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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)

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  1. hit me up when the article on “power roleplayers” drop!

  2. JackofTears on November 19, 2019 at 5:20 pm said

    I always roleplay in MMOs, if I play them at all. When I was younger, I was a great fan of MMOs and lured many another gamer into the roleplay hobby merely by being a good example. In SWG I won awards for interesting backgrounds and engaging characters, in Guild Wars 2 I was frequently sought out by other rpers who enjoyed my character’s company, in SWTOR I joined an rp guild and became an officer. Roleplaying was the primary draw to MMOs for me, the game was always secondary.

    That isn’t to say the gameplay didn’t matter. A good game was going to keep my attention between rps and engage me on those days I felt like playing alone and good MMOs have become a lot harder to find over the years. These days I avoid them entirely. Not only because gameplay has become worse, but because various problems (arthritis and other) make typing quickly a lot more difficult for me any longer and I’m usually too slow to engage with other players.

    Between the two reasons, my heart went out of it and now I only have the good memories of games-gone-by to keep me warm.

  3. Every time Role Playing Comes up in an MMO I remember my time in Dark Age of Camelot. That was when I role played the most, and enjoyed it the most in an MMO.

    I played a Bard specifically because you could play the drums to go fast as this was way before mounts. I ran all around the land just to explore it all right after getting that spell, so I died a lot but it was worth it to me because when I was done, I returned to Camelot, and went to the round table room to “Sing” about my experience.

    What was funny is that, because it was an RP server a group who was creating their guild was meeting up near me and heard my “Singing” (I will admit it’s as bad as you think) and invited me to “witness” their guild formation. Which of course I did, and sang about it for a few days even.

    They would later invite me to join them and we had a grand time of role playing and running around. So much so I can barely remember the mechanics of that game, only the role playing I did. Good times.

    —-

    Now that I’m older is mostly just my wife and I running around being a couple, and surprising anyone else that, no we’re really a man and a woman, yes we’re really parents, yes we still game, and yes we “dated” in WoW. But that’s a story for a different time. 🙂

  4. I am 100% in agreement here. If MMO players were actually roleplaying I would actually play MMOs. It seems like they would at least make a special server for it to gather those people. HAve lore compliant name rules and whatever else would facilitate actual RP in a supposed RPG.

  5. I RP as Link in FFXIV. It’s easy. Don’t have to talk to anyone.

  6. RP servers exist in all mmorpgs
    gta 5 is not a mmorpg
    insulting gamers in this article is a bad take

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