“What the hell is GameLit and LitRPG?” a history of GameLit

“What the hell is GameLit?”

This question comes up a lot as I poke around the internet and see new readers introduced to the term.

This is my (somewhat canned) definition that I put in the forewords of my books:

GameLit, a larger genre umbrella, is any fiction with game mechanics or that takes place in a game. RPG GameLit, or LitRPG is a subgenre of GameLit where stories include some sort of linear progression for characters that is significant to the plot of the story.

These types of stories have been extremely popular in Russia and other countries where they are called LitRPG. They’re just now making an impact in the West!

RPG GameLit/LitRPG is usually a funky mix of Fantasy and Sci Fi. The settings can vary, but what most GameLit novels have in common is a world that most gamers can immediately relate to.

What this actually means is that LitRPG and GameLit are both gamer fiction.  GameLit is stories influenced by or describing games other than sports.  LitRPG is the same, but with the focus on role playing games, with emphasis on linear advancement and improvement (like accumulating XP (experience) to buy new abilities).

I think this definition gets the job done–well, obviously, or I wouldn’t have written it.  However, the reason “LitRPG” may seem foreign to folks is because…well…it is.

The term was originally coined by Russian authors.

LitRPG is not an English acronym.  The term literally means, “Literature Role Playing Game,” or “Literary Role Playing Game.”  LitRPG includes stories that at least partially take place in a game, or the world has game-like mechanics, or a character utilizes game mechanics while doing things.  The subgenre is very experimental, and while some authors have tried cashing in on a crop of new readers, quite a few stories are extremely creative.  I happened upon LitRPG through my love of portal fiction, or Isekai…but this is the topic of another blog post. 🙂

As far as I know, nobody it quite sure who exactly coined the term “GameLit.” (Edit:  Justin Tigner apparently can take credit for coining the term)  The acronym was really only embraced in 2017, and mostly by smaller authors who had tried writing in LitRPG, or wanted to write in LitRPG and found the confines of reader expectations too rigid.  In my opinion, this small community had the right idea, but nobody involved had a the platform or experience necessary to get it off the ground.

When Aleron Kong attempted to trademark “LitRPG”…twice…and got a supplemental register, a number of authors became concerned.  I was one of them.   For a rundown of that whole fiasco, I will point everyone to a different blog that chronicled the entire shit show:   https://litrpgreviews.blog/2017/10/11/review-bombing-the-ethical-case/

If Aleron had succeeded in a legit TM and had leaned on folks who used LitRPG in their branding, it would have been ugly.  I got tired of the entire mess and decided to sidestep the controversy by doing what I’d been planning anyway; embracing GameLit.  I changed the name of a Facebook genre group with a few thousand people that I owned, at the time named “LitRPG Society” to, “GameLit Society.”  Since then, I have been a vocal supporter of the genre’s more accurate hierarchy.

As you can see, GameLit incorporates LitRPG as a more granular form of game-based literature, which includes “Lite” LitRPG (like Delvers LLC) and “Crunchy” LitRPG (Like Ascend Online).  Most forms of GameLit right now are LitRPG, but this is gradually changing as authors continue to experiment and readers explore new types of stories.

GameLit hadn’t gotten any traction at all before I got involved.  The small group of authors pushing for it suffered a lot of infighting, questionable decisions, and attrition.  Once I adopted the term, I threw the groups I’d cultivated behind it, and got some movement.  Other authors have helped out as well.  I think Matthew Sylvester was the first author in the West to use the term “GameLit” as a keyword for his stories on Amazon.

Unfortunately, a number of GameLit articles I’ve seen get some of the fundamental history wrong.  I don’t mind being excluded from these accounts for whatever reason, I just want the genre to grow.  Basically, I started writing in this genre because I love reading it so much…and now here we are. 🙂

For a list of the top 10 GameLit titles (by reader choice) in 2018, please check out https://blaise-corvin.com/the-top-gamelit-litrpg-titles-in-2018/




*Artwork is by my friend and fellow author, Outspan Foster*

Recent Comments

  • Ryan
    December 5, 2018 - 10:15 pm · Reply

    Interesting I always wondered why both terms exist and had a different definition of Gamelit in mind that never seemed to fit. I prefer stories that do not take place inside of a game. Not because I dislike crunchy stats but because very few authors write an interesting game. It’s always feels 2D or is heavily influenced by World of warcraft. I had hoped that Gamelit meant the story was about a game or virtual reality. While LitRPG would have been a fantasy or scifi story that has game elements (not in a game) however this made up definition doesnt fit the newer books. I wish I could more easily find the type of GameLit I like most. Books like DelversLLC, The Land, Hero of Thera, (Life in the North and Suffeciently Advanced Majic were good but the sequels… not so good). Books like these seem to be rare in the genre.

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