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The Roleplayer's Redoubt

Is there a really place for roleplaying in MMOs? What do roleplayers bring to the table? How can developers foster stronger roleplaying communities? How do traditional concepts fit into the realities of contemporary online roleplaying?

Author: OddjobXL

What Roleplaying Isn't

Posted by OddjobXL Tuesday February 24 2009 at 12:08PM
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Roleplaying isn't talking in a funny accent. 

Roleplaying isn't a way to pick up virtual chicks.

Roleplaying isn't acting or writing or any kind of high art form.

Roleplaying isn't sitting around in a tavern and chatting.

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Then what is roleplaying?  Roleplaying is getting into the head of a fictional character, from an often fictional setting, with a fictional biography and goals and a personality based on both his own past and the world he lives in and then expressing that persona to other players in the context of a game.

Granted, to one extent or another, all the common misconceptions about roleplaying I've listed above tend to come out in MMOs in particular.   In some games characters can talk with strange dialects or personal affectations though the myth of the Shakespearean speaking roleplayer is just a myth (outside of Ultima Online - unthank you, Lord British, for that crap).  Some of the best roleplayers are females and this can attract undesirable behavior, or roleplaying with ulterior motives, from cheesier male players.   There are a few very creative individuals who can act, and write, and express themselves with breathtaking talent in MMO RPdom but, by and large, roleplaying is a hobbyist's craft and, despite the vanity of some (usually not the most talented anyhow), the results are rarely entertaining for anyone but those involved - hence, not art.

Lastly, given how little content in most games creates interesting things for roleplayers to talk about they often gravitate to taverns and cantinas and social RP chat-lines for extended small talk rather than dramatic dialogues involving anything of consequence.

In the days to come, I hope to explore how real roleplaying works and examples of it in MMOs and from older tabletop and MUSH experiences.   I'll also visit the notion of the value of a roleplaying community to an MMO.  As we've seen from both SWG and Age of Conan the "unofficial" Roleplaying Servers, Starsider and Wiccana in fact, have risen to the top in terms of population.  Coincidence?

If there's anything else you'd like me to discuss feel free to comment here.