Roleplaying in MMO’s: Something Just for Freaks, or Is It for All Geeks?
I may have been in the Army, and I may not have a neckbeard, and I may also be a relatively fit person, but at the heart of my being, I’m an unapologetic nerd. This nerddom materializes in various ways; one of them being me getting annoyed at other players in MMORPGs when their names don’t fit the established lore of the universe that we play in. Yes, I’m looking at you, [FANG]xX=Shadowhunter23=Xx. Players who DO adhere to lore conventions are few and far between. But even rarer are players who are not only lore-compliant, but additionally immerse themselves in the game by playing as the character they’re representing rather than their real selves.
These people are roleplayers, and they come in all forms and shapes. There’s the admittedly cringey m’lady type roleplayer, who is nothing but a cookie-cutter paladin Straight Outta Tolkien. There’s the E-RP (erotic roleplay) type, who congregate in dark places to make their characters participate in sometimes more, sometimes less bizarre sexual situations. And they’re all men. If you see two lesbian characters making out by the beach, you can bet your life savings that these are two men pretending to be women playing those characters. A double charade, so to say.
This is Goldshire in World of Warcraft. This is also very likely an orgy. Enter at your own risk.
But I digress! The aforementioned roleplayer archetypes are a big reason why so many gamers look down upon roleplayers as a whole. Without trying to pass judgment on either E-RPers or m’ladies, there IS a wholly different bunch of people out there, who are merely trying to truly delve into the games that game developers have created for us. For these people, it is a strange notion NOT to play as the character that you’re representing in the game world. The question whether or not one should immerse oneself this way doesn’t come up in single-player games. The narrative structure of single-player games ‘forces’ the player to become immersed by giving them no option to break the fourth wall. Your Commander Shepard can’t go ‘LOLOLO UR MOM’ when talking to a Krogan, and Link can’t talk about the latest football results with the inhabitants of the villages he’s visiting.
Roleplayers like this–and I dare say that this type is the most encountered one–simply take it upon themselves to import the narrative and immersion inherent to single-player games into a multiplayer environment. They talk like their character in the world, give their character a backstory, and behave not like an achievement-greedy gamer, but rather like an organic insertion into the game world.
Wildstar offered players wonderful ways of decorating their houses, which made the game’s RP community thrive.
I for one think that’s to be commended, not mocked. How much escapism is a MMORPG really if you are constantly reminded that you’re still in the real world, rather than a place full of magic and wonders, orcs, or space aliens? When every text and voice channel in your game is crawling with conversations about IRL sports or IRL politics or IRL happenings, is this not the antithesis of what a persistent online universe is trying to achieve? This humble nerd thinks, it is.
Interestingly, the more bro-gamer (excuse the tainted term, please) adjacent gamer population has recently embraced the concept of roleplaying, which makes me hopeful for the future. Their gateway drug appears to be Grand Theft Auto V; or rather, the GTA5 RP mod. Many who would previously call for roleplayers to get a life are now populating roleplaying servers, trying their best to portray either a civilian, criminal, police officer, or even garbage truck driver in a convincing, lore-friendly manner. It’s a great thing to behold, and very entertaining to watch too.
If you’re skeptical about this whole thing, I would suggest watching a GTA5 RP YouTuber or twitch streamer to get a feel how fun and fulfilling roleplaying can be. Perhaps then, it will be easier to understand why so many people enjoy this playstyle, and why roleplaying is indeed not just something for freaks. It is for all geeks. Should you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY not be interested in expanding your horizon that way, then perhaps just treat roleplayers as NPCs who add to the atmosphere of your game. There’s one thing they don’t deserve; and that’s mockery for the way they game.
Except Power Roleplayers. Screw those guys. But that’s something for another time.
-Falko (Follow me on twitter)