Roguelike: Masterful Existentialism and Absurdism in an Improv RPG

Krow
4 min readFeb 12, 2018

Hyper RPG’s new show Roguelike has finally gotten off the ground with official episodes playing and the commercial for the show finally airing. It is amazing watching this strange Improv RPG grow into a series with its own metanarrative.

Roguelike the show is based around the subgenre Roguelike where players play through procedurally generated game levels [dungeon crawls] using a bunch of stats and attributes to complete the levels. It’s a simple concept really with one aspect of the game highlighted in the usage of permanent death (Perma Death) And Roguelike the show takes that concept and adds tabletop and Improv elements under the guise of a “Clinical Trials” to create the perfect show.

That “Subjects” are made up of different cast members of Hyper RPG who bring in their own sense of style, flair, and even outlandish antics from other shows that previously aired on Hyper. It is the players’ job to act out a role given to them by the audience and they win by completing the hidden agenda given to them. If you think shows like Wild Out and Whose Line Is it Anyways? was crazy, you haven’t seen anything yet.

So what is Dungeon Incorporated?

You, yes you, are an analyst and it is your job to help extract data from the Subjects as you help throw different scenarios, character ideas, strengths, fears, weaknesses, and even hidden agendas that the Subject has to complete. Your tips and contributions can influence the show within the GM’s discretion. That’s the simple answer to who you are, but what about what you are watching.

Dungeon Incorporated is currently running clinical trials for its Roguelike Program. The company’s goal is to gather data. That data is used to create the perfect Roleplaying experience. With the analyst help, they will use that data from the subjects “creative reactions” from the simulations. It is the volunteering subject’s job to take their medications and act accordingly with the Roguelike programs guidelines.

Dungeon Incorporated if you’ve listened closely to the commercial and watched the show isn’t a regular company. In fact they aren’t testing for the perfect Roleplaying experience. Instead they are testing mental manipulation and mental stimulation under extreme conditions. The data they are collecting are on brain wave patterns, the effects of new psychedelic drugs, and the effects virtual reality. The subjects themselves aren’t volunteers but made to think otherwise. At least that’s as much information we can pull from.

The Roguelike Program is a metaphor of our fear of our current reality. Does any of this matter? Are we doing any of our actions voluntarily? Are our actions being controlled by a force that we cannot see? When we are given control do we become mad with power and possibly cheat the system? Has technology made us…a little mad? And when stripped of our agency can we even call ourselves human?

The show asks all these questions but doesn’t give us an answer. And the show does this without anyone realizing it.

So what’s so amazing about Roguelike?

Roguelike pulls in some amazing talent in Improv. The entire cast and special guests put a different spin on playing a game within a game while adapting to the wild scenarios thrown at them. Each of them have an understanding of the complex components that go into comedy such as timing, approach, and even voice/diction. Not only that, the show utilizes the amazing talent of Zac Eubank and his special use of dark comedy and horror elements. He understands how to weave the absurd in a way that it is coherent to the audience as to what they are watching but also is able to through them and the cast for a loop.

Roguelike is a show dripping in crazy. It’s an experience that can only be watched live. No seriously, you will only be able to understand what I’m talking about by watching it live. Every episode is packed with hints as to what is happening but if you’re not paying attention it will pass you by. And like the subjects you’ll be lost in the system.

Also remember to take your medicine…voluntarily of course.

--

--

Krow

I am a writer, game dev, and appreciator of Pop Culture and the Occult.