The One True Way to Roleplay, Online:
The One True Way to Roleplay, Online:
I havent played on a text MUD (or MUSH) since Ultima Online came out. I have spent a year and half or so in the world of Ultima Online. And then I played Baldurs Gate for a while. Right now Im in EverQuest and eagerly awaiting the release of Asherons Call, Heros Journey, Middle Earth and a persistent world massively multiplayer version of Freelancer (supposed to be out some six-months after the non-massively multiplayer version).
Theres just not enough free time in the day.
People in Multiplayer Online Games have some very strange ideas about roleplaying. And they got them from people who play roleplaying games. And from MUSHers. Weirdoes ruining the fun for everyone.
Heres the deal: People are not attracted to roleplaying games with the promise of being able to roleplay. People are attracted to roleplaying games with the promise of being able to pretend they have fantastic powers in a fantastic world.
Difficult to make the distinction, isnt it?
Let me put it this way:
True Role-Playing: Each character has a personality that is the characters personality. It doesnt even matter who plays the character. True Role Players could actually swap characters and the characters would behave the same as they did before being swapped.
What People Do: Pretend youre an elf. That's it. If Grumpy Players grumpy Dwarf is being played by Happy Player this week, then its going to be a happy Dwarf, instead. This is what non-roleplayers do, in any case. Non-gamers. If you could convince your Uncle Harvey to give RPGs a whirl then hes going to be Uncle Harvey the Elven Wizard.
What People Do is what people wanted to do in the first place. People go pick-up EverQuest or Asherons Call or Ultima Online - not to roleplay, but to pretend that they are, themselves, in a different world and with very different abilities. Joe the Banker is going to be Joe the Warrior.... but still Joe.
You might say, Fine. Thats still roleplaying. Its just a different kind of roleplaying. Like method-acting isnt the same as character-acting, but both are still acting.
The thing is, thousands and thousand of True Role Players will disagree with you. They will go so far as to Refuse To Play with the normal people. In EverQuest they petitioned the developers (and received) an RP-switch so that they could distinguish between people who roleplay and people who dont.
You type /roleplay and the game tells you, You are now roleplaying!
Its a riot.
Something else True Roleplayers do: They play evil people. Which means they do Evil Things. They do Evil Things to other True Roleplayers and the do Evil Things to Non-roleplayers. And the non-roleplayers, if they get a chance, ask, Just why are you being such an ass? They are told I am roleplaying!
True Roleplaying enters into the picture with a paper-n-pencil RPG because the GM must play the role of all the NPCs. And all the NPCs cannot be Uncle Harvey. Perhaps over the years every single person in your weekly group has GMd a game at some point, or maybe you even take turns. Sick of being Joe the Warrior, you want to try something new and be Someone Else the Warrior.
Thats fine. Heck, thats even normal. Thats also why only about 1 person in 10 that ever played a RPG in High School still plays RPGs. They wanted to pretend they were warriors, they didnt want to pretend they were Someone Else.
That's really what gets to me - more than the "method of roleplaying" is that attitude that it is the Only Right Way To Play. Driakos calls them RP-Nazis and explained it in a post to alt.games.everquest:
Or as we see in this humorous bit from suprachiasmatic nucleus, the attitude of the 'roleplayer' in the story:
Regardless, the game developers are trying to mass-market a game.
You cannot mass-market roleplaying. Normal people have zero desire to roleplay. Normal people do have some desire to pretend that they are superheros (be it a literal Superhero, a Wizard, a Mythical Warrior or a Vampire - whatever it is, I call it Superhero because I havent seen one yet in which you roleplay Bob the Accountant).
Computer Roleplaying Games do have mass-appeal. You can mass-market a CRPG. That is because CRPGs havent got anything to do with Roleplaying. They are called Computer Roleplaying Games because the players control characters with stats-n-skills. Actually Roleplaying - True Roleplaying or Otherwise - has nothing to do with it.
If you make a massively multiplayer online computer roleplaying game, then roleplaying still has nothing to do it.
Particularly the True Roleplayers version of it.
Now, in a face-to-face tabletop paper-n-pencil sort of RPG no one ever gave much thought to whether a comment was In Character (Lets go to town so I can buy a new sword) or Out Of Character (Lets order a pizza after this encounter). No one ever gave it much thought because it was Bloody Obvious.
But sometime, a long time ago, some True Roleplayers on a MUD somewhere decided that it was very important to clearly label Out-Of-Character remarks as Out-Of-Character remarks. Type OOC: before your comment so everyone knows it is Out-Of Character. OOC: Phone call, Ill be right back.
So as not to confuse anyone into thinking your Character is saying that.
You should even say, for example, OOC: The Stars just won the Stanley Cup! and if you dont put that OOC in there, then you have Broken Fiction by having your Character say something very Out-Of-Character.
Even though, yes, it is still Bloody Obvious that the statement was OOC.
Ive had people say OOC: Run!! And to this day I dont know why that is an OOC statement.
That Dont Break Fiction is big with the online True Roleplayers. Of course we broke fiction all the time around the kitchen table. We actually broke into Monty Python skits and scenes from Red Dwarf or The Princess Bride. It was of no consideration whatsoever, but it is So Important in online games that if you so much as whisper your Armor Class where a True Roleplayer can here you, you have Broken Fiction and Destroyed His Gaming Experience, unless you put OOC in front of it.
As if this werent peculiar enough, it gets worse: These True Roleplayers have completely forgotten that there is, or even can be, a difference between player-knowledge and character-knowledge.
When you power-up into roleplay-mode in EverQuest, it sets you to Anonymous - this prevents other people from seeing your characters race, class and location with a /WHO command.
And why? Well, because their character wouldnt know that.
But waitaminute... just who is typing /WHO in the first place? The character or the player?
The kicker is, the player needs to know this information in order to find people that he can adventure with - whether they are roleplaying or not. But in order to prevent the character from seeing information that the character wouldnt normally have, the player is also denied that information. And the player needs it.
But only for True Roleplayers - the very people that ought to best be able to distinguish between player-knowledge and character-knowledge to begin with. These are the ones forced to ask each other, What class and level are you?
Its just so sad.
Meanwhile, the online worlds themselves remain shallow and cartoonish to the point that one has to wonder why anyone would even bother trying to maintain fiction or stay in character in the first place.
Shallow how so? Well, lets take EverQuest. There are no old people and no children. Theres one farm that apparently feeds the entire world, although nothing ever grows there. Theres is a lady in one town that wishes for you to deliver a note to her sister in the mountains. Thousands of people have delivered the note, and yet she still wants you to deliver that note. If you dont deliver the note, or do, or deliver it twice, or give it to the wrong person... this makes no difference on anything. There is an escaped catman which you must find and kill, bringing back a stolen key to prove you killed him. I have killed that catman maybe fifty time, but hes still on the loose and every now and then, he still has that key. You can tell when you get close to town by all the corpses of new players strewn all over the place. They are out there bashing rats and snakes trying to level up so they can go to fight tougher critters.
In short, its absurd. But if you shout all right! I made level 10! then someone will shout back, Use the OOC channel you are RUINING the GAME for EVERYONE! because you broke fiction.
When people ask, Do you roleplay? I felt I had to answer with, That depends on your definition of roleplaying.
Ive been told that I dont roleplay and so I should just go play Quake, because By God This Is A Roleplaying Game.
But I gotta tell ya... Im sick of the debate. From now on I think Ill just say, No, I never roleplay because its a CRPG, and CRPGs dont have anything to do with roleplaying.
Now would you like you to meet my (In-Game) wife?