai protagonist. Let's be frank here, a lot of people aren't all that satisfied with their lives and the idea of starting over with all their knowledge is thus very alluring and relatable.

The ideal combination for Isekai is a LitRPG system. On one hand, it's something familiar that gamers will be immediately familiar with. At the same time, it's perfect for the release schedule of anime/web novels. Books have the luxury of having all content in one container. If you hint at the big bad coming to start a fire in chapter 3, 5 and 8 - you can be sure readers will still have that fresh on their mind in chapter 47 - it's usually been hours. Serials, on the other hand, will always struggle to maintain that information because there's a time period between two releases. A week? A month? Now chapter 3 is maybe half a year back - who is honestly going to remember what was going on then?
Enter LitRPG. It externalizes character and plot development into an easy to grasp table. Don't know where you last stopped reading/watching? Doesn't matter, look at the stat sheet and you're good to go. The character attacked a noble forty chapters ago? It's cool, they got an achievement for it - in their stat sheet. Did the character turn from jackass to noble hero? Check their alignment score. 
Found a new story you didn't read before and don't know whether you should? The stat sheet gets you ready to go. No more knowledge needed to enjoy a chapter and then perhaps go back and read it all.

So one is wish-fulfilment, the other is perfect for the way we consume certain types of content. It's especially predominant on RoyalRoad because this website came to be as a translation thing for one of the biggest LitRPGs.

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#3
Felias Wrote: Isekai is essentially wish-fulfilment, the genre.


Felias summed it up perfectly. That isn't to say there are not tremendously well written Isekai that aren't just wish fulfillment, but I would argue the vast majority is. To me, it falls in line with the standard harem stories. Few are particularly good, but sometimes that is what someone wants to read, something fun and easy to digest. And almost every writer will bring at least something new to the table. 


All that said, I am really interested as to what the next 'big' trend is going to be. 

My heart says mecha but my mind says otherwise. 

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#4
Isekai has already been popular for a very long time. Chronicles of Narnia, for example, is Isekai essentially. A lot of Children Literature are Isekai: Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Even Anime has this before it was "popular" like Spirited Away and A Brave Story. It even existed before animation. It just take a new "anime" flavor and is becoming mainstream; not that it wasn't mainstream before, it just enter the consciousness of Anime fans. It is not that it suddenly got traction. It was there and popular long before the term Isekai was invented.

LitRPG, at least the idea of games and video game based stories, are popular for a long time before Sword Art Online. Many would remember the 1980s Dungeons and Dragons TV series (which is also an Isekai). There are lots of stories that is based on Dungeons and Dragons. There was Dream Park novel. And I remember that there are those Choose Your Own Adventure Books that are essentially LitRPGs. Even in the early times of Video Games we have Video Game base Movies, comics and cartoons. Heck, there are Video Game based Anime long before SAO comes to the scene. SAO isn't even creative or unique in any way. What I mean is, there are lots of sub-genres that pave the path for LitRPG and LitRPG was popular long before SAO comes to be.

So, in a way, these genres, or at least their essence, are popular for a very long time. It is more of the genres becoming more mainstream. I blame internet for this. A lot of niche genre actually become really popular with the rise of the internet not just isekai and LitRPG. I mean, there is Creepy Pasta stories and Fan Fictions that boomed with the rise of the internet (not to mention other more unsavory things). It is not that these genres suddenly got traction and popular these days, it is just that Internet provides a way for these genres to reach people easily and fast.

I mean, before internet you have to buy a physical copy (books, tapes, comics) or watch TV to have access to them. For example, to enable people to read your fan fiction, you have to publish it yourself (in physical form) or send it to publishers who publishes fan fiction. It is just difficult in those early days for these kind of things to reach a wide audience, like what it can do now, and it took a long time for them to gain any form of momentum.

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#5
Isekai are popular, because the 'Fish out of water' premise is interesting, as proven by Gulliver's Travels in 17xx, Alice in the Wonderland in 18xx, John Carter of Mars in 19xx and SAO in 20xx.

Litrpg is there because people like games, therefore books about games carry an inbuilt interest to them. Besides, its an easy way to establish the rules and limits. And ways to overcome both.

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#6
For me, I would say its a lot like the dystopian phase. A few years ago we had a huge flurry of books like Hunger Games, and Divergent. I mean they were everywhere and they were huge. This is the same thing, its a somewhat new genre and people are diving into it. Itll die down a little bit and fade into every other genre but for now it is the popular thing to read and write. Cant blame them, its a fun idea, and you can carry it out so many different ways, but thats my theory as to why everyone is writing it. 

