Could I be (gasp) a roleplayer?

This post is my day 2 contribution to the 2015 Blaugust Initiative.


When I was writing yesterday’s post about how silliness annoys me in serious games, I was careful to disclaim breaking immersion as a reason for my annoyance. But as a new blogger, I boldly read the comments section, and against all probability, I was actually convinced to change my opinion.

Talarian explained in his comment:

In a world that potentially takes itself too seriously, it can be fun to step out of that and do something zany or wear something that sticks out to really set yourself apart from the setting. After all, at the end of the day you’re still playing a game, something that’s ostensibly supposed to be fun.

My immediate thought was, “But how can that be fun when it snaps me out of the frame of mind I had so carefully worked myself into in order to enjoy the game?” I believe at that very moment, a chorus of people roleplaying tiny angels must have sung a triumphant, resonant chord somewhere.

Roleplaying behavior often manifests at an early age. CC BY-ND Brian Leon on Flickr

Roleplaying behavior often manifests at an early age. CC BY-ND Brian Leon on Flickr

I really am immersing myself in these games. I’m making a real effort to believe in the worlds, characters, and stories the studio’s artists put in front of me. It’s important to me for these things to be consistent and harmonious. When they’re not, it’s just as jarring to me as when someone interrupts me in the middle of reading a good book.

Does this mean I’m a roleplayer? In the sense that we use this label to segregate (and self-segregate) ourselves into cliques, I don’t believe I am a roleplayer. Roleplayers are often rewarded with their very own designated servers, with special rules to protect their delicate sensibilities and their fragile little egos. (Note: I am an instigator, and that last sentence had better instigate something.) I actively avoid these servers, except for infrequent social occasions. I have more nonsense than sensibility in my blood, and my ego is rock solid.

But I can’t deny that when I sit down in front of a game, I’m playing a role. That role is “the player.” Just like when I pick up a book, I become “the reader.” Or “the viewer” when I watch a movie. It’s every artist’s goal to engage the audience, and hopefully minimize distractions in the presentation of the art.

Libraries provide a quiet environment for reading. Theaters provide a dark environment for viewing. Galleries provide an uncluttered environment for spectating. I think game studios should provide harmonious worlds for playing.

When studios don’t properly curate their artists’ work with harmonious game worlds, and instead intentionally build outrageous things into their games, it’s as distracting to me as a library that hands out air-horns to its patrons at the door.

What do you think? Would air-horns make libraries more fun? Did my mean words melt your special little roleplayer snowflake heart? Fight back in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Could I be (gasp) a roleplayer?

  1. I don’t roleplay in MMOs much anymore, given timezone differences and paucity of quality, but I still advocate the hobby, and it’s from that angle that I read (and much appreciated) this post.

    My gaming buddy is much like you – he doesn’t roleplay, but he does appreciate game lore and stories, and sometimes even discusses them with me. In that sense, I consider him a cut more discerning than those who treat MMOs as digital Skinner boxes. But there doesn’t need to be anything cliquish about it. Everybody plays for their own reasons, just like you playing basketball and he playing soccer – unless he comes running onto the court and kicking your ball away, there’s no call for hate.

    And I like the library analogy. But short of giving the playerbase (and individual players) the ability to define their own boundaries for zaniness – i.e. building themselves a soundproof room inside the library – there’s no way for devs to build zany stuff into serious worlds without it being used in ways immersion-minded players won’t appreciate. The catch-all solution thus far has been insular guild RP, which is effective, but yet so far short of the mark the pioneers envisioned.

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  2. I gave up on online roleplaying in these types of games mostly because of said clique-ish insularity. I realized that it was really hard to get even two or three people to have an agreed upon shared vision to have any sort of satisfying roleplay without stepping all over someone’s expectations, and worse, the design of the game itself doesn’t provide any useful tools for facilitating this sort of roleplay.

    I’m happy these days just roleplaying in my own head for that sense of immersion. I name and dress my alts in lore-appropriate fashion, I know vaguely their personalities and backstory, sometimes I imagine an in-character exchange between them and some NPCs (which are normally more lore-appropriate than PCs) and that’s all I basically need immersion-wise.

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  3. “Roleplayers are often rewarded with their very own designated servers, with special rules to protect their delicate sensibilities and their fragile little egos. ”

    Troll statement is trolling. Roleplayers have their own servers (in games where they do) for only two reasons:
    1. So they can find each other.
    2. So that the GMs have tools to deal with morons who are out to screw with roleplayers to inflate their own pathetic little egos.

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    • I apologize if that sentence offended you. I wrote it to illustrate the extreme extent to which labels like “roleplayer” can sometimes segregate us from each other.

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