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Trying the Waters: Role-Playing

World of Warcraft General Articles - By Adam Tingle on May 11, 2010

Trying the Waters: Role-Playing

Given the fact that you are perusing the pages of a website solely focused on the MMORPG genre, I will accept that you undoubtedly have a love of this addictive, opiate like, social life consuming, bone chillingly brilliant entertainment source. From World of Warcraft through to Eve Online, this is a genre that devours our free time with reckless abandon; its depth is our undoing, its many facets of game play- our mistress. My personal love affair with MMORPGs started with the game EverQuest at the turn of millennium; since then I have enjoyed the grind, the questing, the exploring, the player battling- I have joyously reveled at it all except for one element; an element in the very title of the genre; an element almost intrinsic to the experience: Role-playing.

Like many of my kin, I am a straight laced, stiff upper lipped, tea drinking and no nonsense English man. I scoff at the wonders of the Internet and sigh with resignation at those thespian sorts, I have no need for silly antics- it just doesn't wash with me. When it comes to approaching role-playing on the various MMORPGs I have frequented, I have shuffled away in embarrassment; when asked to discuss "the rumblings in the south" or the "dangers the Litch provides in Northrend" I simply spit on the metaphorical floor, mumble something about "not on my land" and wander away in an angry and anxious daze. I am an angst-filled, nervous and uncomfortable sort when I act normal; force me to take on the personality of an Elf and discuss my beginnings as a Druid and I would melt into the fabric of reality, screaming and proclaiming I am indeed the "Lizard Queen."

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Putting all of this aside however, recently I have been wondering about the element of the genre that is role-playing: the true gateway to immersion and virtual escapism. I often find myself bemoaning and grudgingly complaining how games of this generation no longer offer the devouring adventure that earlier titles offered; surely they do but just in another form? Maybe through a different medium of gaming approach? My once strong resolve to steer clear of such nonsense was beginning to thaw, maybe in the name of science I could dabble for a while? Report my findings and discuss debate and inquire with you, my audience.

In the name of journalism I decided to take up this task and see what it was all about; choosing World of Warcraft as the site of my experiment I spent some time crafting a character, advancing to level 7 and finally introducing myself to this new world. I was Trevorr the mage, perhaps I was a righteous sort who championed good deeds, maybe I was an evil cannibal who answered the calls of an imaginary goblin by the name of Kizzwazz; I hadn't decided yet but I was about to dip my toes into the role-playing waters and find out.

I sat in the Inn in Goldshire, possibly the most uncomfortable and awkward I have ever been; to the left of me was a bear dancing on a table requesting tips and adulation; to the right of me were four men mumbling about their evil deeds and scandalous plans. I was in an alien place. Where were the constant Chuck Norris jokes? The constant and infinite Duel requests? This wasn't the game I knew and here I was sat in the middle of my perceived madness, inviting conversation and trying to really get into the spirit of it all.

After sitting in the Inn for about half an hour soaking in the atmosphere I decided to approach the four evil doers and challenge them; feeling a little brave I decided on a course of taunting "you are not evil" I proclaimed "go away" came the response, I grew bolder "I am Trevor, minion of Kizzwazz the goblin, your so called evil antics are pitiful, watch me as I wreak destruction" at this cue I let off a firework in the inn, smirking in reality at what a virtual bastard I was; "Is this guy serious?" came the thoroughly unimpressed response, " I am totally for real Kalid" I replied in defiance, this was my mistake "Oh he's a loller, he said my name, go away loller" what followed was like a scene from the Wild West, I was ushered from the Inn by all, spat at and hated.

I think the biggest misconception about role-playing is that it is a little devil-may-care and random in inception. I had come to my character without an idea or clue what I was doing and simply going with the flow so to speak; to my ignorance many of the players who indulge in this element of gaming craft their characters, realize a story for themselves and take it quite seriously; and rightfully so; my first dozen interactions with people resulted in myself being titled a "loller" and one only there to poke fun at people simply enjoying what they are involved in. The last thing I wanted to do was tease the players as I admired the fact they could find the joy in something I could not allow myself to do through idiotic embarrassment and misplaced self awareness. I decided to try again but relocating to Stormwind City and its relative safety.

Although trying to take this all seriously, I had a tendency to lapse into the moronic and my voyeuristic study of role-playing was fading away into a ginger bearded man running around in his pants proclaiming to all that sexual adventure could be had in the Slaughtered Lamb Inn. I was seriously trying to partake in the game but in doing so I was hiding behind a cloak of humor and silliness, this was the only way I was going to ease my way into role-playing and to my surprise, I was actually enjoying myself and the various interactions I was receiving.

The one thing that had struck me in my time on the role-playing realm was how functional Stormwind City was everywhere else; the auction house and bank was the mechanical centre of proceedings and literally everything else was ignored until its purpose was fulfilled; now as I ventured through the city I found players sat around on usually desolate benches, dwarves fishing off of various jetties; once abandoned pubs filled and brimming with activity. Although in a sense this was all make-believe, I really appreciated just what the players here where achieving, the game had become more immersive than thought possible; people conversed and socialized, events took place at regular intervals; I was used to playing a game filled with thousands of players but with all social interaction cancelled down into a few "Heal Plz" and "Noob tank". This was enlightening to see.

I pressed on pushing the boundaries of my comfort as I came across a solitary figure sitting alone in an Inn at the centre of Stormwind. "Hello, I am Trevorr, Kizzwazz bless you" I nervously anticipated response, "Hello, who is Kizzwazz?" at last, my imagination was paying off "my goblin master, he is sat next to you" I was beginning to get into this now "Oh, I don't see anyone, thank you for talking to me, I have been so down since my father was murdered by the scourge" I was sensing that a friend could be made here, "That sounds awful, of course Kizzwazz ordered me to eat my father to obtain his power" this guy was cool, we were probably going to go dancing after a small chat, "that is awful! You're a monster! Why did you do that? Get away from me!" with that the man left, I was downtrodden, perhaps a cannibal psychopath wasn't the way to make friends, in any case I took down the man's name and decided that I would mail him with various snippets of my inner mental issues.

After my conversation of family regicide and feasting, I wandered down to the Cathedral of Light with devilish intent. Outside were a number of players, mainly Priest and Paladins and I decided upon my course of action; "Just how do we know the Light exist?" My human atheistic tendencies were puncturing through to WoW. What followed was muttered response of "What?" and a few demonstrative heals and buffs with the proviso that here is your proof. I would merely respond "human witchcraft and trickery" and watch the ensuing debate and chaos, people really get touchy when you question their virtual faith I can tell you. This interaction was ended with my proclamation "you are living a life of lie" and I ran away cackling to myself.

I progressed through the day in a similar manner, sometimes I would converse for a while, other times I would be ousted as a "loller' and chased away. To my surprise I was really enjoying playing, the sheer amount of interaction with others I had received had probably surpassed all that I had encountered of three years of playing World of Warcraft. There was a real friendliness to be obtained here and it reminded me of my beginnings playing EverQuest way back when. Everybody seemingly wanted to interact and the only rule was not to poke fun or be moronic. I felt like I had discovered something, overjoyed that the genre was not as lonely as I perceived to be of late.

I had only tasted a day's worth of roleplaying but I wished to progress and develop further my study of this element of gameplay; I wished to obtain a more serious view and lose my façade of idiotic ramblings. One more trip into the world of Trevorr was in order and I hope you will join me once more.

Adam Tingle / Freelancer for MMORPG.com, 360 Gamer Magazine, and Play Magazine.