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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

It's Just A Game

Posted by OddjobXL Wednesday March 4 2009 at 7:43AM
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This is a 'reprint' of a post I made to the Pirates of the Burning Sea board about a year ago. 

"It's just a game. Get over it, dude."

I've been thinking alot about this lately. Or at least a little bit. In the shower and on the drive to work today.

How many times have I heard that and it's pissed me off, as a roleplayer and someone who's into immersion, from somebody else that just didn't care? It seems on some level disrespectful to the artistry that's gone into the aesthetic realization of the world and the game's mechanical design. It's disrespectful to me as a player that wants to get lost in all this like a reader in a good book. I don't want to hear neighbors arguing in the halls of the apartment building, bad music blasting from downstairs, or discover crayon scribbling in the pages.

It all pulls me out of the experience I'm looking for when people have stupid names, taunt and mock each other like high-school bullies and seem to want to find the easiest way to "beat" the game rather than playing it as it seems to be intended. Or, perhaps more accurately, the way I want to believe it's intended. The last is almost certainly a holdover attitude from tabletop gaming where the most disdained players were rules lawyers and power-gamers that were far more focused on having min-maxed (minimum cost for maximum benefit = what today we'd call uber) characters rather than interesting ones. You'd get kicked right out of some games for flipping through the gamemaster's information or peering over his screen but in the MMO world you almost have to read up on everything to stay competative with the Joneses. There can be no surprises. Especially in the viciously unforgiving context of PvP gameplay but PvE raiding groups in WoW can be just as bad.

"It's just a game. Get over it, dude."

And how many times have I said this, to furious response, to a hardcore PvPer stridently forum-warrioring about some lack, real or imagined, in the gameplay - or just as frequently - in the community, when it fails to live up to his expectations. Or, perhaps more accurately, what he believes the game and the other players should be, and should do, or wants to believe they should be. It's certainly easier than actually dealing with his bill of complaints, it makes me sound mature and above-it-all, and serves the purpose of trivializing, even infantilizing, his position. It's almost never fair or a well considered response.

In some ways, neither the roleplayer or the hardcore PvPer really believes a game is just a game. They both have deep-seated, and passionately held, wants and desires from an experience. The roleplayer wants a game world "reality" he can grow close to and lose himself in. He's an escapist from mundanity. The hardcore PvPer wants a game that challenges him, personally, and validates his real-life skills but needs to emotionally distance himself from the "reality" of the fictional setting so losses and setbacks can be taken in stride without too much sting. Almost everything has to be treated as a joke. He's an escapist from the fantasy.

You have two escapees scrambling over the same prison wall but in opposite directions. No wonder there are such conflicts between them!

So who are the PvP-RPers? There are more here on Bonny than I've ever seen in one place in any game before. Maybe these are the guys who know it's not "just a game" in any sense and have moved well beyond the typical roleplayer aversion to reality intruding in their fantasy and instead spin a game's actual events into storylines that reinforce their fantasy. Maybe these are guys who don't mind taking one on the chin and dwelling on a loss or a shortcoming and turn it from an excuse for complaining into the kernal of a short story on a forum. It's not the end of the world or a joke. It's all content and it's all fodder for the story and part of the grand illusion.

Or maybe they're just nuts. There is that too. It's just a game after all.