Ill just stick to writing fantasy and sci fi haha

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#7
Wrote: For me, I would say its a lot like the dystopian phase. A few years ago we had a huge flurry of books like Hunger Games, and Divergent. I mean they were everywhere and they were huge. This is the same thing, its a somewhat new genre and people are diving into it. It'll die down a little bit and fade into every other genre but for now, it is the popular thing to read and write. Can't blame them, its a fun idea, and you can carry it out so many different ways, but that's my theory as to why everyone is writing it. 

Ill just stick to writing fantasy and sci-fi haha


Gargh, don't remind me. That said, the dark romance phase was worse. Dystopian novels at least had some interesting social dynamics. I'm still recovering from editing knock-off supermodel vampire-werewolves and their adventures with overly submissive 'homely' girls. That was the one phase that made me question my tolerance for fiction of all kinds. Although if you are correct and this is indeed another phase, this one is special. Namely, all the previous phases were publishers chasing a trend but LitRPG is strongest in the self-publishing market. This might be the first phase not caused by board members and focus tests.

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#9
LitRPG is quantitative.  

In the real world you can struggle all your life and not have a clue if you achieved anything.  The joy of LitRPG is that all you have to do is say “Status” and you can see skill progression, comparable physical stats, you get xp points for actually doing something, and when you fnish a task you go up a level.  LitRPG takes all the existential guesswork out of life.

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#10
Felias Wrote: Isekai is essentially wish-fulfilment, the genre. Take a normal person with nerdy tendencies and throw them into a beautiful fantasy world filled with everything they love from videogames, including or especially the fanservice. Despite the worlds having access to incredible magic or technology, it's the one average nobody from our world that will save the world with their knowledge of our modern society/games/ fantasy tropes.
It's easy for readers to self-insert (which is why protagonists are often a bit nondescript), previous qualifications don't apply either, you can be the abominable loser or invincible god, in this world you're the Isekai protagonist. Let's be frank here, a lot of people aren't all that satisfied with their lives and the idea of starting over with all their knowledge is thus very alluring and relatable.

The ideal combination for Isekai is a LitRPG system. On one hand, it's something familiar that gamers will be immediately familiar with. At the same time, it's perfect for the release schedule of anime/web novels. Books have the luxury of having all content in one container. If you hint at the big bad coming to start a fire in chapter 3, 5 and 8 - you can be sure readers will still have that fresh on their mind in chapter 47 - it's usually been hours. Serials, on the other hand, will always struggle to maintain that information because there's a time period between two releases. A week? A month? Now chapter 3 is maybe half a year back - who is honestly going to remember what was going on then?
Enter LitRPG. It externalizes character and plot development into an easy to grasp table. Don't know where you last stopped reading/watching? Doesn't matter, look at the stat sheet and you're good to go. The character attacked a noble forty chapters ago? It's cool, they got an achievement for it - in their stat sheet. Did the character turn from jackass to noble hero? Check their alignment score. 
Found a new story you didn't read before and don't know whether you should? The stat sheet gets you ready to go. No more knowledge needed to enjoy a chapter and then perhaps go back and read it all.

So one is wish-fulfilment, the other is perfect for the way we consume certain types of content. It's especially predominant on RoyalRoad because this website came to be as a translation thing for one of the biggest LitRPGs.


I think this breaks down the two perfectly. 

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#11
  Here are my thoughts on the matter. For some time now, both Isekai and LITrpg have been considered, to put it bluntly, amateur genres. While there are many good stories that fall into the Isekai genre, there are far fewer that do so for LITrpg. Isekai has had many good stories, even if they weren't classified as Isekai at the time, such as some of the stories pointed out above (Narnia, AIW, etc etc.) Some people might have already made these points, but i'm bringing them up again. 
  
  So, here's what I think about each genre and why they appear to be popular. 
  
  
  Isekai: 

  
  One of the main reasons for Isekai's popularity is the element of escapism. Starting new in a different, bright new world. Lots of wonder and fantastical things. Leaving your old world and problems behind, starting on a new slate, preferably with awesome, OP powers and the harem you gain along the way. 
  
  Now, not all Isekai stories are written this way, heck, most of the higher-quality one aren't, but the majority are. Look at some of the other common tropes found in them. The MC almost always starts as a normal person, but when they're Isekai's, they're revealed to be the chosen one, given a divine quest, get some sort of ancient power. In short, they're special.
  
  Some points and pointers about all this. And several reasons why it's popular. 

