It's as old as anything you know. Probably the first social game you ever played. That's right I'm talking about "Role Playing."
What? You think that you're too cool to role play? Your DAD role played. Your GRAND-DAD role played.
Your Mom role played, and yes, even your Grand-Ma probably did a little roleplaying, as much as you'd like to believe that she didn't.
Role Playing is part of the human experience.
When I was a kid there was this thing called "The Action Figure".
The action figure was basically a doll for boys. But in the politically incorrect world of the 70's where women were only just then burning their bra's and shaking off the old "barefoot in the kitchen" schtick, it was still pretty uncool to refer to anything that a boy played with as a "doll" as only girls played with dolls.
So Barbie was an 11.5 inch plastic doll made to look like the mans version of every girls fantasy figure, (i.e. everything from Grace Kelly to Linda Evans, depending on when you were checking).
While G.I. Joe was a full 12 inches tall (cause boys dolls had to get that extra inch, even over Ken), and modeled after.....well.....who in the world knows? Some military dude (i.e. a man's version of a man).
Whatever the case thees dolls, both Barbie and G.I. Joe, and yes Ken too for those of you who liked to play with Ken, were pretty much instruments of imagination. Where Barbie came with a million and one different outfits, cars, houses, swimming pools, and even her own personal boy toy, G.I. Joe came with articulated movement, a jeep, guns, and who could ever forget the freaking "Kung-Fu Grip?!?"
Our parents would buy us these things and we'd sit around and play with them and make up stories and have them doing everything from skydiving out of windows to having pool parties over at barbies house. Once, me and my brothers even stormed a pool party over at my sisters Barbie house and tried to steal Barbie from Ken via our use of modern military weaponry and advanced tactical maneuvers.
Didn't really go over that well as Ken had a Vette and all, but we did try that. That is a 100% true story.
And all the while, while all of this was going on, there was never one single moment where where anyone felt stupid or out of place or called anyone any names or shunned anyone for just having fun.
Well.....sidebar on that last statement for a minute. There actually WERE times that those things would happen but the people who usually committed those kinds of acts were generally thought of as JERKS.
These jerks usually came in the form of hostile older siblings, neighborhood bullies, abusive parents, and other undesirable types that society back then generally frowned upon. But who cared what they thought anyway right? They weren't part of whatever was going on at that time in most people's childhood. They were just unnecessary and unwanted interruptions to an otherwise fun and entertaining experience.
Who knows why those kinds of people felt the need to rain on everyone else's parade? All we knew, as kids, was that we were having fun pretending to be things that we would never, ever, ever, probably get to be in real life. And that was kind of cool.
Fast forward to the 80's and video games. Sure, sure, I know they were around before then but it wasn't until the 80's that someone actually put one together that was graphically pleasing enough to allow a person to really sink into one and feel as though they were actually inside the world of the game.
I'll go for something like Defender.
Now Defender was no kind of graphical masterpiece in any way, shape, or form. But for the times it was a fast moving side scroller with just enough control and just enough action to really allow the player to get caught up in their ability to stay alive and kill all the aliens before their supply of ships ran out.
When you played Defender, if you played Defender. That Defender ship was YOUR Defender ship.
Sure, you didn't come into the arcade dressed like some kind of star fighter pilot or anything. And Defender didn't require you to act in any particular kind of way either. All it really required you to do was to stay alive while progressively harder and harder levels of aliens attempted to steal your stuff and/or kill you in the process.
None of that mattered though because that game was harsh and it was your ability, your own personal ability, to handle that harshness that set you apart from anyone else who played alongside you. Such was the case of many of the old stand-up arcade games.
It wasn't cowboys and Indians and it wasn't cops and robbers, G.I. Joe, Action Jackson, Evil Knievel, or Barbie either but it was still the basis of a story being told that you got to take a part in and, through your own personal decisions, decided the outcome of, and so when you got a high score you took that feeling with you away from that machine because it was special. It was something that YOU did that defined YOU.
It is now 2014. MMORPG's have been out now for some 15 - 20 years. We are coming up fast on a generation now that these games have been available to play by both children and adults together and yet it seems as though some of the best uses of these monumental tools for the same kind of roleplay that we have enjoyed for most of our lives are being put on the back burner in lieu of chasing after some invisible score that, unlike the games like Defender and Pac Man of old, these games do not provide.
So here's what happens.
You jump into a game that lets you look like this....
Or like this....
Or like this....
