What is LitRPG? A Definition

January 14, 2017

Great question! +5 xp for asking about the LitRPG definition. See what I did there? Adding an element of gaming to this post doesn’t make it LitRPG, but when you add game mechanics (especially stats, experience, and leveling) to science-fiction or fantasy, you get LitRPG books (shorthand for Literary-RPG or Literary Role-Playing-Games). Ready to learn more? Keep reading…

LitRPG Definition - What is LitRPG?

A Standard Definition of LitRPG

According to Magic Dome Books:

LitRPG is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy which describes the hero’s adventures within an online computer game. LitRPG books merge traditional book-style narration with elements of a gaming experience, describing various quests, achievements and other events typical of a video game.

Why would they know? They’re responsible for publishing a lot of the Russian LitRPG that has been translated to English. The history of LitRPG is also connected to Japanese light novels – both fiction and the anime based off the books. Confused? So were we, which is why we put together this post.

UPDATE: (1/16/17) We’ve heard back from Magic Dome Books and have a bit more information from them about the origins of LitRPG in Russia and elsewhere in the world.

Some experts track the origins of the genre as far back as the mid-1980s but its initial popularity indeed peaked with the arrival of The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor. Its first translations appeared in Russia around 2010, triggering a wave of fan fiction from new budding Russian authors who came up with a name for the new genre: LitRPG.

Three published authors became the founders of the genre in our country. I’m talking about D. Rus, V. Mahanenko and D. Mikhailov. All three originally contributed their series to Russia’s bestselling “LitRPG” project which is published by EKSMO, Russia’s biggest publishing house, since 2013.

The word “LitRPG” as the project’s title was suggested by the project’s producer Alex Bobl in a brainstorming session with V. Mahanenko and EKSMO’s science fiction editor-in-chief Dmitry Malkin. Later, other gifted Russian authors joined the project, such as M. Atamanov, A. Osadchuk and A. Livadny.

We will be conducting a more in-depth interview with them soon. Check the blog or sign-up for our newsletter to find out when it’s published. You can also visit the “What’s a good definition of LitRPG?” thread over at LitRPG Forum. Author Conor Kostick and others are discussing the topic.

History of LitRPG in the United States

Whether the father of LitRPG is Piers Anthony or Joel Rosenberg is up for debate, but “soft” LitRPG has been around for at least a couple decades if not more. Recently, as in the last few years, a new wave of American LitRPG written in English for a U.S. audience has hit.

Writers like…

  • Aleron Kong –
  • Travis Bagwell –
  • Blaise Corvin –

The second wave of LitRPG writers hit in January of 2017 with writers like…

  • Michael-Scott Earl
  • Jake Bible

…and others all publishing in the Lit-RPG genre in 2017 so far. Other authors have also been jumping aboard, including prolific writers like Michael Chatfield and others.

A Third Wave of LitRPG Authors?

This is a definite possibility with the Ready Player One movie coming out in 2018. Many current authors are looking into publishing Lit-RPG novels soon. A whole slew of newbie authors are also entering the ring to duke it out for the attention of readers.

Standard Definition of LitRPG?

This is definitely a difficult question. It depends on who you ask. As mentioned above, Conor Kostick recently started a thread titled What’s a good definition of LitRPG? Both authors and readers have weighed in on the discussion. It’s an interesting thread, for sure.

While they’re still hammering out the details, a more detailed definition of LitRPG is slowly emerging. One of the great things about this new sub-genre is that it’s still evolving. It’s also been around since before the term LitRPG was coined by three Russian writers.

Popular LitRPG Books 2017?

Again, this is a subjective question and depends on who you ask. Over at the LitRPG Forum, we have a running thread of LitRPG Recommendations. While you’re there, you can also check out the latest LitRPG releases – and easily sort them by release date.

With that said, here’s a few great LitRPG books to get you started if you’re brand new to the genre.

  • Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell –
  • Delvers LLC by Blaise Corvin –
  • The Land by Aleron Kong –

Best LitRPG Series?

This too depends on your opinion, but the popular LitRPG books mentioned above are all series. When you find one you love, you can look forward to devouring all that are available. A lot of series are ongoing and have frequent release schedules, like Emerilia by Michael Chatfield.

Gamification of LitRPG?

We’ve mentioned LitRPG Forum a few times now. Our sister-site offers a place for authors, fans, and readers to gather together and geek out on an old school forum. The site offers gamification features. For example, you earn virtual gold for posting and replying in threads.

You can also earn experience points, level up, buy and trade items, and much, much more. A recent popular thread discusses a formal LitRPG definition. The ideas and comments so far have been very useful in understanding more about the Lit-RPG genre.

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