  

  • A new world: Isekai offers a new world for people to explore. Unlike Earth, where we already know almost everything, Isekai worlds are unknown to us, bursting with the author's attempt at mysteries, fantastic creatures, people, and most of all, adventure. Compare that to Earth, where almost everyone lives in their own comfortable routine. Adventure, excitement, all that. And all those pesky laws and realism can be tossed out the window by the author to write a world where anything g can happen. 

  

  •  Special: Most Isekais, as I said above, make the MC special in one way or another. Every read an Isekai where the main character is just another person? No, most come to this new world armed with knowledge, divine blessings, ancient pacts and powers, magic swords, so on and so forth. This reaffirms their worth, showers the protagonist with attention from powerful and influential people, and generally makes the world revolve around then. Now, I don't mean to ridicule and deride the stories or emreaders, but since many Isekais are easy self-inserts, this gives readers what they secretly crave for themselves. 


  •   Wish fulfillment: This is simple, well known, and a good part of many Isekai stories. More doesn't need to be said. 

  
  
  
  LITrpgs:

  
  LITrpgs is another beast, however. In some cases, it's the same as Isekai, sharing reasons for popularity, such as the above-mentioned wish fulfillment and exploration, but on other fonts, it's reasons are entirely different. 

  

  • The numbers: This is one of the LITrpg genres biggest draws. Numbers in-story give the audience a very definitive way to measure growth/skills/power, so on and so forth, not all like the uncertainty of realize life, where hundreds of small factors can determine one person's advantage over another. Here, instead, the numbers make up for everything. And since it's a popular self-insert genre, well, you get where this is going. More often than not, the genre is about winning. 

  

  • About that: Yeah, we all like winning. But this genre takes this further. The majority of LITrpgs are about giving the MC a unique Class or Race and writing how they win at everything with that, being far better than anyone else. How they get titles and achievements first with gamer mentality, use secret tricks to kill powerful monsters and advance in front of the pack, etc etc. It focuses so heavily on this, on the numbers and less on the actual characters and storytelling that it doesn't have the memorable reads the Isekai genre has, or had. 

  
  
  This is just my take on this whole question, and I might be wrong. Take my three cents with a drop of salt, if you would. 
  
  Cheers, L. 

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#13

Danduil Wrote: Moving to resurrect this thread for a moment. I've actually decided to delve a bit into the Isekai / LitRPG space by writing my own and seeing exactly how much I can get away with. Thanks for all the comments, y'all have inspired this new story! I'll post it here once I have some finer details hashed out.

*thumbs up* Yeah let us know if you have any difficulty taking the game elements seriously when writing them in or figuring out how to put good conflict and plot together, those are the kind of questions people here probably have lots of good suggestions about. :)

Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#15
This is actually my first post. I stumbled onto Royal Road after someone mentioned that my story might fit in well here when I was in the Wattpad forums. It just so happens that the first forum post I come across is this one.

I've been working on my own litrpg for about 2 years now. I have one book done and two more in the same series in the works. Out of all the other genres I've worked with I'm finding I enjoy this one the most.

There is just something about the genre that you can really play with. You can make the book anything you want and it still be litrpg. You want some mystery? Toss in a murder and have your MC solve it. You want some futuristic sci fi stuff? Your MC stumbles upon a ruin where the ancient people were actually super advanced. There is a LOT you can play with in a lit rpg. There is very little that a litrpg can't become.

Other genres tend to cage you in. If you are writing mystery then it would be hard to have your MC go from dirty gritty city detective to future space explorer.

That's why I like the lit rpg genre. More room for creativity.

I really hope you get into your new work and just go nuts with it. The world is literately at your fingertips and I hope you enjoy it.


Re: Why are Isekai's and LitRPGs so popular?

#16
I ditto what everyone else has said and will add my own two cents on isekai based on why I like the genre. Very simply, it engages and stimulates the imagination for both the author and the reader. If the modern world isn't to our liking or missing out on desired or dreamed up elements, then as mentioned before, we can escape to another world that delights our imagination and senses. On the reader side, it's personally fun to explore the new worlds and see what others have dreamed up. On the writer side, it brings my imaginations to life. That's awesome and absolutely thrilling. Writers can mould their worlds and change the roots of that world down to every detail and canon. Even ones that combine modern world with fantasy is considered isekai imo. I just think of Harry Potter as example who doesn't do much in the human/muggle world after discovering Hogwarts. Engaging the imagination outside of the box of the "real world" is enjoyable and diverting.