And with all of the landscapes that have been created, with all of the backstory that has been supplied, with all of the functionality that has been included, and all of the other people there are to play with, the best thing that you can come up with is.....
"Level 15 Sorc LF Grind Group! PST!!"
And god forbid that the person who responds to your call answers you in any kind of way that might possibly give you the hint that they are trying to be in any kind of character because then your very next thing is going to be something like....
"Level 15 Sorc LF Grind Group PST, No RP please!!!"
But wait, because this isn't finished. Because you will do this and do this and do this until you manage to level completely through whatever game you are playing just to become bored with that game and move on to another game where you will rinse and repeat until you finally bore yourself with the entire genre of games, and then you will come here to MMORPG.COM and post some sad-sack sucks to be me kind of post about how MMO's, which you now affectionately call them without ever having even asked their name, suck now days and how you "might just be burned out" or how "they don't make them like they used to", or how "the developers are catering to yadda, yadda, yadda, not you" or "insert your bitch here" when effectively, you have never actually even PLAYED an MMORPG in your LIFE.
You've played an MMOG and you've played an OG, you even may have played an MMOPG, but you have never once given any effort to playing the entire MMORPG game because somewhere along the line you got it confused with a game where your score actually counts.
And it really doesn't. It really, really, really doesn't.
The best MMORPG there ever was could, at its best, only offer you the ability to get to a place where everyone else was going to get to eventually.....first. So that's the big race. That's the big thing that all of these hundreds of thousands of people are logging on and spending precious life days, often to the exclusion of things that are far more important, working on. To get somewhere that we are all going to get to eventually, first.
In Defender there was a chance that the next person might not ever achieve your high score. Being good at Defender was a skill. There's no freaking skill at being good at an MMORPG. I'm going to repeat this one more time so that you can all hear and understand me.
WE are all going to get to the same place in the game eventually so racing there has little purpose other than to shorten your overall enjoyment of the experience of getting there.
It took me a couple of pretty solid years of playing before I realized this truth and you can pretty much go through my history of posts and see where I was burned out, where I complained, where I got on my high horse, and where I finally accepted the truth, that there is no score to these things and there are no "special" people playing them. There is only a big ole playground full of make believe tools where people can come and play make believe together.
In short. Unless you are taking advantage of the "playing with dolls/dress up/role playing function of these games all you are really doing is cheating yourself out of a good time and heading, full steam, towards a burn out of epic proportions.
The rules are fairly simple.
1. There will most likely always be someone who is better than you no matter how hard you try to be the best.
2. If you happen to be the person who is the best you will be all by yourself because there will be no one else at that top spot who can possibly understand all the sacrifices that it took for you to actually get to that position.
3. Personal satisfaction only lasts as long as you can maintain.
4. Once you stop playing, if you have spent all of your time trying to maintain, you are going to go into a depression because you are going to look back on all of those levels and all of that grinding and all of that time and say to yourself, "What the hell was I thinking?"
Meanwhile all of your friends and family who have spent that same amount of time doing constructive things with their time are going to be fixing up their new houses, spending the money from their new jobs, taking care of their new families, or going out with their new mates.
And even the people who played alongside you that entire time, those damned roleplayers who were never really worth much and who never could stop rerolling characters or could never make it to max level are still going to be playing and having fun because they will have used their MMORPG responsibly and will still have years of time left to enjoy it and the friends that they have made within it, along the way.
I mean at the end of the day what are we really doing here if not playing with dolls right? And who has ever won anything at playing with dolls?
In my understanding then, the proper way to function within these many, many, many, MANY different realms that we have to exist within is to pace yourself, socialize, make friends, try to touch people in a positive way (even if you have to touch them in a negative way to do so, because bad guys have a purpose in a make believe story just like everyone else) and most of all to figure out how to enjoy yourself without it always having to be some form of competition.
Don't get me wrong. To each his own. I understand kids and competition being a social thing and all. But if you are above 25 and still playing that kind of game you might want to consider that there is really not a lot of people left at that age who really care anymore.
So you may as well come hang out where the fun is. Read the lore, develop a personality and interact with people. You never know, you might find out that there is a whole nother way of enjoying these things that you never knew existed (and I don't mean ERP either, although if that's your thing........don't call me LOL).
My follow up to this post is going to be some simple tips on how to role play in an MMORPG without having to feel completely stupid. I hope that I've made some sense here and if I haven't, well, pay me no mind. I just write what I feel at the time.
See you in the games.